Jeff Markiewicz On March 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Alan Wake American Nightmare ScreenshotAlan Wake’s American Nightmare is a third-person psychological thriller videogame from developer Remedy. It’s a continuance of the original game released almost two years ago which received very well. There were critiques though, especially in the repetitive combat but the storytelling was stellar and Remedy drove it home with two great pieces of downloadable content. Now they are continuing that legacy with Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, which is an Xbox Live Arcade release. And the crazy part of this release is, Remedy has decided to put combat into the spotlight with a horde wave mode. Can they pierce through the darkness that shrouds the combat system and bring it up to par or is it a lost cause?

The story mode takes place approximately 2 years after the conclusion of the first game. Alan is still stuck in the predicament that he wrote himself into and trying to find a way out is proving harder than he thought. At the start of the game, Alan finds himself on the trail of Mr. Scratch, his evil doppelganger, but gets subsequently awakened in the Nevada desert. He is stuck an episode of the fictional television show called Night Springs that he wrote. In the original game, the televisions around the world would play an episode of Night Springs, which take much inspiration from the Twilight Zone. In this release, you’re stuck in part of an episode. It’s a neat twist. The story is a combination of Alan’s predicament and how to get out and a continuance of Alan’s storyline through the manuscripts, radios, and televisions. Mr. Scratch is an awesome nemesis which both comes off as creepy and humorous. Unlike this games big brother, the levels are much more open and not linear. The scope of them is still not that great though, about the size of a large multiplayer map in other games but the change of pace is nice. The story brings you back to locations a couple times but they are sufficiently quick and different enough to not feel repetitive. The entire experience will take approximately 4 to 5 hours depending on how much exploration you take. Overall, Mr. Scratch’s character is great and the Twilight Zone-inspired story is pulled off quite well. It’s not as story heavy as the main game but for fans, it’s well worth the trip.

The other mode of play is the Arcade mode. This mode pits you against waves of ever increasing difficulty until dawn arrives. Each level is unique and not sections of the story mode level cordoned off. Weapons and ammo are placed around, though some are locked-in to how many manuscripts you found in the story. Lights once again refill your health and there is always a central ammo and battery refill station but they have cool down periods. At the end of each level, you’re given a score and a star rating. Other than the first level, you’ll need a certain amount of stars to unlock the subsequent X levels. It gives you enough inventive you play well because you know you’ll be rewarded if you do well. The largest issue with the mode is that it is a solitary one. Whereas recent games like Call of Duty and Resident Evil, you can tackle the waves with your friends, here you’re stuck alone. There are leaderboards to challenge your friends though.

The mode is not the most unique but considering that combat was one of the more disappointing aspects of the original game, an interesting choice to focus a game on. The problem with Alan Wake’s combat was simply that it was highly repetitive. The enemies were mostly all the same and you dealt with each type in almost the same exact way. In Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, the variety of enemies has been increased and each type requires a different approach to tackle. Your tools to fight the dark have also seen a similar boost. There is a wider array of weapons to use. In addition to flares, you now have flashbang grenades. In addition to the default guns from the original game, you now have automatic weapons and a crossbow that can shoot through the dark. These combine to make the combat experience much more fun and enjoyable. It is as if Remedy challenged themselves to prove that they haven’t forgotten their roots in Max Payne and they succeeded. One of the weakest links from Alan Wake has been rectified.
The graphics seem to have been bumped up a notch. The visuals seem crisper and more detailed. The one thing I recommend everyone do is immediately switch the HUD to fade. At default, the HUD lets you know constantly that this is a videogame. When set to fade, Alan Wake takes on a whole new meaning of immersion. When you focus your light or start shooting, it comes back in but until then, you simply see the beauty of the game. It looks amazing. The cutscenes are all in video now with real actors. The televisions in the world have some nice real video on them as well. It’s a nice change of pace from the stark contrast that the original cutscenes had to the actual game. Overall the game looks impressive. It’s an improved look from what the original had and for an Xbox Live Arcade game; it stands with the best of them.

The sound is as good as the original. The voice cast has returned and do an admirable job. The Night Springs narrator narrates the episode which definitely sets the Twilight Zone vibe. The radio shows are well done; you’ll find yourself sitting around listening to all of them in their entirety. The difference between Alan Wake and Mr. Scratch is obvious and well done for both of their characters. The weapons sound good as do the sound effects but they aren’t the greatest. Most will enjoy that there are a couple new Poets of the Fall songs included in the game. That was one of my favorite parts of Alan Wake and these do not disappoint. Overall, expect the quality you got in Alan Wake which is pretty good.

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is a terrific addition to the Alan Wake franchise. The story is straight out of the Twilight Zone. The gameplay feels more polished and enjoyable, especially in combat. The abundant ammo and battery refills around the world do make the game a lot easier which will disappoint some fans that want the survival aspect from the original game. It would’ve been nice to just have a higher difficulty that removed these features. The graphics are bumped up and with the option to remove the HUD makes the game incredibly immersive. The sound design is great, especially the narrator’s voice. It goes a long way to setting the mood. Overall, if you’ve played Alan Wake, this is easily recommended. You get a continuance of the story with a refined combat system that is a lot more fun. For those that didn’t play Alan Wake, the horde mode may appeal to some but the story mode will definitely spoil some of the events in the original. It’s much more recommended for them to go back, purchase Alan Wake cheaply and get caught up. It’s also on PC now which includes the option to remove the HUD which may make it worth the higher price of entry. Essentially, if you’ve played Alan Wake, get it. If you have not, get Alan Wake first.


Twilight Zone inspired story is not the most rich in story-content compared to the original but it is still a great addition. The weakest link in the Alan Wake repertoire has been rectified. The combat is great. New enemies each require a different strategy adds a new variable to the equation. And the new weapons add to the tactics and strategy. On the flip side, those that enjoy the survival aspect will be disappointed by ammo and battery refill stations which mean you’ll rarely if ever run low on anything.


Beautiful title that is definitely a notch better than it’s original. The inclusion of being able to turn the HUD off or simply have it return when it’s actually needed improves the immersion immensely. It truly makes it the Alan Wake experience rather than the Alan Wake game.


The cast has returned. Alan reads the manuscript pages just as well as he did in the original game. Radios around the world add a lot of character and back-story. You’ll find yourself sitting around them as they go on for several minutes just immersing yourself in the world.


For Alan Wake fans, this is definitely recommended. The story carries on where you left off and is straight out of the Twilight Zone, the gameplay has been improved, and the graphics have been bumped up. For people who haven’t played the original, if you’re a fan of playing horde modes by yourself, you’ll enjoy it but steer clear of the story. There is enough information contained to spoil major plot points of the original.

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