Xbox 360

  All Features


  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One


Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

If you finished 2010's Alan Wake, you were left hanging -- big time. And it doesn't matter whether or not you played the two downloadable episodes entitled The Signal and The Writer. Despite the fact that he's somehow still hanging onto his sanity, the fact remains: Alan's predicament is still pretty grim. If you were hoping for more of that tale, Alan Wake's American Nightmare will disappoint you. In fact, when compared to the original game, this game comes up short in many key areas. However, the gameplay is fun enough and the price of entry is low enough to make this one worth a buy for fans of the series.

American Nightmare looks like Alan Wake, only rougher around the edges. The fictional Arizona town of Night Springs isn't nearly as interesting as the spooky wooded glades of Bright Falls, Washington, and it lacks the awe-inspiring weather effects. The darkness has indeed descended, but you won't find yourself positively engulfed in it like in the first game. The game mostly animates the same as Alan Wake, which is a very good thing. However, I recommend against inspecting anything too closely. At least Alan Wake's superlative lighting effects are still here to enjoy.

Sound design has also taken a bit of a hit as far as the big picture goes, but it's still mostly solid. Alan's voice (and physical) actor is still very entertaining to watch, and his doppelganger role as Mr. Scratch gives him a chance to ham it up in some delightfully creepy scenes. Yes, there's a new Old Gods of Asgard song involved in American Nightmare, and yes, it's a fun one. Your faithful narrator channels his inner Rod Serling, and does a pretty good job of it. The three new female characters bring the sound department down. When they aren't dull, they are annoying and throwaway. The soundtrack is atmospheric and intense, and the end credits song (Ed Harcourt's "Watching the Sun Come Up") is a perfect fit.


Remedy has gone to great lengths to insist that Alan Wake's American Nightmare isn't a true sequel to Alan Wake, but more of a pulpy diversion. At first, you may believe these assertions; Night Springs was introduced and fleshed out rather impressively in Alan Wake, and your path through this new world makes sense in the context of the show. However, there are several nods to events that happened in the original game, as well as The Signal and The Writer.

So you are "The Champion of Light," which is simply Night Springs' way of referring to our hero Mr. Wake. The great escape hinted at towards the end of The Writer seems to have been somewhat successful, and he ends up pretty far from where he probably wanted to be. Worse yet, he's been trapped in a time loop by his dark doppelganger Mr. Scratch -- only called that because his real name is only perceived to the human ear as an awful scratching sound. Mr. Scratch intends to take Wake's place and destroy everything he holds dear. So the Champion must rewrite reality, destroy Mr. Scratch, and get back to his loved ones.

American Nightmare features three distinct areas of play: an old motel, an observatory, and a drive-in theater. These are the only three you'll get to see in the campaign. It makes sense as far as the story goes, but from a gameplay perspective, it's a bit disappointing. Luckily, the intense run-and-gun action is as fun as it ever has been. The arsenal is expanded, and features a few new weapons. My personal favorite is the nailgun, but the darkness-penetrating crossbow is a one-hit kill if you can land a shot.

Wave-based survival is all the rage these days, and American Nightmare has its own offering, called Fight Till Dawn. If you've played games featuring similar modes, you already have a very good idea of what to expect from this. By avoiding and killing Taken, you increase your score, as well as your likelihood of survival.


Alan Wake's American Nightmare is not a challenging game at all, primarily due to the fact that you will never find yourself scavenging for resources. This game is littered with special boxes that contain guns, ammunition, and batteries; honestly, that's all you need to survive in this world.

The map gives you a very clear idea of what you should be doing at all times, and is always completely accurate. Combat is the most challenging part of the gameplay, but that doesn't mean it's challenging when stacked up against that of other third-person action games. The dodge mechanic is still a wonderful way to avoid axes, blades, and circular saws, and once you're out of the way, it's all a matter of focusing your beam and pumping the Taken full of lead.

Game Mechanics:

Alan Wake's American Nightmare is almost identical to Alan Wake in terms of mechanics, but there are a few key differences. Movement and weapon wielding are largely the same; you can sprint and perform stylish slow-motion dodges by using the Left Bumper. The flashlight rules have changed a bit, though. Simply pointing your beam at Taken no longer eats away at their darkness shields. You are now required to focus your beam in order to do that. This eats up battery life, but as mentioned before, you won't run out of resources.

Building your arsenal in American Nightmare is kind of a bizarre process. Sometimes you'll simply find guns lying around. More often than not, though, you'll find special lockboxes that require a certain number of manuscript pages. Yes, those wonderful bright pieces of paper return in this game, and they serve more or less the same narrative purpose. Don't worry about missing a lockbox on your first cycle through the time loop; you can always snag more pages and return to it when you come back. The map points out manuscript locations when you get close enough to them, which is admittedly more gamey than Alan Wake's exploration risk/reward dynamic.

One new enemy type changes the rules quite a bit. The Splitter lives up to its name when you attack it with light. You'll have to simply take a guns-blazing approach. The rest of them are more or less the same as they were in the last game. Burn away the darkness, shoot them until they dissipate. Or in the case of poltergeists, simply burn the darkness away to do away with them. And if you ever manage to run out of ammunition, flares and flashbangs are incredibly useful in keeping the darkness at bay.

The only thing you should ask yourself when considering a purchase of Alan Wake's American Nightmare is "Did I enjoy Alan Wake?" If yes, buy it. If no, seek professional help and then give the game another chance. If you haven't played the original, play it first. It's certainly no Alan Wake: Season Two (or whatever they plan to call it), but Alan Wake's American Nightmare is an entertaining return to a world where fiction is reality.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Related Links:

iPad The Magician's Handbook: Cursed Valley HD iPad Neuroshima Hex

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated