The Incredible Exposition of Alan Wake, Ep 4

"Alan didn't like it," Alan narrates, "but Cardboard Cutout Alan was the most dynamic character in the whole novel." Alan glares at the cutout, and the cutout glares back. "But Alan," Alan says, "would have the last laugh."

A cardboard cutout of Alan Wake, gazing into your soul.

The last time I talked about Alan Wake, I mentioned a few of its more brilliant plot points from the first three episodes. Well, I’m still hooked, and I recently finished the game’s fourth episode. I must warn that there are spoilers to come, as episode 4 is entitled “The Truth,” and boy, what an apt name to call it by. So if you don’t mind this great game being spoiled, I’d like to talk about its gentle handling of exposition.

Alan hides from the animal heads, worried that they might become shadow-possessed like the tractor from a couple nights earlier. They never are. This sort of disappoints Alan, who is tired of shadow-hicks, and later in the night fights another possessed dump truck.

Alan Wake wakes up in the loony cabin.

After spending a few too many cool summer evenings jogging through the woods and battling a couple hundred shadow-possessed rednecks, cops, loggers, and campers along the way, Alan accidentally slips off a mile-high ledge and falls dramatically (lit flare in hand) into the murky Cauldron Lake below. He then wakes up in a clinic for insane artists. Masterfully, rather than you playing the game, the game plays you for a bit, and you can’t be sure whether the darkness is real or if Alan is insane! This lasts for about eight minutes, and then the darkness attacks the clinic and transforms the patients and staff into monsters. With Alan’s sanity assured, he escapes with the help of his agent Barry.

Well, two of them do. Alan keeps complaining about his migraine. "What a downer," Barry says to Cardboard Cutout Alan.

Alan, Cardboard Cutout Alan, and Barry talk about their hopes and dreams.

Barry and Alan drive along the road, bickering about something. At this point, it’s easy to become a bit bored because Alan explains stuff we already know: Cauldron Lake is evil and makes the creative work of artists come true. Cauldron Lake doesn’t like being invoked like this, so it interrupts the scene by making Barry drive like an idiot and swerve off the road.

"Thank goodness," Alan narrates to himself. The clear forest air was already chasing his headache away like darkness melting away against the glare of a flashlight.

Alan in the forest once more.

Alan and Barry are separated by the crash, so Alan runs around for a while, this time being hunted by a fresh new enemy: possessed farmers. He’s undefended for a while, so he’s relieved to find the same model of flashlight and revolver that he was carrying before, which allows him to do righteous battle.

"I should be safe from those zombie farmers at that farmstead," Alan narrates to himself.

Alan overlooks a small farming community.

A few hours later, Alan and Barry meet up and put on a good old-fashioned music show, using the old stage that the farmers had used to rock out a couple decades ago. This attracts like a thousand possessed farmers, but Alan and Barry use the stage’s ancient lights to blast them. Then Barry waits around while Alan figures some stuff out, like how to use a longboat as a battering ram, and fights another demonic tractor.

Alan is upset, but what can you say to the cool guy of the group?

Cardboard Cutout Alan delivers a smackdown.

Alan and Barry decide to crash in the main farmhouse, where they listen to music and get drunk, even though there are probably a bunch of possessed farmers still milling around.

The song ends up being a prophecy about the evil lady in the lake. Incidentally, this is possibly the first time that a Poets of the Fall song has made any sense to anybody.

Alan decides to listen to some Poets of the Fall.

Getting drunk on moonshine distilled with water from Cauldron Lake gives Alan visions, launching into a huge block of exposition. This takes a pretty long time, and it mostly tells us things we know, though once again Alan Wake gives its players a well-deserved nipple-chafing plot twist. After explaining all about Cauldron Lake being evil again, and how it transforms the work of artists into reality, we learn that Alan was trapped in the lake for some time, writing about the escape of the darkness. Fortunately, Alan had recently played a popular video game series, so he wrote a savior into his story:

Like in BioShock 2, this Big Daddy has a name and a goal. Turns out the evil lady in the lake is his ex, and the first thing he mentions upon rescuing Alan is that she's sure looking old. I'm not even kidding.

Alan sneaks away as a Big Daddy ransacks the place.

And that’s how Alan came to be saved by a Big Daddy, and was free to fight against the darkness.

“The Truth” indeed!

Posted on May 28, 2012, in How-to and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Whew, funny once more!

    But Dan, I’ve got a question. Do you HATE Alan Wake? Are we going to see an actual review?

    • I doubt I’ll review it. I think this is enough. =)

      • Would you recommend it? It sounds like you think the story is horrible, but it also sounds like you’re having the time of your life.

      • That’s not a bad way of putting it. There are *things* I love about it, and the dumb story is part of that. The cardboard cutout of Alan, for instance, is a great example of Remedy being as self-aware as ever. But everything I like (Barry, especially, and his obsession with that cutout) was put in the game by the same company that made me run through hours of identical forests battling boring enemies around every corner. If I ever reviewed it, I think my main points would be:

        1. Forests, no matter how beautiful, become boring when overused. I mean, people get lost in real forests all the time, because in spite of their looks, some part of our brain loses the detail and makes them seem samey.

        2. If something happens all the time, there’s no reason to be surprised when it does. Ergo: enemies stepping out behind Alan every thirty seconds stop being surprising halfway into minute two.

        3. The combat isn’t that great. You’re basically just managing two types of ammo (flashlight & gun). I can’t think of any games that use “twist” combat well—I’m also thinking of Dead Space here, where the need to kill enemies with a special tactic gets pretty tedious when performing the same action a hundred times.

        4. The story is alternately moan-inducing and hilarious. If the game had run with the campy side of things more, it would have been many times improved.

        There are also other things I’d bring up, but that would be my review in a nutshell. Of course, I haven’t even *finished* it yet. Episode 4 was much more interesting than the first three, so maybe eps 5 and 6 will blow me out of the water.

      • Sounds good! I was thinking of a purchase during one of the many recent sales, but Ive got a big backlog to work through already.

  2. This is my favorite set of reviews ever.

  3. So instead of the Big Daddy being armed with a drillbit and a gun, he has tiny pincher hands? That’s so lamesauce that it makes me want the evil lake to win.

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