Format: Xbox 360, R16
Game makers have been thinking outside the box and offering genre-bending titles like the long-awaited Alan Wake, first announced in 2005. It's a creepy thriller that skirts around the edges of the survival horror genre - all the elements are there but a lack of outright gore means more suspense, more anxiety and ultimately more big frights.
Wake is a famous writer suffering from a career-crippling mental block, who is taken to the Twin Peaks-ish town of Bright Falls by his wife Alice. She disappears, and he finds himself in a nightmare - living in different realities and unsure of what's actually going on. As the game progresses, Wake picks up pages of a manuscript, supposedly written by him, which gain valuable insights into how to live to the next level.
Light and dark are key gameplay and story components - in the dark lurk "the Taken" who are more than happy to biff axes at our hero. To kill these semi-zombies requires a combination of light, from Wake's omnipresent torch, spotlights or flares, and a hail of gunfire. Suspense is so well built up that you can expect numerous, genuine, frights - it's a scary, scary game.
Shining a torch at enemies before firing on them takes a bit of getting used to, and seeking out extra batteries and bullets without getting killed can be frustrating. Some of the set-piece scripting gets a bit cheesy - but on the whole the characters and narration are excellent.
Verdict: Using a six-episode format (with downloadable content to come) gives this game an excellent pace that will keep trembling gamers - and likely a few console converts - on the edge of their seats. Brilliant environments, chilling storyline and a true thriller feel make Alan Wake one of the most innovative and entertaining titles so far this year.