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Alan Wake's American Nightmare review: A new beginning for Alan

A series starter or a season finale?

Alan Wake wears his influences on his sleeve. "I've always loved Stephen King," was among the opening lines in the first game, and it soon became obvious that the comment was a statement of intent from Remedy's Sam Lake, the writer behind the writer, in a game that's (curiously) about how amazing and powerful writing can be.

But Alan Wake wasn't just a homage to the books of King, there was a tangible love of TV. The original game came divided up into six evening-sized chapters, each with a "two minutes ago, on Alan Wake" intro, and genuine cliffhangers. It's a mysterious universe with shifting goalposts. It walks a clever line - while you'll never really know what's going on to the point where you could explain it to a persistent inquisitor, there's enough internal logic to keep you warily satisfied.


Where are we? Alan remains stuck in The Dark Place - a place where words build reality, and free will is a minor accompaniment to a story that's already been written. American Nightmare takes the flip between reality and fiction one step further.

Now, Alan appears to be the star of an episode of Night Springs, the Twilight Zone homage that appeared on the televisions in the original game. He no longer narrates his own actions, he's narrated by the Rod Serling-a-like presenter of that show. With only limited access to the story he's starring in, Alan has a new problem. He's not getting his own story right, with interesting (and map recycling) consequences.

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While the story has moved on, the combat system remains the same blend of light and bullets. Enemies have a shroud of darkness that needs to be burned away before the bullets can get at their meat. Shining your torch on them will slowly do that - and you can boost your torch to sizzle off their smoky shields more quickly. This, however, drains your battery, potentially leaving you prone for a couple of seconds.

More absurd and irritating enemies have disappeared - sizzling, inanimate puddles that attack you through your shoes were never Wake's most atmospheric or terrifying enemy. A new transforming Taken makes a debut, but Wake isn't so much about the details of the enemies you're fighting, as much as the number of them, and their claustrophobic intelligence.

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