CGRundertow ALAN WAKE’S AMERICAN NIGHTMARE for Xbox 360 Video Game Review
Submitted for your approval: the story of
a man, a crafter of stories, trapped in a prison of his own creation. That prison is
Night Springs, Arizona, or a caricature thereof. His captor, a doppelganger with a murderous
streak a mile wide. The two fight over the rights to one existence, one wielding light,
the other darkness. Behold a narrative in the midst of rewriting, where fact and fiction
are one and the same, the only question being who’s holding the pen. Their story is summarized
for you in this transmission, from a channel called… The Under Tow. I’ve ALWAYS WANTED TO DO THAT. Anyway. Cold
on the heels of 2010’s groundbreaking psychological thriller Alan Wake comes this American Nightmare,
a tale of one man’s quest to subvert… himself (or a reasonable facsimile)… and
keep the world from going to hell. He already knows how to go about fixing it… or he did.
Fortunately, he’s already written the reality he wishes to have happen; the problem is finding
those writings and actually enacting them. Especially with these darkness-shielded monsters
shuffling about everywhere. Fortunately, if you’ve got a flashlight and some manner
of destruction on hand, be it a shotgun, nail gun, really anything with “gun” in the
name – you’re well-equipped to deal with the assailants.’ So why is Alan trapped in the very same TV
series he himself wrote? Well, his alter ego, Doc – erm – Mr. Scratch, has decided to go
on a bit of a rampage, leaving but cryptic vlog entries in his wake. But damn, is he
a snappy dresser. Wish I could pull that off. Here’s the mobius double reacharound that
results: Imagine if Rod Serling, rather than just appearing at a table or off to the side
of your favorite Twilight Zone episode, was actually instigating the events. (Moreso than
he, as the author, already did.) Now imagine that Rod the author is actively chasing down
Rod the narrator and trying to undo the Twilight-Zone-ness of it all, while fighting off hoardes of shambling
undead. All the while, Rod the narrator, as the narrator, is giving us that smooth-voiced
description of exactly what’s going on, from the omniscient point of view of a man
who just lived it a little while ago anyway. Y’follow me? No? Let me dig a bit deeper into this metaphorical
hole. The plot of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is your classic spinning plate. The game itself
doesn’t get the plate spinning, it merely presumes it’s there and keeps it spinning.
Those of you who haven’t played through the original work might not be prepared to
make the same narrative leap. But if you try, and you let the game charm you through three
episodes of half-answered questions and modern mysteries, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy yourself.
The action is still there, the tight game mechanics are still there, the comfortable
level of snark without detracting from the action… it’s the real deal. Just in a
more bite-sized, side-project style. This isn’t meant to be Alan Wake 2, nor is it
a direct add-on or sequel to the original work. In a place and time where the very act
of creation is a contentious art, American Nightmare is more a cautionary tale for creators
of fiction. Because sometimes, that fiction can run away with your life, your livelihood,
even your soul. Every man has a price, as does every work. In this case, the answer
to both is 1200 Microsoft Points, the equivalent of $15. You only find a soul that cheap….
in The Under Tow.