First of all, thanks to www.dafont.com for the Halloween fonts used in the graphic above. Check them out for all kinds of fonts!
For this Halloween edition of Exploring Recent Favorites I will be covering some horror and/or thriller games, which overall I wasn’t really impressed with but did not strongly dislike either. None of these are even close to being new games, so don’t expect a critique of the latest gaming software here.
Alan Wake’s American Nightmare by Remedy
Alan Wale was a psychological action thriller released for Xbox 360 in 2010 by Remedy, the makers of Max Payne. The story revolves around a writer who suffers from memory loss after entering the town of Bright Falls, where dark forces are at work. Alan Wake is one of my favorite games, and I have replayed it several times over the years. The game has great atmosphere, a compelling story-line, and has just the right mix of horror, suspense, and fun. In 2012 Remedy released a standalone product called Alan Wake’s American Nightmare as a sort of side story to the original game. American Nightmare tries to create a less serious and more action oriented pulp horror movie feel. Considering that combat was just good enough to keep things interesting in the original Alan Wake, creating a game that has a larger emphasis on action seems like an odd choice.
Overall the game is fairly entertaining and fun for its duration, but much of the atmosphere that made the original so engaging is missing. I just didn’t find the remote deserts of American Nightmare to be nearly as interesting or frightening as the forests and mountains of the first game, but I can’t fault them for trying something new. The action is a bit faster than the original game and players can find some additional high-powered weaponry, which makes combat a bit more entertaining than in the first game. As in the original game players must use a flashlight to burn away the darkness and then a variety of projectile weapons in order to take down enemies.
The plot of the game revolves around stopping your evil doppelganger, Mr. Scratch, and his forces of darkness from hurting the residence of the small town you have found yourself in. There are some interesting moments in the game, including some disturbing cut-scenes involving Mr. Scratch, but overall the plot feels kind of cobbled together and not totally fleshed out. I could follow the plot for most of the game, but I felt like the game hinted at some deeper ideas and concepts that were not fully explored. The game also features a hand full of characters who have very stilted and awkward dialog with your character. The main story takes about four hours to complete, and there is a survival mode available where players can battle the forces of darkness to achieve high scores on several different maps (actually pretty fun in short bursts).
Fans of the originally Alan Wake will probably enjoy this downloadable title, but those new to the franchise would probably be better off playing the original first (and, you really should play the original). I thought it was an interesting take on the original game, and I was satisfied with the experience overall (especially for a downloadable content title), but I cannot strongly recommend this game due to the whole experience just never really coming together. Still, the game’s ending feels satisfying enough, and I’m always happy to see more Alan Wake related games. But overall, the game just feels sort of dull.
The Secret World
The MMO The Secret World was originally released by Funcom in 2012. The game now only requires a one time purchase instead of a monthly fee. I got to try out a very limited portion of the game on a three day trial from a friend. In the Secret World there are monsters and demonic forces at work behind the scenes that only a select few can detect. Three factions, which the player can choose from, are also working behind the scenes for power, influence, and knowledge. The player, who discovers he/she has special supernatural abilities, goes on various missions for the faction he chooses to try to gain a better understand of this hidden evil and possibly utilize what they find to help strengthen their faction.
Players meet up with their chosen faction, get to choose their weapon specialization (like choosing a class in other MMOs), and then are sent on their first mission. My first mission involved researching a zombie outbreak in a small remote town. I never recall my character really agreeing to do the mission, or my faction explaining what is happening, but there I was anyway. The Secret World features a lot of voice work for story sections and quest dialog and some pretty well done atmosphere. I can’t say I felt scared at any point, but the small town I spent most of my time in looked appropriately spooky. The game does not have levels, like in other MMOs and RPGs, and instead players accumulate skill points to research new abilities and techniques. People have applauded The Secret World for its deep lore and unique puzzle mechanics, but I did not get much of a chance to experience either of these things.
Unfortunately the game load times are extremely long, and I experienced quite a bit of stuttering and graphic’s glitches. My PC, which can play most modern games at least decently, seemed to really hate running this game for some reason. I think there is certainly some promise here as far as interesting story elements and a unique take on the MMO (also I have some friends who highly recommend it), but so far all I’ve done is shoot a lot of zombies with lightning bolts (and combat feels pretty lack luster), and my motivations and personal story seem pretty vague. Considering I only played a very limited amount that critique might not be fair, but overall I just felt sort of neutral about my Secret World experience.
I thought the idea of having an open world sandbox style zombie action game would be a lot of fun for me. Turns out that I was wrong. This is not that shocking considering I do not typically care for open world games (I don’t dislike some freedom, but I like to have a definite goal for most of my games). In Dead Island you go on a trip to a tropical paradise, which soon becomes a nightmare when a zombie outbreak consumes the island. As you might expect from any zombie related work, you wake up one morning to find that everything has gone terribly wrong on the island. You then find a group of survivors who have banded together to try to survive and escape the island. To help achieve these goals people in the group offer you missions, which when completed reward you with experience and items. There are also missions related to the main story line to complete.
From what I played, most missions involve you going to a certain location to find a specific item or person. Along the way you hit a lot of zombies over and over again with various blunt objects, while trying to not let them hit you back. Killing zombies (re-killing?) gives you experience, which players can use to upgrade and unlock abilities such as unique attacks, lock picking, and obtaining additional gold. I thought the upgrade mechanics were pretty fun and constantly gave me something to look forward to. Weapons can also be created and upgraded by mixing different pieces together (say, nails and a baseball bat to make a spiked bat), but be careful because every weapon can break after too much use (there are repair options though). The characters you encounter have some fairly good voice work, but what they say is typical silly monster movie stuff (“We’re all going to die!”). As for quests, do you really need that old memento your dad gave you in the middle of the zombie apocalypse?
In the end, I just felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again, and the game felt sort of pointless and repetitive. Jump in a car, drive somewhere, attack some zombies, find some item, and then repeat. I tend to lose interest in open world sandbox games when I get passed the initial introductory plot section and the generic quests start piling up. Maybe I should just ignore all the side quests and focus on the main story-line, but somehow I just always feel compelled to complete everything. If you are a fan of zombie games and sandbox style action games where you have a large location to explore, I think there is some fun to be had here. Overall, the game feels well put together and has good presentation elements (interesting and large location, solid voice work, nice graphics, okay combat), but I just couldn’t see myself having that much fun for very long.
As always thanks for reading and feel free to leave any comments about these games or other Halloween games I should try below!