Alan Wake

Publisher: Microsoft

Price: �49.99

Format: Xbox 360

Age rating: 15+

Score: 3/5 stars

FIVE years in the making and subject to more delays than the 8.10 from Birmingham to Waterloo, third-person action adventure Alan Wake is finally here.

And while it isn’t the tense ‘psychological thriller’ we’d been expecting it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable game.

Set in and around the fictional town of Bright Falls in the Pacific Northwest, players assume the role of Alan Wake, an author who, along with his wife, has rented a log cabin to escape the pressures of work. Without wishing to give anything away, it’s not long before Alan’s wife goes missing and the author sets out on a quest to find her.

Complicating matters is the fact that pages from a horror novel he can’t remember writing keep turning up, mirroring events that have just happened or are about to unfold. And the ‘dark presence’ he imagined in his book has taken over townsfolk and turned them into shadowy creatures that want one thing: your early demise.

What follows is a series of episodes strung out like a television miniseries, each with its own cliffhanger ending. Along the way there are some genuinely chilling moments, but it’s a strictly linear adventure and there’s a certain ‘rinse and repeat’ familiarity to it all.

Fortunately, the game’s solid combat mechanic saves the day. Armed initially with a torch, your shadowy adversaries can’t stand light, so a simple flick of the switch will send them scurrying away. Even better, a beam of light strips away the darkness that protects them, enabling you to polish them off with a pistol or hunting rifle. You’ll also find flares for a bit of improvised crowd control, a flare gun for more devastating attacks and flash grenades that’ll wipe out anyone in the vicinity.

Sadly, everything is undone by some clumsy exposition – especially the poorly written pages of Wake’s novel and an internal monologue that telegraphs events before they happen. Some lurching plot twists, unconvincing characters and an unsatisfying conclusion don’t help matters either.

As a 12-hour single-player experience, Alan Wake has its moments, but it’s never as scary or clever as it likes to think it is.

Natalie Bowyer