While the original Alan Wake is a novel skillfully ported into a video-game, his American Nightmare is the game version of Twilight Zone – a tv-show through and through, with a lot more pazaaz, guns, enemies and fewer settings. It ditches most of his psychological horror colours in favour of more action.
Please note that if you haven’t played the original game, American Nightmare is going to present quite a few spoilers about the story, so you should probably play this afterwards (unless you don’t care about spoilers, like in my case).
The events of the American Nightmare happen 2 years after those in the main game, and Alan’s much more experienced in terms of dealing with the Taken – it shows, he doesn’t seem afraid anymore, he seems to understand everything that happens around him, and it’s comforting in a way. Sometimes it will seem like all is going too well, only for the game to throw you some kind of curveball.
The combat feels a bit more fleshed out (flashed out?), your flashlight recharges faster (you won’t have to pop batteries like House pops Vicodin), and the game introduces easy to use automatic weapons, as Alan notes: “It’s about time I went full-auto”. While still tense, it’s much more manageable, especially considering that you regularly get supplies in the occasional ammo and battery cabinet. Heavy duty stuff like flashbangs or flare-gun ammo are in small quantity, but using them wisely will take you quite far rather quickly.
While Bright Falls, Washington was ripe in verticality and the feeling of being isolated, Night Springs, Arizona goes horizontal, feeling more open, leaving more to explore. The manuscript pages of the original return, but this time having a certain number allows you to unlock various weapons like an uzi or a combat shotgun. It’s obviously more battle-focused, and it shows, as it even has a secondary Arcade Mode, where you defeat progressively harder waves of monsters.
As we are used to from the first Alan Wake, American Nightmare is also quite polished, but it feels like there isn’t as much detail as there was in the original game. The environments feel a bit empty, despite being large and nice to explore, not to mention the fact that there’s a point to collecting the pages now, unlike those coffee thermoses. The cutscenes are live-action now, which is novel I guess, but I was actually kinda meh about them. The game was more effective when it kept to in-engine.
I actually finished the game today – it only took me 4 hours, which is fine for a spinoff title. It’s on Steam at 9 Euros, and while short, it’s good while it lasts.
Spoiler/Advice: If you get sad thinking you can’t get a certain item yet, you will later on, the game likes backtracking.