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Hands-on with Remedy’s Alan Wake sequel, American Nightmare

Beginning next month, Microsoft will begin its next push into the lucrative and growing field of downloadable games, when it begins its “House Party” event. Starting on February 15, Microsoft will release a new downloadable game each week. But rather than the normal arcade games, these titles are some of the highest profile arcade games to hit XBL.

A release schedule hasn’t been unveiled yet, but the titles are: Alan Wake: American Nightmare, Nexuz, Warp, and I Am Alive. Each game has its own appeal, but perhaps none are as high profile as American Nightmare (with the possible exception of Ubisoft’s I Am Alive, but that is partly due to its infamous history as it delayed itself all the way out of a retail release and onto the XBL).

American Nightmare is not exactly a sequel to Alan Wake, but rather a continuation of the story set after the events of the original game. Those that played and beat the original will name of the game’s setting, the city of Night Falls—the setting of Alan Wake’s Twilight Zone-like stories—while anyone new to the game will still have a five hour story as well as the arcade mode.

The arcade mode is a single-player combat-centric experience that will play out like a horde/survival game. You begin armed with only a flashlight and a handgun. As you explore the area, you can pick up new weapons and seek out the odd safe area. The enemies you face will be stunned by the flashlight beam, flares, or the lights from the odd lamp. Once you have them stunned, you finish them off, then repeat. Each wave of enemies will become increasingly more difficult to survive, and to win you need to survive until dawn comes. There is also a second level of difficulty called nightmare, to further push the challenge. 

Those that played the original should immediately feel at home with the mechanics. For those that haven’t checked it out, the game has a feel similar to Gears of War. The characters move with a bit more fluidity, but the tradeoff is that they feel less powerful. The lighting element is an interesting gameplay aspect, and when paired with the dodge can make the difference between dying horribly and making it to see the sun.

For an arcade game, American Nightmare signifies a bit of a shift in the business model. It is a standalone game, but it also plays out like an episode in a retail game. The quality is there in terms of graphics and gameplay mechanics, and for a game that is likely going to cost under $15, five hours of story and an arcade mode that has an immense amount of replay is an incredible value. If it, and the other games like it are a success, it could pave the way for more episodic content in the future to be released as downloadable content.

Keep an eye out for American Nightmare when it is released sometime in the next few weeks.

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