Alan Wake: A Cult Tribute
So you know how I did a Cult Tribute late last night? Well, I think I'll be going for another one right now! What can I say, I'm in the mood for giving tributes. Must be because of Father's Day or something (on that note, Happy Father's Day dad!). So what do I have on tap for right now? Some video game talk, specifically a certain Xbox title. Now I'm not the biggest Microsoft fan in the world, but there's one particular game made for their consoles that I absolutely love, the same way Joanie loved Chachi. It's weird, it's gripping, it's dark and it reminds me so much of Twin Peaks that I'm still surprised there wasn't a room with red curtains in the game. Still not sure what I'm talking about? Well then pull up a chair, grab a Pepsi (unless it's morning, then grab a water) and get ready to love an article the way Adam Sandler loves mediocrity (alright, maybe not that much!). This is a Cult Tribute to the one, the only, Alan Wake.
What You Already Know
Alan Wake is, drum roll please, a video game created by Remedy Games exclusively for the Xbox 360. The game was released back in May of 2010...and that's it. End of section. Why? Because for some inexplicable reason, no one really played Alan Wake. Okay, that's a little over the top, but it's not altogether off. Though they have improved in the years since the game was released, sales for Alan Wake were disappointing upon release, and the game was never financially successful enough to, thus far, warrant a sequel. Translation; not enough people played. Finger of shame to all you gamers out there. You couldn't put the 1,000 Grand Theft Auto games down for one second to play something that was deeper than stealing cars and running over pedestrians? When did the world turn into David Caruso? Just kidding, Caruso doesn't do that stuff. Or does he?!
What You Didn't Know
Since most of you were too busy with other games at the time, here's the rundown on Alan Wake. Modeled after a TV miniseries and inspired everything from Stephen King to Twin Peaks, it tells the story of, you'll never guess, Alan Wake, a famous novelist. Having had issues with writers block for several years now, Alan and his wife Alice head for a vacation in the Pacific Northwest town of Bright Falls, hoping to get him back on track. Instead, Alice falls into Cauldron Lake (where the couple are staying), and upon diving in to rescue her, Alan blacks out, only to awake a week later in a wrecked car. As he begins to search for his wife, Alan begins to realize that he's been pulled into a supernatural death match with a spirit living in the lake, and must figure out how to defeat it in order to save his life, all while running from local (and federal) law enforcement, dark spirits and the occasional Viking metal concert. I didn't say the game was normal!
One of the most unique things about Alan Wake is something you wouldn't normally notice; the use of actual product placement! Know how most games feature items that are similar to real life brands, only the name, look or both has been changed around. Not so here. When Alan needs batteries to keep his flashlight going during his treks through the woods, he uses Energizer batteries. The cars used are actual car brands like Ford and Lincoln. Finally, if you pay close enough attention while you're playing in the Bright Falls town square, you'll be able to see billboards of several real life products, including Verizon. Cool stuff. Now normally, that sort of product placement would be excessive here, especially since it's a video game and all. But it works here, mainly because it helps make the game feel more realistic and because it's not shoving stuff in your face like a Michael Bay movie would. See, product placement can work when used in the right hands.
On top of that, Remedy went all out in creating an expanded universe for Alan Wake. Several books were written to expand on the universe before and since the games release, and, in a very innovative way, live action scenes were filmed and incorporated into the game. After Alan Wake was released, Remedy created two downloadable content stories that closed out the game's narrative and, though they never have gotten around to making that sequel, a follow up of sorts was released a few years later in the form of Alan Wake: American Nightmare. I haven't played it myself yet, but I've heard good things. And finally, perhaps Remedy's biggest addition to the Alan Wake universe was the creation of a live action mini-series called Bright Falls. Released as a web series just prior to the game's release, Bright Falls serves as a prequel to Alan Wake, following reporter Jake Fischer as he comes to Bright Falls for an interview and slowly descends into madness. Several characters from the game appear in the series, including Wake himself (all played by the same voice actors from the game). The web series isn't long and can be found both online and on Xbox Live.
This is the biggest no brainer since Joss Whedon left Avengers after the spectacle of meh known as Age of Ultron. As I mentioned earlier, Alan Wake encounters many strange things during this game, including at one point a pair of aging rock stars at a Bright Falls rehab clinic. The two tell Alan to head to their farm once he escapes from the clinic, as it holds clues that can help him find his wife. Eventually, Alan and his agent/sidekick/comic relief Barry arrive at the farm (which is pretty much Woodstock if done by Vikings), only to encounter an army of people infected with the dark presence. Thus, you the player are forced to defeat them all while an EPIC VIKING METAL SONG PLAYS AFTER BARRY ACCIDENTALLY ACTIVATES THE STAGE EQUIPTMENT! As you can see, I'm excited about that and for good reason. To say that scene is awesome is like saying Paige is the most beautiful woman in the history of the western hemisphere. Duh, duh, duh and finally, DUH! This is easily the most fun scene in all of Alan Wake, which is saying something because the game is great. I'm almost tempted to say you should play the game just for this part. It's that awesome.
Alan Wake is a special game for me, and not just because it's bloody brilliant. I was first introduced to the game a day after my grandmother died a few years ago. My friend Henry, being the good guy that he is, came and spent the weekend at my house to try and cheer me up, bringing his Xbox and his copy of Alan Wake with him. I ended up playing the game throughout that whole weekend, and it proved to have a lasting impact on me, the perfect game for where I was emotionally at the time. You see, the great thing about all forms of art is that, while they should be fun and something you enjoy, they should also have the ability to take you to a deeper place, to make you think, to make you feel. Alan Wake did that for me that weekend, and I'm forever thankful to the game for that. That it's a great game on top of that with an amazing story, characters and mythos is only an added bonus. I'll never understand why more people didn't play it, and why that sequel hasn't happened yet. Do yourself a favor, go out, find Alan Wake and give it a go. You'll be glad you did, whether you're looking for something deeper, or whether you're just looking to jam to some Viking metal.
That'll do it for me kids. I'll be back later today with what will likely be another Cult Tribute. What can I say, I'm in the mood for them right now. Till then, witness poor Spider-Man's sadness over the lack of Alan Wake 2 in his life.