Game developers have attempted to bring a cinematic feel to their games for a while now.
When the technology caught up, developers used cut scenes as a storytelling device, which brought games closer to film. Some games even use live-action cut scenes.
Very few, however, have attempted to use a serialized technique closer to the ones utilized by television shows.
Microsoft’s “Alan Wake” — available exclusively for the Xbox 360 on Tuesday — resembles a television show, with each of its levels taking the form of chapters or episodes.
Wake, the game’s protagonist, is a suspense-horror author who could easily be modeled after Stephen King. Early in the game, Wake discovers he is up against a force manifested from one of his novels.
The enemies of the game lurk in the darkness, and Wake’s most potent defense is light. Armed with a flashlight and a gun, his best chance for survival is always finding light.
Spending much of the game in the darkness, Wake is thrown into some scary situations as he searches for the answers to a mystery he is attempting to solve. The gamer often doesn’t know where evil lurks until a bad guy swings an axe at you.
The developers use sound effects to disallow you to ever get comfortable.
Wake might be in the darkness, and you pivot him around when you hear some ominous sounds. But thinking nothing is there, you turn around right into an axe-wielding bad dude.
Sound and art direction make “Alan Wake” the most legitimately scary game since Electronic Arts’ “Dead Space.”
The episodic format works well because of the pacing. Nothing ever seems stale, and the game moves along well. The episodes’ cliffhangers make it hard to stop playing.
That “Alan Wake” turned out so well is a bit surprising considering its developmental history.
Many thought the game was dead after years passed without any updates.
The game was first announced at E3 in 2005, when Microsoft unveiled a memorable trailer that teased its cinematic nature, but there was little heard of the game for more than three years, and nothing definitive until last year’s E3.
When a game has been tinkered with and delayed that long, it usually doesn’t indicate the development of a strong title. But that couldn’t be further from the case with “Alan Wake,” which is right up there with “God of War III” and “Splinter Cell Conviction” as early game of the year candidates.