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Video Game of the Week – Alan Wake

As high-definition screens and computer animation techniques push video games ever closer to what is effectively a cinematic experience, action and adventure game developers are enthusiastically embracing the opportunity. Game characters, storylines and soundtracks are no longer afterthoughts but instead take center stage, offering an experience far removed from the traditional kill-or-be-killed world of Halo 3 and Modern Warfare 2.

In many of the new offerings coming onto the market, playing the character is the game, testing a player's emotions as much as it tests his skill with a controller.

Two such games are Heavy Rain from Sony Computer Entertainment and this week's release from Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox 360, Alan Wake.

Heavy Rain, which is rated M for Mature, shook up the gaming world on its release earlier this year by doing away with many of the standard gameplay elements in favor of steering characters through a story filled with heart-pounding moments and grim discoveries. Players still used the controller to move their character around but it was more akin to starring in a horror movie than playing a video game.

Alan Wake, which is rated Teen (may be suitable for ages 13 and older), takes the same approach. Players assume the role of the title character, a writer who searches for his missing wife in a mysterious lakeside town. Sure, there are evil forces lurking in the surrounding woods and some useful weapons for keeping them at bay, but it is the compelling storyline and the overwhelming feeling of dread that are the main drivers of the action.

As the plot unfolds in unexpected and often alarming ways, the player increasingly identifies with the troubled character, feeling his fear and desperation as he battles the demons inside his head as well as those just beyond his vision in the suffocating darkness of the mist-draped forest.

Alan Wake
offers approximately 12 hours of riveting gameplay, which will stick in your mind for days afterwards. It also offers a hint to the future of video games, where monsters and aliens from other worlds are replaced by something much scarier – human frailty.             

Alan Wake is rated "T" for Teen by the ESRB. Check out their video game  ratings and content descriptors at ESRB.org  

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360
Genre:     Action Adventure
RRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: "T" for Teen

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