Alan Wake's American Nightmare is a faster pace, more action heavy third-person-shooter than its parent game, sitting somewhere between survival horror and bullet-ballet like Max Payne
Alan Wake's American Nightmare functions in the same way as a zany Christmas Special one-off episode would, when taken in context with the game that spawned it (Alan Wake).
The franchise's core mechanics remain practically unchanged, but Remedy have ramped up the action in its light-based shooter and imbued it with a sense of fun that was notably absent in its last game. It works very well, even if the game's main character remains something of a humourless clutchplate.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare: Plot
In Alan Wake's American Nightmare, the titular character is trapped in an episode of Night Springs, which was the Twilight Zone homage that played on TV sets the background of the original game. Apparently, the episode Alan is appearing in is one he also wrote, so essentially the narrative burrowing even further into the proverbial rabbit hole.
In it, Alan is somewhere in Arizona, on the trail of is serial killer alter ego, Mr Scratch, who is in the midst of a gleeful murder spree. The Dark Force from the first game is also present and correct, and is possessing the local civilians and then targeting Wake.
There's also the small problem that Wake seems stuck in some sort of Groundhog Day time loop in which he revisits certain scenarios again and again.
It's all rather convoluted although, conceptually, it's absolutely brilliant; Remedy get to build more of the Alan Wake universe while remaining completely oblique and not tying their game's narrative into any plot developments.
Is Alan Wake's American Nightmare part of the main game's plot? Is it a completely separate entity? Will any of its plot developments dovetail into Alan Wake 2? Who knows? Oh, and do you hear that tittering sound? That's the sound of Remedy laughing at you as it continues to string its audience along with rather good writing that reveals absolutely nothing.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare: Gameplay
However, it has to be said that even though the plot is barmy and bonkers, the game itself is a lot of fun to play. The central mechanic – Alan uses a torch to burn the protective dark coating off opponents and then blasts them with firearms – remains in tact, although Remedy has provided the player more hardware.
Combat shotguns, M-14s, Uzi 9mms, Nailguns and more are all available alongside the weapons from the first game, and all do a satisfying amount of damage. Flashbangs and flareguns double as grenades and rocket launchers respectively and flares provide a brief pool of safety from enemies.
Players will also find that loose pages from Alan's latest manuscript are dotted around the three different locations in the story. This time, Remedy has given them a really good reason to collect them because they unlock new guns.
The Taken – the game's murky enemies – have also benefited from a couple of additions to their ranks. Players will encounter the Splitter – who doubles every time a light is shined on him – Bird Man – who splits into a flock of birds when attacked – Grenadier – who throws grenades – and a large lumbering ogre wielding a pavement saw.
There are also giant spiders who attack on mass and scuttle towards the player rather creepily.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare: Features
Even though the action in the game has moved from the Pacific Northwest in the US to Arizona, the environments still convey a sense of creeping dread. The character models are better than those in the original game, and the voice acting remains impeccable.
The main story mode will take players a few hours to beat, and while it's fun while it lasts, it has the annoying habit of recycling set-pieces throughout. The first time you player watches a satellite crash through an oil derrick as Kasabian's Club Foot hammers out of the TV speakers, they'll be enthralled.
The third time this happens – in an unskippable cut-scene – it will probably start to grate. If that doesn't annoy you, then the pretentious way the lead character composes himself in the narration likely will.
Once the story mode's been beaten, Alan Wake's American Nightmare offers an arcade mode in which players have to survive through a series of maps against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. Yes. It's an Alan Wake Horde Mode.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare: Verdict
Alan Wake's American Nightmare puts an emphasis on fun and action and is all the better for it. However, there is the lingering sense that, for a game franchise whose strongest aspect is its plot, the narrative here toys with players, rather than offering any sense of resolution. Enjoy it as a zany Christmas Special and you'll be fine.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare availability: Out now
Alan Wake's American Nightmare price: £10.20 or 1200 MS points