I’ve been playing some Alan Wake lately. I’m inclined to say that, yes, it is a very good game. The horror aspect is normally something I’m not into, but in this case it is exceptionally well-executed. Making the game dark and shadowy binds the player to the flashlight and makes it a lifeline both in and out of combat. In true horror fashion, the game is more about the fear of physical harm than the physical harm itself. As I wandered through a forest, fighting occasional Taken, I saw the bright light of a safe haven in the distance. I proceeded to move at a crawl through the next 200 feet of forest, constantly turning in circles to check around me in what was now a hard-coded paranoid habit. When I reached the haven without encountering a single Taken, I had the distinct feeling that I had just been trolled by the developers.

One problem I have with the game is its camera placement. I realize this is a third person shooter, but damn. The camera floats around a point that looks to be almost five feet away from Wake, making aiming a bit skewed. Walking around imparts a feeling like peering through a fisheye lens, because everything is at such a high angle to the camera. It looks as if Wake is going to fall over at any moment, or perhaps the Earth will suddenly fling itself out of its orbit.

The autoaim is graciously forgiving, which is a definite bonus considering the skewed angle. More than once, I’ve managed to die particularly gruesome deaths in combat because I couldn’t get the angle of my shot right, and was somehow managing to miss constantly. The shotgun, of course, remedies this well, but shells are preciously few and far between.

There is one thing that annoys me too much to look past: the tearing. Apparently the game isn’t properly v-synced, which is something I’ve noticed of late in console games. It doesn’t make sense to me, as TVs pretty much all have the same refresh rate (can you say “NTSC“?). Granted, the move to LCDs kind of throws a wrench in this as LCDs don’t have a “refresh rate” in the conventional sense, but sticking to 60Hz shouldn’t create any issues regardless.

This is an issue I see with PC games almost all the time, as well. Most any PC game features a v-sync option in its video settings, but this option is apparently a placebo, because it has absolutely no effect. It’s because of this that I have v-sync forced on at all times via my nVidia drivers. I don’t know why the games themselves can’t do it, but it seems to me something that should have been worked out many years ago.