Epic continues to frisbee out the free games, as backlogs around the globe grow so unwieldy they’re liable to topple over and squish their owners flat. But should you be willing to risk your chances against Death itself, then, hey, why not add Observer and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare to your library later today?
Both games, of course, paddle in the wading pool of blood that is the horror genre (appropriately enough, given the season), with Bloober Team’s Observer taking the surreal sci-fi approach, while Alan Wake’s American Nightmare offers up a Twilight-Zone-inspired slice of small-town terror. They’re both good!
Observer time-travels players to 2084, and a dilapidated apartment building in a dystopian version of Krakw, Poland. Here, they take on the role of Daniel Lazarski (voiced by Rutger Hauer), a so-called Observer detective attempting to track down his estranged son.
Half the game is a wonderfully atmospheric and deliberately slow-paced mood piece, focussed on meticulous investigation as players roam the mouldering apartment block for clues, questioning its strange procession of tenants from the other side of their closed doors. The other half though sees Bloober returning to the sort of electrifying, disorientating set-pieces that served Layers of Fear’s haunted house horror so well, plunging players into visually astonishing dreamscapes, as they hack into suspects’ brains to relive their memories.
Eurogamer contributor Edwin Evans-Thirlwell enjoyed Observer enough to slap it with a Recommended badge when he reviewed it in 2017, saying, “As an excavation of an environment that is writhing with the internet’s effluence, a space that manages to feel at once suffocating and vast, ornate and putrid, it has few equals”.
As for American Nightmare, developer Remedy’s stand-alone sort-of-spin-off, sort-of-sequel to the original Alan Wake once again pits everybody’s favourite incessantly monologuing horror author against the forces of darkness in bouts of torchlight-infused gunplay. American Nightmare, though, is a somewhat more upbeat affair, framing its pulpier, darkly comedic narrative as an episode of the fictional in-universe TV show, Night Springs.
“[Alan Wake] himself simply feels more at home in this shorter, punchier, less laboured and self-regarding form,” wrote Johnny Minkley in his 7/10 Eurogamer review back in 2012.
“Freed from the weight of expectation that accompanies a full retail release in this genre,” he continued, “the experience – while lacking the set-piece spectacle and spookiness of the original – is less forced and more comfortably pitched.”
Those wishing to swell their gaming backlogs still further can add Observer and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare to their Epic Games Store library for free later today, and they’ve got until next Thursday, 24th October to do so.