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Nightmare Fuel: Alan Wake
Needless to say, there are some very dark moments in Alan Wake.
The fact that the all of the Taken were once townsfolk and that Bright Falls is a small town. When you think about it, Alan's battle against the darkness may have cost Bright Falls half its population.
The Dark Presence in general, but particularly its avatar Barbara Jagger, who is especially terrifying the scene where Alan is talking to her and she jumps at the screen and appears to be threatening the player. And, if you consider what you're doing at the time, well... she actually is threatening the player.
Struggling to reach the light of a Safe Haven, only for the light to flicker out and/or the bulb to break as you approach. Many an expletive has been uttered out loud by gamers upon these moments.
Manuscript pages dealing with every aspect of your life and other peoples' interactions with you, an unnatural force possessing people who did nothing wrong, having to kill half the town and have their blood on your hands, a woman with a hole where her effing heart should be, and two cases in which a dog dies. How the hell did this game get a Teen rating again?!
The poor drunk guy you hear when you enter a cabin, screaming and firing his gun as he's being murdered by his Taken friend. Who then smashes through the window when you come back downstairs. Just the sheer terror of the poor bastard is palpable.
Later on in Episode 4 you can find one of the caches in a farmhouse and are attacked afterward by a Taken warning you to stay away from his daughter. Farmer's daughter joke, or was he protecting his family when the darkness took him? And just past the farmhouse you can find three marked graves and the Dark Presence uses the skeletons of the remains to attack you like it does with other objects. Gah.
The ending of "The Signal" DLC. The televisions Alan's been seeing of himself almost going insane actually are what's happening to him. He manages to fight off several possessed TV's showing him losing hope and giving in to the Dark Presence. He suddenly has a blinding headache and wakes up in Cauldron Lake Lodge, a ghostly Dr. Hartman standing over him and calmly telling him it's all in his head. As Alan struggles to leave his room, the camera moves out of his eye to reveal him lying on the floor in the cabin, twitching and mumbling incoherently to himself about being unable to escape. Cue credits.
And as "The Writer" reveals... it's entirely sane in it's insanity. You see... the rational part of his mind is trying to re-unite with the part of him that's ready to give up. So neither Alan you see or play as is the 'real' Alan. The real Alan is Narrator!Alan.
In Episode 2, if you enter the first cabin you see on the way to Rusty, and look closely at the left-hand window after entering, you can see a Taken walking slowly past the window. This isn't signified by a musical sting, or a pan, it's there to jump the player only if he sees it, and it works.
Later on, you have to go through a session of the episode without a firearm. Fortunately, you have someone with you who has a gun, but he's got poor aim compared to you and focuses on the biggest Taken he can see, regardless of how far away they are. On higher difficulties, you will be screaming at him to shoot the others because the Taken aren't after him, they're after you.
There is one moment in the DLC where Narrator!Alan screams, and the tv distorts so that his gaping mouth is where his eyes should be.
The game plays a sound when you shine a light on the light-sensitive paint that sounds a lot like heavy breathing. This is Zane, breathing through his diving suit-which he was in when he died.
The poltergeist objects. They don't appear until you're a decent ways into the game, but they're really likely to catch you off guard. Unlike regular enemies they can't be killed by guns and are only vulnerable to the light. Plus, they almost always appear in large groups in hazardous areas (like the top of a bridge that slowly falls apart) where they can easily overwhelm Alan. Still, this is nothing compared to the massive poltergeist vehicle boss battles. If the idea of being chased by a possessed bulldozer that is only weakened by the light isn't scary enough, remember that you'll also need to fight several taken during some of these fights.
Another thing to keep you up at night - Many of the poltergeist objects are things that seem to move from the corner of the screen. How many times have you woken up from a nightmare, only to find your eyes darting back and forth through shadows that seem to menacingly writhe when your head is just barely turned away?
The paintings in Hartman's office. Creepy doesn't even begin to describe them.
They're scary enough on their own, but the implication that said paintings are drawing on the power of the lake and may not be entirely fictional is something else.
Some of the Night Springs episodes are really unnerving. Take for instance the "Dreamers Within a Dream." It starts out with two guys discussing the fact that they are in a dream and that they have to do everything they can to make sure the dreamer isn't shocked awake. Then a rumbling starts and one guy starts to panic when he realises it's an alarm clock. The last words as the dreamer wakes up: "Please, man! I've got a wife and kids! Please don't wake-" *static*
Then there's the one found in the fifth chapter. It's actually one of the lighter episodes (no one dies) yet manages to be really unnerving. It opens with a man running from two strange men. When they catch him they remove his free will and destroy it, leaving him a mindless drone. Who are these men? Are they working for someone or do they just go around making slaves for kicks? What are they gonna use him for? Why did the man's free will manifest as an organ that could be ripped from his body? Was the whole thing a metaphor for something? It leaves just enough unanswered questions and is surreal enough to really disturb the viewer.
Not to mention the "Quantum Suicide" episode where the guy shoots himself in the head in front of an audience as part of a probability experiment, thinking/knowing that he's going to kill an alternate universe version of himself. Of course, something goes horribly wrong... Which can quickly turn into Fridge Horror. You see, he didn't take in the fact that HE may be one of the alternate universes in which he dies, and that the unplugging of the Quantum Suicide machine was just the way the Alternate Universe killed him. Very dark if you look into it.
The taken hitchhiker from Alan's dream. He was the only one who could talk more then just a few random lines. This allowed him to yell death threats at you as he stalked you throughout the level. Compared to the other taken, who don't say much, he is quite possibly the most intimidating enemy in the entire game.
The Taken yelling out random things as you fight them. Having no meaning to you, and gives off a huge insane feeling.
Taken: You get TWO PILLLLLLS IN THE MORNINNNNG and then YOU'LL BE NICE AND CALM ALL DAY LONG.
Made worse by the fact that these lines are all that's left of the person's personality.
The image of Alice being dragged into Cauldron Lake by Barbara Jagger.
Both of the 2 DLCs take place in a twisted world that is made up of the places Alan has visited as well as his memories, but everything is jammed together wrong. To make matters worse the entire place looks like something out of H.P. Lovecraft and appears to be falling apart. Not to mention that both the DLCs are harder than the main game and have far more platforming elements that can result in an instant death if you fall.
The beginning in the game is pretty creepy as well, when you go into the house and then all of the TVs turn on and all you can see is an eye staring at you, saying die about 15 times.
All while he's sending out a tornado to rip your shit.
Finding this manuscript page: "The flashlight was heavy in my hand, and each pull of the trigger sent a painful shock up my arm. But I was finally out of the woods and things were looking up. That's when I heard the chainsaw."
Alan Wake's American Nightmare
Despite dropping the psychological horror elements of the game in favor of pulp fiction action, American Nightmare has plenty of its own terrifying moments.
The central concept is pretty horrifying. Imagine being trapped in an endless time loop for eternity where stronger and stronger monsters appear each time. Yeah, Alan finds a way to end it and save himself, but what if he didn't? If the Taken didn't kill you sooner or later, the madness and repetition would grind your sanity away slowly until you didn't want to survive any longer. It can be pretty scary to think about.
Eddie's radio show is normally a pretty reliable bastion of sanity and even humor. He interviews the Old Gods of Asgard along with Barry, talks about existential concepts in a positive and decidedly non-nightmarish light, and has an unbelievably pleasant voice to listen to. Then during the second cycle, at the drive-in, he's talking about fate with a caller, and something starts to happen to his voice. It suddenly starts talking about the possibility that humans are merely pawns to some presence beyond their comprehension, making free will an utter illusion, living lives that are (at best) subject to the ripples of another world or (at worst) simply for the entertainment of higher beings. His voice? It's turned into that of the narrator of Night Springs. The worst part? This is all taking place in Night Springs. None of the people you're talking to are actually real...or are they? Thankfully, the subsequent two lines are Nightmare Retardant.
Eddie: Food for thought, Ricky. Just food for thought.
The first time you encounter a King Hillbilly Taken. Up until then you've managed to overcome all the various other forms tricks and abilities. Then, out of nowhere, this lumbering brute shows up and knocks you down to one hit point with a single attack. No gimmick, no strategy, just a massive monster that can soak up a full chip from an automatic gun and keep coming.
Mr. Scratch's TV recordings. The guy is a monster, and these show how gleeful he is about it. One of them features him slitting the throat of an unwitting fan, and being so happy about it, it's almost sexual. The last one is particularly chilling: Scratch talks about "big bastards" that live in the darkness, and how he's bringing them out.
They don't mind getting a bit of elbow room. All that chaos and madness, it doesn't really do that much down there. It's like pouring a glass of water into the ocean, right? But up here? Yeah, you can really make an impact.
And at the other end of the spectrum, he can nonchalantly murder a man for being too noisy. Or show off his knife collection and describe why he likes this one for the style or that one for the non-slip grip and how you really need that traction when you're "wrist-deep in somebody", all the while sounding like he's talking about the weather.
Also, in one of his videos he starts out talking about how beautiful and talented Alice is, and how he's basically been stalking her, just letting her see him enough that she thinks she's catching glimpses of her dead husband. And then he starts talking like this:
So I'll go to her. It'll be an amazing moment — "Oh my God, you're alive!" I'll be the good, loving husband for as long as I can stand it. She'll love it. And then, one day, somehow, it'll happen. Maybe I'll slip up and she spots something. Or maybe she just starts running her mouth. And then...I'll do it. *Slasher Smile* It's gonna be sweet.
The main story may have dropped most of the survival horror elements, but the arcade mode restores it completely. It's basically Alan Wake's version of Nazi Zombies, only you have no teammates and the higher tier weapons can only be unlocked by finding manuscript pages in story mode, making it almost impossible for players who decided to try it before tackling the main game. The basic premise is that you fight off a horde of Taken until the sun rises in ten minutes. Each location is heavily isolated, very creepy (the first level is set in a graveyard, for example), and supplies are limited. Oh, and the best part? After beating all of the already difficult normal levels you unlock the apply named nightmare levels which send waves of Taken at you right from the very start. If you haven't mastered the controls and item placements you will likely die before even getting to the halfway mark. So yeah, have fun.
The music in the arcade mode is very quiet. Why? So you can hear the Taken's footsteps as they come up behind you.