Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Video Game Review

Players Explore the Mind of ‘Alan Wake’

By Jeb Haught

DEVELOPER: Remedy Entertainment
PUBLISHER: Microsoft
SYSTEM: Microsoft Xbox 360
PRICE: $59.99
ESRB RATING: Teen
REVIEW RATING: 4.5 stars (out of 5)

“Alan Wake” doesn’t follow established gaming conventions. He’s just a regular guy looking to enjoy a peaceful vacation. Sure he can use firearms, but he’s no soldier. As a result, this game plays in a similar fashion to what most people are capable of in real life. For example, when Alan dodges attacks, it takes a second or two to adjust before he can start firing with his weapon.
Why is our reluctant hero fighting for his life? You see, Alan Wake is a world-renowned writer who hasn’t written anything new in years. He and his wife travel to the town of Bright Falls for a vacation that takes a nasty turn as his wife is kidnapped and Alan must fight mysterious forces to save her.
When his wife goes missing, Alan begins to experience his dark dream world in real life. He starts finding pages of a manuscript that he wrote, but doesn’t remember. Soon, Alan discovers that a dark, malevolent force is chasing him and infecting humans and inanimate objects. It’s up to him to survive the horror and save his wife.
Alan has access to standard firearms like a pistol and a shotgun, but his most effective weapon is his flashlight. Every enemy Alan encounters is covered in a shroud of black smoke that can only be removed by light. When enough light shines on an enemy, the shroud disappears and they can be killed. I appreciate the fact that the flashlight doesn’t drain batteries when using low beam. After all, who wants to fumble around in the dark?
In addition to firearms, Alan can use improvised weaponry including: road flares, flash bang grenades, fixed spotlights and vehicle headlights. I love having so many different tools with which to weave my tapestry of destruction!
Unfortunately, this game is very linear with no optional pathways to take. It doesn’t help that 90 percent of the game takes place in the woods. Still, “Alan Wake” is a fantastic game with unusual, yet enjoyable combat and a very creepy story line.

‘Dead To Rights: Retribution’ Defines Mediocrity

DEVELOPER: Volatile Games
PUBLISHER: Namco
SYSTEM: Sony PlayStation 3 (Xbox 360)
PRICE: $59.99
ESRB RATING: Mature
REVIEW RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)

Way, way back in 2002, an unknown action game called “Dead to Rights” exploded onto the gaming scene. This third-person shooter was inspired by the “gun-fu” action found in the game “Max Payne,” but added vicious disarm moves and the ability to command a killer canine. Now the third game, titled “Dead to Rights: Retribution,” has been released, and just like the new “A Nightmare on Elm Street” movie, it replaces style with brutality.
This game totally shoots for and misses the “B” movie feel. The generic story line introduces yet another rogue cop with a big heart and hordes of enemies that are simply too heartless to be realistic. Jack Slate’s superiors are all idiots, and everywhere he goes, bloodshed is sure to follow. It reminds me of “Last Action Hero,” but without any likeable characters.
Jack has access to brutal melee attacks and deadly gunplay as well as a handy cover system. Taking out enemies with hand-to-hand combos is just as effective as blasting them with guns, and execution moves make combat even more enjoyable.
While this all sounds great, the experience is tarnished by poor control design. Who thought it would be a good idea to assign sprinting, disarms and taking cover onto the same button? I can’t tell you how many times I spouted profanities at my TV because I sprinted toward an enemy with the intent to grab his weapon, but instead ended up taking cover beside him.
Perhaps the only enjoyable addition is the ability to control Shadow the dog in certain areas. Most enemies don’t consider him to be a threat, and that’s the last thing that goes through their mind. Let me tell you, Shadow really sinks his teeth into his job, literally. He can perform stealth kills, distract enemies and tear them to shreds, and Jack doesn’t even have to follow him around with a poop bag.
But that isn’t enough to make “Dead to Rights: Retribution” worth anything more than a rental.

REVIEW SCORING SYSTEM

5 stars = Must Have
4 stars = Very Good
3 stars = Above Average
2 stars = Bargain Bin
1 star = Don’t Bother

RATINGS KEY

Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)
E: (Everyone)
E10-plus: (Everyone 10 and older)
T: Teen (13 and older)
M: Mature (17 and older)

To find out more about Jeb Haught and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM.

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