American Nightmare begins perfectly with the intro to a TV show that's shamelessly evocative of its influences. Alan Wake was always in love with The Twilight Zone, but the corny homages of the original game have gone. TV and reality have been reversed, and Alan has to think his way through a storyline while watching his evil twin wreaking what might just be real-world havoc on the box.
This means the story, instead of being a slippery tease, feels self-contained and confident. Wake's self-pitying introspection has been mostly replaced by Night Spring's Rod Serling-alike narrator. It works extremely well - although it's impossible to ignore the terrible female acting, a baffling legacy from the first game. Is it something to do with Remedy's home country? Do Finnish women actually speak like that?
There are a couple of tricks to keep the game downloadable - there aren't many locations, but the developer's found a cheeky way to re-use them. And killing the enemies is the classic Alan Wake deal. They're protected by darkness, so Alan has to burn away the shadows with his torch before bullets can do damage.
Combined with the narrow window in which you can perform a dodge, it's a great system for blending action with tense time management survival. If anything, Alan feels more sprightly than ever, which works well for the new Survival mode. Here, Alan must survive for ten minutes in a multiplier-maintaining score attack. Get hit, and the multiplier gets knocked completely off - dishearteningly harsh if you're six minutes into a perfect round.
It's a great way to play with the combat, especially as the storyline is so short and doesn't really bear repeating. However, a solo survival mode feels unambitious with so many co-op Horde Mode variants on offer.
American Nightmare is good value, but it hints at more than it delivers - a world in which urban myths can come true never materialises in this episode. But that just makes us wonder what Remedy has got in store. It'd be a shame to stop now, just when it's getting good.
A single espresso - the best but shortest yet
- Alan's found his narrative
- Great, unique shooting
- Arcade mode boost longevity
- Three-hour story mode
- No co-op arcade