Alan Wake’s American Nightmare – Steam Backlog Bonanza [Blaugust 15]

822 words.

For the halfway point of Blaugust, more-or-less, I played Alan Wake’s American Nightmare from my Steam backlog. I got it, along with Alan Wake, for $4 right before it was removed from Steam.

Is it live or is it Memorex?

The first game, Alan Wake, did not qualify for my Steam Backlog Bonanza because, according to Steam, I’ve played it for precisely one minute. I do not remember that minute. I’ve read numerous reports that Alan Wake was a great game, a must-buy game, particularly when it was about to be removed, but I haven’t played it, and apparently something about it made me recoil away from it.

I almost substituted the first game for American Nightmare, but the description assured me that this was a stand-alone game and playing the first one was not required. The opening cut scene set the stage for the game, but it still felt a little like coming into the story halfway through.

The gameplay is very simple. It’s a bit of a mixture between a walking simulator, an adventure game, and a shooter. You have to shoot bad guys with a variety of guns from a third-person over-the-shoulder perspective, reminiscent of Mass Effect. But you also have to wander around and find things and talk to people to complete objectives. The early part of the game is very much on rails.

I’ll be honest. For a game that has received so much critical acclaim, I found it a little bit dull. Perhaps the first game is the really good one. This one felt a little bit pointless. The story reminded me of a mix of components from Stephen King’s The Dark Half and The Secret World. But it didn’t precisely feel like I was pursuing a story so much as I was wandering around in a story setting, checking things off a list.

The voice acting is good, though. I chuckled at the comedic elements a few times.

I was also struck by some of the cut scenes. I could not discern whether they were live action or computer-generated. I suspect they were live action, only because I can’t imagine this studio had the budget for CGI that good. But the live action footage was composited (presumably) against green screens in a very effective way.

I suspect that was live action footage showing on the television inside the game world.

The gameplay felt mundane. Point at things and shoot them. I was thrown off by the lack of a crosshair. It made it hard to aim. There was a mildly interesting flashlight mechanic that “stunned” enemies. It also seemed like the flashlight was meant to be used for aiming, but using it consumed batteries.

I wasn’t fond of the default choices of controller buttons required for doing things. LB to perform a dodge, for example. And the B button to pick up things. Very non-standard.

Overall I felt it was “okay.” Admittedly I was not much in the mood for playing a game at the time, and felt like I had to force myself to get through it.

Will I play more? Maybe. It’s not a bad game. But it also doesn’t leap out of the screen, grab you by the shirt collar, and drag you kicking and screaming into its world. Life’s too short and there’s too much media out there to waste time on games (and movies and television and books) that don’t commit felony kidnapping, if you ask me.

Live Stream - Alan Wake’s American Nightmare

Stream Production Notes: Another mundane stream that passed without incident. I feel like the game sound was too quiet, even though it was at maximum. A measure of how much a part of my daily routine these streams have become is that as I write this at night some six hours after the stream, I still haven’t checked to see how bad the audio balance was.

There was a lot of listening to dialog and watching cut scenes in this game, which I feel doesn’t make a very good game video. There’s no compelling reason for me to even be there if you’re just going to watch the game as if it were a movie. There wasn’t even much of anything to read out loud. And there wasn’t much to say about gameplay decision-making, either.

Also, I was worried about getting a copyright claim on a song that played during the game toward the end of my time. Turns out, I got a copyright claim on that song. My efforts to talk over top of it were futile. This is an aspect of live streaming that I hadn’t considered before.

For the record, I’ve gotten three copyright claims on my live stream videos so far: Two are legitimate claims (from Brutal Legend and this one), one was a bogus claim from a copyright troll that I disputed.

Previously on the Steam Backlog Bonanza: Geometry Wars 3.

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