This review is going to be short and sweet, just like the game.
Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is a follow up to Alan Wake in which you play as luckless author Alan Wake as he battles his evil doppelganger, Mr. Scratch. The game is framed as an episode of “Night Springs”, the fictional TV show from its parent game.
The first thing I noticed about this game is that Remedy seems to have realized that they can do more than just spooky forests, because they’ve replaced the spooky forest with spooky Arizona desert instead.
The second thing I noticed is that American Nightmare is much more action-oriented than its predecessor. In fact, in some ways, it definitely seems like the game is permanently stuck on Easy mode. Now, instead of hunting around for manuscript pages, they’re all marked on your map by question marks, and there are numerous stations that will instantly refill your ammo and batteries. Perhaps its simply streamlining a system that was already there in Alan Wake (Safe Havens often had places where you could refill ammo and batteries), but fights kind of lost their tension when I knew I could just instantly refill everything at the touch of a button.
In keeping with the focus on the action, there are also a wider variety of weapons to choose from, including sub-machine guns, hunting rifles, and the always awesome insta-killing flare gun. Flares and flashbangs make a repeat appearance, and are always good for getting out of scrapes. The game retains the Fight With Light system, of course, only this time you have pesky enemies that multiply when you boost your flashlight.
And spiders, can’t forget spiders. The ever annoying birds aren’t as annoying this time around, surprisingly enough. They just spawn creepy naked bat creatures that you shoot until the birds go away. It’s like they’re not really a threat now.
I can say that if this were a full retail game, it would probably lose several billion points in reviews for making the player repeat certain sections over again. Fortunately, you do less and less of that as you play, but it’s still annoying.
As far as characters go, you have Alan himself, who seems much calmer than he was previously, and then you have the women he interacts with: Emma, a car mechanic who is into New Age stuff, Rachel Meadows, a scientist who works at the observatory, and Serena Valdivia, a film-maker, but we don’t really get to spend a lot of time with any of them. As I said, the game is short (I clocked in at about four hours and didn’t bother collecting all the manuscript pages).
And then there’s Mr. Scratch.
Mr. Scratch is a hedonist, a sadist, and a psychopath who is absolutely full of himself. There are some antagonists that you can find a shred of sympathy for, but my guess is Mr. Scratch isn’t one of them.
The soundtrack is once again mostly made up of licensed music, and there are simply no words to describe how badass it feels to take down chainsaw-wielding Taken with a hunting rifle while “The Happy Song” by Poets of the Fall is playing.
One final warning for those who may be triggered by such things, but Serena is basically coerced into doing some pretty kinky things with Mr. Scratch (via being touched by the Dark Presence, which does freaky things to you). The one redeeming aspect of all the grossness is that Alan doesn’t take advantage of her in that state, but this and Mr. Scratch’s penchant for cold-blooded torture might be too much for some people.
Overall, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is a good way to kill time for a few hours, although it has bucked the “horror” elements in favour of something a little more action-oriented.