Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

If, like me until recently, you haven't seen or listened to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, I will make this quite simple. GO WATCH IT! At the very least, listen to it. It is on youtube for crissakes. However, I imagine such people will be few and far between, but if you're still waffling about it, let me try to convince you of the brilliance of this form of aetheric entertainment.

Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is/was an internet series from back during the Writer's Strike. Remember? There wasn't anything new on TV? Well, our good friend Joss Whedon and his brothers got together with some friends (namely Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day and Neil Patrick Harris) and made a short web series. The "Blog" is divided into three acts, each about a quarter of an hour, so it isn't a huge timesink to watch. The series follows the escapades of Dr. Horrible (played by Neil Patrick Harris) as he attempts to join the Evil League of Evil. Horrible is consistently foiled by his nemesis Captain Hammer (played by Nathan Fillion, Mal Reynolds of Firefly). We are also introduced to his obsession with a girl who does laundry at the same laundromat at he does, Penny (played by The Guild's Felicia Day). Have I mentioned it's a musical? Between bouts of plotting, plot and scheming (all different things I assure you) we have sections of each episode (roughly three per act) that are sung and my are they brilliant!
It's just a really good series, and I'd hate to spoil it for people, so if you haven't already seen it, GO DO SO! THE INTERNET COMMANDS YOU!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Red Dead Redemption

So, I've been playing Red Dead Redemption.

And I've got to say it doesn't quite live up to the hype.

To break it down these are my problems.

*It's bland.
*It's uninteresting
*More rails than Neverwinter Nights

The game scenery is bland. Despite the claims of an open world, you can't really travel anywhere unless you complete the story. And yes, the scenery changes from area to area, but inside of each individual region, you're treated to delicious copypasta terrain spread over a series of monotonous ridges and valleys.

Oh. And you have Mad Drowning Skills. For all this claims to replicate the West, the inability to cross a river or swim, or ford a body of water on a horse is discouraging. It's almost as if they don't want you to explore. They're the chest high walls of this game and frankly it is insulting. You enter a body of water and you die, simple as that.

The game is plainly uninteresting. You move from area A to area B and do the same things you were doing in the beginning. You are restricted in what you can get unless you follow the story along. Again, almost like they're cordoning off your sandbox world. It irks me that game developers feel the need to do this. They let you run around in between missions but then plainly prevent you from having certain skills required to complete them. For instance, the lasso. I wouldn't be half as angered with this if they'd just squish all this tutorial bullshit into the beginning of the game and then step back.

All water is instant death. There's a great big river separating you from Mexico in the south and another one cutting you off from "Civilization" in the north-east.
Your equipment and the tutorials that teach you how to use it are directly integrated into the story, so you won't have the whole kit until you've gone through the story. What's the point of letting me off the rail before I've gotten everything?

Not a fan, folks. Not a fan at all.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Alan Wake - 4 of 4 - Old Friends and Loose Ends

We left off the last post with Alan in the Well-Lit Room, in possession of the Clicker, and a passel of existential questions. Those will come at the end since the game is left rather open to interpretation.

The second piece (did I forget to mention that?) dictates the conditions for Alan returning to Zane's Cabin. He has to go back to Cauldron Lake with the clicker, and jump.

Alan leaves his cohorts, Sheriff Breaker, Barry the Agent and Cynthia Weaver in the Well-Lit Room. He clicks the Clicker on which turns the world to day time. I mentioned earlier that the vehicle bits could have been transitioned some other way, and I'm a little torn over this one. You drive through the day through what is otherwise idyllic scenery. At one point, you have to get out of the car and pass through a tunnel, and at this point everything goes to hell. You have to fight your way back to Cauldron Lake. And let me tell you, this is at once the best and worst part of the game. If you didn't enjoy the last hours of play, you won't like this. Frankly, it's feels stretched out, so I'll summarize. One of the manuscript pages mentioned that the Dark Presence is incapable, because it is bound by the manuscript, of actually doing anything to Alan. It can't properly affect him. But it can manipulate things and people around him. Sort of like poking something out of a high place with a stick. And now it has taken this to the limit. The Dark Presence has manifested a swirling mass of... stuff. Everything that's ever wound up in Cauldron Lake, Boats, busses, planes, trains and ruttin' automobiles it tries to hit you with, in addition to the efforts of the Taken. But Alan makes it to Cauldron Lake, and rips apart this Tornado.

I remember reading Shamus' review of Fear when I picked up the game a while back. I never finished the game, but what he mentioned about the ending is similar here.
In a normal game, like say... Masterchiefmas #Eleventy Billion, you'd walk into the room armed to the teeth and do battle with the Dark Presence, now represented by some sort of terrible evil shapeshifting thing. You'd kill it with fire and everything would be happy. But that's not how this works. Remember, we're trying to get to the typewriter with the last page of the manuscript. We have to write The Ending.

You jump off of the edge of the lake into the water with an exclamation of "Hell". Alan then has to use his flashlight to illuminate the various glowing words, a-la Scribblenauts, to create a path to the Cabin and then the Cabin itself.

Upon entering, he thrusts the Clicker into the hole in the Dark Presence's chest, made by Zane years before. And then he sits down to write the ending. And this is what gets me. They make a few assumptions about how a horror game, or a novel has to go. The ending feels more like a B-Movie to me. There's no satisfaction, and I'll deal with that in a second.

Alan writes Alice to safety. She drags her self out of the water and onto the ruined bridge to the island, but Alan is nowhere to be found. As the camera pans over the town, we can see that Everything Is Right With The World, until we pan down towards the Diner. Remember Cynthia Weaver, the old lady who was keeping the Macguffin? She was referred to as "The Lady of the Light". Remember Rose? Diner Waitress, knocked us out with some drugged tea. We see Rose holding a lamp in a way reminiscent of our good friend Cynthia. And then we return to Alan, still in the Cabin beneath the lake. And the last thing we're given by the game is the words
"It's not a lake. It's an ocean" in the sort of doubled voice that we've come to associate with Taken and the Dark Presence.

So, what are the problems here?
For one, we have no reason to care that Alice is safe. I personally never connected with her. The character was shallow and annoying. It was the goal of the game to retrieve her from the ancient evil, but I found myself liking Alan and the other characters, you know the ones who were on the screen for more than a few minutes, a great deal more. A note to the developers at Remedy: If you want us to do save the girl, give us a reason to like her. Make the player connect with the victim, at least for a bit.

We have no closure as to the fate of the three people we left in the Well-Lit Room. I didn't mention Barry during my review, so let me do so now. Barry is your sidekick, Alan's agent. And he's an excellent character. He's also comic relief. Sheriff Breaker was sympathetic to your cause as well, and Cynthia Weaver probably deserves a helping of "Well Done Thou Good And Faithful Servant". To leave out the people you left behind at the end of the game like this, for the sake of... what? Sequel potential?

And that's my third gripe. They expect to make another game. I remember playing the Sands of Time trilogy and in my opinion (as well as others') one of the best parts of those games was the fact that if you didn't want to play the next instalment, you didn't feel like you were losing the ending. Because you weren't. Maybe it's just me, but it's not impossible to give the player a sense that this story is done with, but there might be others, without saying "hey! There's going to be another game".

And last. Alan. We've dragged this little meat-puppet through hell, and now he's possessed by an ancient evil. Bad form, Remedy, bad form. You mean to tell us that we go through all that bullshit (and don't get me wrong, there is bullshit) and it's not even a Pyhrric victory? We lose when we finish the game? And according to all sources, this is the ending. The only ending. The hero becomes the villain. Like the bad sequel to a good movie.

I mentioned that they seem to like Stephen King and I'll go ahead with this. I've read quite a bit of his stuff. By no means all of it because the man appears to be quite the prolific writer but never have I run into something like this, where its an everyone loses sort of situation. Not once. There's always some sort of victory, Pyhrric or not. It might be as simple as escape, and it never has to be a clear win, since this is horror after all. But how many movies do the same thing? Horror doesn't have to be about vanquishing the evil. In fact, it shouldn't. But evil does not have to win either. You go through a movie or a novel or a game, scarred and worried for characters and it makes their victories, however small, seem that much sweeter. Taking that away leaves a sour taste in my mouth and quite a bit of contempt for the developers.

The lead up to the ending includes a speech about "balance" by Alan. And the scales are anything but balanced. Consider. Zane destroyed himself to seal evil in a can. Wake woke it up. Wake has to put things right. He rips the form that Zane gave the Dark Presence a new one, despite the ominous "strike me down..." line. So where does it say that it needs to take a new form right away? Why does it have to be Wake? Did the Dark Presence have a shape before Zane gave it one?

Could we not take the Silent Hill approach? And by this I mean the approach that the earlier games took. As long as the backdrop and the story remain consistent, you can write a sequel.

So, let's rack them problems up shall we?

Hey! We're not done yet! or Don't worry, we're making another game syndrome.
No closure.
Poor ending.

The journey wasn't bad. The ending makes the rest of it look and feel like a waste of time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Alan Wake - 3 of 4 - Story

Alan Wake has a lovely story, I must say.
You are Alan Wake, a famous writer who hasn't written anything in two years. You've travelled with your wife to Bright Falls, which is in the middle of the mountains and surrounded by what some people would call "untamed wilderness". Mostly forests, which is where Alan spends most of the game. Ostensibly you are here for a vacation. You start by running into the mayor/late night radio host on a ferry, and ask him to keep your involvement quiet. This is the high point of the game. It's all downhill from here folks.

The story is divided into episodes. Alan has one or two overarching objectives, along the lines of "go here, do this" and has to deal with the complications along the way. It's a little like a TV show really, the framing for each episode functions just like the recap before a TV show, and the end of each episode includes a neat little title card and musical sting. I could see it working out as a TV show to be honest. As mentioned by Yahtzee in his review, they really don't stop between episodes. You segue straight from episode into episode recap, which is frankly annoying. I used this to put down the controller and do other things, or skipped through. It wouldn't have killed the developers to let the game stop between episodes.

You procure the keys to the cabin you'll be vacationing in from a creepy old lady in black, before returning to the car only to see the person who you supposed to get the keys run out after you drive off, shouting that you've forgotten your keys. Oh dear. We also meet a few other people of note, including Rose, the Waitress, and Cynthia Weaver, a crazy old lady who keeps mentioning that "you can hurt yourself in the dark". If this isn't foreshadowing, I do not know what is.

Upon arriving at the cabin, you've got to turn on the lights, and go upstairs to find that your wife (GASP) expects you to try to write something, and has contacted a local doctor for therapy, since he apparently specializes in the treatment of artists.

Alan storms off in a tiff and goes to lean against the railing for a while before he's interrupted by his wife's screams. I think I've mentioned that while most of the graphics in the game are lovely, the faces leave something to be desired, but Alice, Alan's wife is really terrible. The lowest possible point in all this.

She somehow falls of the edge and into the waters of the lake the house sits on. This lake is apparently part of the caldera of a dormant volcano. Wow. And so Alan dives in, only to wake up a week later in a crashed car with no memories and blood on his face. He stumbles off through the darkness and the woods to get attacked. Fun. When he finally manages to contact the police, they claim that the island on the lake, the cabin they had been staying in, the whole shebang had been destroyed in the seventies. Sunk right into the lake.

Alan, being the sort of guy he is spends quite a bit longer buggering around looking for signs of his wife. The first is that she's been kidnapped. The man who apparently kidnapped her gives you two days to turn in a manuscript to him in return for Alice. The manuscript is the central point of the plot, which I'll get to in a bit. This man, Mott, works for Doctor Hartman, the same doctor Alice wanted him to see. After the initial meeting with Mott, Alan has two days to produce the manuscript. He loses a day to some drugged coffee after the Dark Presence puppets a local into mentioning that they have the other pages. At this point, the manuscript is all but written. The only thing remaining is to write the ending.

To make matters worse, an FBI agent has showed up looking for Wake, and when Alan doesn't show up to meet him at the police station, he gets a little ugly and starts shooting. By the time Alan makes his way to the rendezvous where he's meant to turn in the manuscript, things have changed. Alan now has to go somewhere else to make the exchange. The Dark Presence gets there first, and engineers an attack on Mott, as well as allowing Alan to discover that Mott never had his wife in the first place. Alan somehow falls into the lake and wakes up, drugged, in Doctor Hartman's clinic. Hartman doesn't care about the Dark Presence, he's just a greedy git. He gets what's coming to him when the Dark Presence shows up at his clinic.

Alan breaks out with gusto and the idea to head down to a farm owned by some crazy old rocker dudes, who apparently know something. Things don't go especially well. Alan holds off an assault of Taken on a rock stage, quite similar to the Midnight Riders Finale in L4D2. Discovers that the only person who knows how to stop this whole mess is a crazy old lady, who we met in the diner scene at the beginning of the game. Cynthia Weaver, remember her? He and Barry then get drunk on some moonshine and passes out to wake up in jail.

At this point we still haven't solved the matter of the missing week. The moonshine is, for lack of a better word, tainted with the water from Cauldron Lake, and lets Wake do a neat little out-of-body re-run of that week, during which he wrote the manuscript and engineered his escape.

Alan, the Sheriff and his agent Barry have to cross the town in the dark to get to the power station, where Weaver is holed up. Things go wrong, and Alan falls out of the rescue chopper they're trying to take there. Upon arriving, he learns that Zane left something in the care of Weaver, in what she calls "The Well-Lit Room" (capital letters and all). And that he should go retrieve this. The chopper with Barry and Sheriff Breaker in it crashes, and Alan leaves the safety of the secret passage (a lit water pipe you had to drain) to go fetch them. This goes about as well as planned and you all eventually wind up in the well lit room.

Yahtzee mentioned that someone on the design team must have had a thing for Stephen King, and I won't argue. The thing about the lake is that for some reason, artistic types can tap into a sort of power there that changes reality. There's one catch. It's attached to an entity called the "Dark Presence" currently inhabiting the creepy old lady in black.

Most of what we know about this is the result of a man named Thomas Zane, who owned the cabin that disappeared. The one that Alan and Alice had been staying in. His girlfriend died, and Zane attempted to harness this power to bring her back. Which he did. Sort of. The Dark Presence is a greedy little ancient evil, and tries to turn the efforts of anyone using this reality altering power to it's own ends. Including Zane and Alan Wake. In the case of Zane, it inhabited the body of his "resurrected" love. Zane managed to kick it back into dormancy, in a fashion, but had to do so at the cost of his own life. He literally erased himself and all of his work from existence, which a few exceptions. Lacking a creative mind to work with, the Dark Presence was stuck in Cauldron Lake until Wake showed up. The Presence engineered the disappearance of Alice and then set Wake to work with the promise that if he wrote a story, he could bring her back. Not quite so, since the objective is really to set the ancient evil loose on the world. Wake managed to write himself an escape by including himself in the plot of the novel. It's a clever little plot device that I don't really mind. Wake is now effectively a character in the story, bound by whatever rules are in play, as well as the author of the story and therefore the author of fate.

His escape a week into the plot of the novel was aided by resurrecting Thomas Zane and bringing him to his aid. Zane then spends the rest of the game dropping pages of the manuscript on Alan's path. These have various uses, but occasionally they're foreshadowing and advice about what's up ahead, so reading them is beneficial. And they're just plain neat.

But back to the main plot.

Another twist here. The entire story has been a self-fulfilling reach-around. In the Well-Lit Room is Zane's loophole. The failsafe device is a shoebox, containing two things. A page of manuscript written by Zane, and the Clicker. Alan mentions the Clicker in a flashback. It's a thing from his childhood that his mother gave him, a light switch. Turn the Clicker on and the dark disappears. Figuratively, if not literally. And the manuscript page narrates the event in which Alan is given this safety net. Which raises quite a few questions.

This post has gotten a little out of hand, so I'll leave the conclusion to the story and to the review for tomorrow.

The Plan

Everything needs a plan. Or at least some vague sort of goal that you can change if it doesn't work out.
I started this blog three years ago and it's risen sporadically like a zombie, or some strange sort of plant. Which really isn't a good use of the space. So I suppose it need a goal for this?

Update the blog every day. That's the plan. Let's see how it goes

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Alan Wake- 2 of 4- Gameplay

Carrying on from yesterday, more about Alan Wake.

You play Alan Wake, a writer with writer's block on vacation in scenic Bright Falls, Maine. He wears a tweed jacket with elbow patches and a hood.
Mr. Wake is not the most in shape of characters it would seem, he's not very good at running and doesn't do well with falls.

Wake does battle with assorted possessed people, birds, and objects, collectively referred to as Taken. The Taken are possessed by what Wake refers to as "The Dark Presence" a sort of ancient, terrible evil of the Lovecraftian set that really wants to get out of the can that it's been sealed in. To this end, it needs wake.

You start off in a nightmare sequence, where one of Wake's fictional characters attacks you with an axe. You are granted a tutorial by means of a magic floating light that delivers a flashlight and a revolver. Brilliant, isn't it? You wake up to your arrival in Bright Falls to find out your controls. The quick run down:

A to Jump (when appropriate)
B to Do Things (when prompted)
X to Run/Dodge
Y to Throw things (in combat)
Left Trigger to Focus Flashlight (when you've got one)
Left Bumper to Insert New Battery
Right Trigger to Fire Gun (when you've got one)
Right Bumper to Reload
Left Analog Click to Focus camera (when prompted)
Right Analog Click to do nothing.
D-Pad to select weapons.

Now, I'm playing on a 360, on Normal Difficulty, using the alternate control setting, which I've mapped above. This switches the functions of the bumpers and the X and Y buttons.

My biggest gripe about this control scheme is that X button. It's the only dual function button in the game. If they'd swapped the left analog click with the right analog click and placed the run button on the left click. Which would have sorted out the whole mess. As it is, when I push down the X button to tell Alan to run, he does this sort of running crouch like someone is shooting at him to start with, and occasionally will do so in the middle of running. It looks a little silly to be perfectly honest.
Most of the controls are context sensitive. The game is split into three distinct modes. One: Walking around safe. You can't jump, shoot and it's usually daytime so you won't have a flashlight. This supposedly being a horror game it inevitably leads into Night.
During the Night you spend most of your time wandering through a pine forest, and adjacent. It's more or less the same pine forest, with assorted bushes, bear traps, boxes with supplies stashed in them almost everywhere, and occasionally hidden glowing graffiti. You can usually jump, use your flashlight, (if you've got one), run and interact.
At night is when you run into Combat. During combat you can shoot, throw equipment, dodge, run and interact (though it's not recommended).

When you're safe, the game usually wants to deliver plot of some sort, usually by conversation with an NPC, or move you between areas. You occasionally find collectibles in this mode. These include coffee thermoses and manuscript pages. Both are used as part of achievements in the game, but the manuscript pages work into the plot. More on these in another post. Occasionally, a manuscript page will give you a brief glimpse into events to come, otherwise they're merely delicious fluff surrounding the gameplay. Alan is also less prone to narration when he's in this mode, which can be handy.

The thermoses and manuscript pages are more plentiful at night, as is one other game fixture. Glowing graffiti appears in the dark when you pass a flashlight over it. The nature varies from helpful arrows to indicate the direction of a supply chest, to splotches of paint which do the same, to cryptic comments or advice painted on the walls. The supply chests are often as not, a bit of a trap. Once you've finished with the chest, there's a good chance a few Taken have snuck up on you and are patiently waiting to beat you to a pulp when you turn around. It's only fair really, since the chests usually contain the means to put the hurt on these guys.

You'll spend a lot of your time finding excuses to run around in the spooky forest, which is fine.

Taken can come in several different flavours.
Possessed humans: These use assorted tools to try to bash your skull in, shovels, picks, woodcutting axes, nail bats, tire irons and the like. They like to come at you in small groups, it's rare to just find one. They also have an infinite supply of things to throw at you it seems, knives and the like, which can be awkward. To injure them, you have to first blast away the protective coating of darkness with your flashlight. You can do this by pointing it at them, or more quickly by focusing the flashlight, which drains the battery. Once that's done, dispatching them is a matter of point and shoot.
Some of these are a little tougher than others. Members of the local police, and big burly fellows wielding sledgehammers or chainsaws can take a little more effort and can make things seriously painful for Alan if he can't time his dodging right.

Possessed flocks of birds, original Colonel Hitchcock recipe are an annoyance. They don't hit hard, but they tend to be numerous and can attack from all sorts of directions. They're also incredibly fragile, and don't need to be shot to die, only exposure to the flashlight, or a flare.

Possessed objects are a different beast altogether. They come in all shapes and sizes, from oil drum size barrels, to gates and doors, to construction equipment. They all fall if you can hold your light on them long enough, but they can be misery itself to dodge because of their size.

Aside from these, Alan can find hunting rifles, shotguns and flare guns and his standby revolver. Each of these has its ups and downs. Properly used, the shotgun can deal with more than one enemy at a time, however with the exception of the pump action shotgun, the shotgun will only hold two rounds at a time, so correct use is important. The hunting rifle is a little slower on the rate of fire than the revolver, but packs more kick, being capable of breaking through the protective layer of darkness in some cases. The flare gun will outright kill Taken they're shot at, and are excellent for use against the possessed birds.

You're also granted flares and flash-bang grenades during various sections of the game. Flares can be held in the hand to ward off Taken, or dropped to create a sort of safe zone that strips away the Dark Presence around them. Flash-bangs, correctly used, will slay Taken outright, and are best used against groups when possible.

In portions of the game, they ask you to drive vehicles and this is a straight failure. The vehicles all handle the same, and by this I mean poorly. The camera swings wildly, and while the driving sections break up the gameplay well, they really only serve to move you from A to B, and you could do that another way. Does every game need a bit where you drive vehicles?

But I digress, the gameplay is solid, and if you don't mind the few flaws, you'll probably enjoy it. Alan does have an annoying habit of falling through cracks in the floor at times, but over all not bad.

Alan Wake - 1 of 4 - First Impressions

I picked up Alan Wake the other day, started playing this morning, so I think I should get the first impressions out of the way.

Praise first then:
The developers have done a good job, graphics wise. I'm not a fan of bleeding edge graphics tech, since it won't run on my ancient computer and the types of games that tend to use it aren't my cup of tea to begin with. They seem to have had a little trouble with the faces, they slip into the Uncanny Valley a little too often for my taste, but I won't begrudge them that.
The scenery is fantastic, but you can always tell when you're on the tracks. I realize they probably have to do this to avoid confusing players, but that little compass at the top should usually be a decent indicator of where you've got to go. And it is.

The interface is minimalistic, which is nice. I don't mind that at all. The health bar and magic objective compass are both in the same spot, which is handy.

I'll go right ahead and say that the controls are a little wonky. I don't like the sprint button, at all at the moment, mostly because there's not really an indicator, subtle or otherwise, as to when you can use it and when it's depleted. The fact that it occupies the same space as the dodge button can make clearing out of groups of enemies a little on the difficult side, since the game sometimes has difficulty interpreting between the two.

For a game that advertises as horror, I think they've gone the wrong way. The most tense parts of the games, the most frightening, are the ones where you've lost your gear and have to ration out things like flares and flash bangs to keep the enemy at bay. These can also be the most frustrating, since this ration cannot be replenished, and it's a little unclear as to whether or not you'll need them later on, or if you'll have them at all.

Maybe that's just the horror fan in me. Rationing the supply of something is the quickest way to make sure the player values it. And I've always liked the idea that the more you have of something in a horror game, be it life, health, ammunition or information, the shorter it's supply should be. The flashlight in games is a favourite example. Especially when they power it with a battery. I've always thought that if they wanted to keep the player tense, the battery should drain faster in areas where it isn't absolutely needed. Keep the player from using light as a safety blanket. Make them stumble around in the dark a little, and watch the shadows in corners. By playing with it just a little, I think you could have a much more enjoyable game.

How does this relate to Alan Wake? Alan is always equipped with some combination of three things: A flashlight, which requires batteries, a gun (several of these exist but you can only carry four) or some form of equipment (flares and flash bangs are what I've seen so far). During some parts of the game, they throw batteries and ammunition at you like they're candy, which doesn't cease to bother me. The game makes it quite clear that shooting at an enemy before you've used the light on them is a waste of bullets (equipment is an exception to this). You're also rewarded for looking a bit off the beaten path with glowing symbols. These symbols are revealed by the flashlight, and lead to caches of supplies marked by a torch. I think they could do away with half the ammunition in the game because I kept finding these on my playthrough and being unable to use all of the supplies there because I already had enough.

And it's not like you can waste bullets very easily. The game gives you semi-automatic weapons, not bullet hoses. An eight shot revolver, a double barrelled shotgun, a hunting rifle and a few others. They don't hold too many bullets, particularly the shotgun. My thankful cry of "pump action!" was completely heartfelt upon discovering that variation.

The flashlight is an odd duck. It has batteries, which you find almost everywhere. To use it on an enemy, you focus the beam, which drains the battery. If you don't empty it completely, the battery will eventually recharge. Something I'm a little at odds with. They seem to contradict each other. While the recharging aspect makes it easier to stretch out one battery if you're clever, the fact that you can carry quite a few seems to negate it's usefulness, at least from what I've been able to tell.

Combat is... interesting. Alan can easily triumph over small groups armed with nothing but his flashlight and a revolver, but when numbers start to turn against him, it can become much more difficult. The fact that enemies seem to have an infinite number of ranged weapons, axes, picks, tire irons and the like, is an annoyance of mine. And the control scheme which mixes the dodge button with the ability to run is also an irritant.

The camera stealing is just wretched. It's (and I'm borrowing heavily from Yahtzee here) almost as though they don't want to scare you. When some enemies have gotten behind you, as part of the game (they've spawned behind you), the game slows down, jerks the camera out of your hands as a way of yelling at the top of it's voice "Hello! Hello! Do you see these scary, scary men? They want to kill you! Maybe you should shoot them!" Now, there are a dozen other ways to have done this within the game itself, without breaking immersion. They could have made a noise. Alan could have narrated that he heard something, which wouldn't have bothered me half as much. They could have simply jumped you and started the fight. They give hints in the environment as to when the Taken (since that's what they're called) are going to show up. If everything seems to get a wee bit darker, if lights start going out spontaneously, if the fog/mist around you seems to be moving a bit faster? They're Here!