Alan Wake (Xbox 360*)

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Finland's Remedy Entertainment delivers this "psychological thriller" action-adventure, which follows a popular horror novelist through his darkest nightmares. Mourning a vanished lover and beset by insomnia, Alan Wake has lost his best source of creative inspiration: his dreams. He retreats to the little Pacific Northwest town of Bright Falls, where the horrors he once saw in his sleep seem to become real. Mission by mission, the player guides the character to explore these eerie stories as they come alive in the isolated coastal village.

Alan Wake shares more with its predecessors than a vague pun in the title character's name. As in the studio's Max Payne, the hero's nightmares yield shadowy monsters to battle and surreal mysteries to unravel, mostly from an action-oriented, third-person perspective. The missions in Alan Wake weave continuously through the horror writer's visions as well as through the "real" world, where the lonely village of Bright Falls offers little solace. And although he gains access to a revolver, hunting rifle, and increasingly deadly shotguns, Alan Wake's most useful weapon may be his flashlight, as darkness seems to be the source of all his nightmarish troubles.