Alan Wake's American Nightmare isn't a true sequel to Remedy's survival horror title, Alan Wake. It's more of a spin-off to the original, but still takes place after the events of the first game. You don't need to play the first Alan Wake to know what's going on here though, so it's great for newcomers looking for a slice of the action.
American Nightmare takes place around 2 years after the first game. Alan Wake is once again trapped in one of his own creations. He is in a Night Springs episode, and the only way to escape is to kill Mr. Scratch. The game takes place in an entirely new location, the Arizona desert. It's a great fit for how the game plays out, but I'm not going to go into to much detail. I don't want to give away any spoilers. But what I will say is, American Nightmare is just as engaging and terrifying as the original.
Compared to the first Alan Wake, American Nightmare is much more action heavy. It's obvious that developer Remedy has focused more on close combat this time. If like me, you played the original, picking up American Nightmare should be a piece of cake. The combat is identical to the original, but feels more fluid, and has been spiced up. There's a variety of new weapons at Alan's disposal. From submachine guns, nailguns, to well known favourites, like flair guns and flash grenades. Fighting off dozens of Taken can be very terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Combat flows extremely well, and slow-mo effects as you dodge enemy attacks look just as cool as ever.
Most of your time is taken fighting Taken, whilst travelling to an objective to help someone. Without going into detail, you will repeat some of the moments, and it does start feel repetitive later on. Having said that, the game does keep at a great pace. You always feel on the move, whither it be searching for something, or defeating enemies. The main story mode takes roughly five hours to complete. But there's also the return of manuscript pages scattered around the game to keep you busy.
Visually, American Nightmare looks just as good, if not better than the original. It still holds a creepy dark scene, like the original, but there's a lot more lighting and colour than before. You could hardly see Alan at times in the original, but he can be viewed much more clearly this time. It's without doubt the best looking XBLA title I've seen yet, and is on par with a retail game.
Once you've completed single-player, there's also an arcade mode called Arcade Action. Here you can test your combat skills as you fight endless waves of Taken. Your objective is to survive until the time runs out. There's ten different maps to choose from, and you will unlock more by earning stars. Stars are earned by receiving a certain amount of points, which you receive from defeating Taken and successfully dodging attacks. A multiplier also increases your score. A leaderboard also keeps track on your performance, so it's great for competitive players.
Overall, Alan Wake American Nightmare is a great spin-off title. If you enjoyed the original, definitely give American Nightmare a shot. It might not hold a great plot like the first, but it's certainly a worthy XBLA release.