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'Skate 3,' 'Alan Wake' offer new gaming adventures

By Marc Saltzman, Gannett
"Skate 3" focuses heavily on cooperative play, including team-based challenges in the fictitious city of Port Carverton.
"Skate 3" focuses heavily on cooperative play, including team-based challenges in the fictitious city of Port Carverton.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Skate 3" is arguably the best in the series with extra tricks and deeper online play
  • "Alan Wake" is a strange single-player adventure about a bestselling author
  • Gamers who prefer story-driven adventures will appreciate it as an interactive suspense novel

(Gannett) -- In need of a spring fling? Two new but very different video game releases this week should help.

Shown for the first time back in 2005, Microsoft Game Studios' oft-delayed "Alan Wake" has finally been released. This supernatural adventure is worth the wait, though, and offers plenty of action, atmosphere and creative story-telling.

"Skate 3," on the other hand, challenges you to pull off slick tricks, take on team-based challenges and run your own skateboarding business. "Skate 3" is arguably the best in the series yet, though it's more evolutionary than revolutionary.

Here's a closer look.

"Alan Wake"
3 1/2 stars out of 4
(Xbox 360; rated Teen; $59.99; alanwake.com)

"Alan Wake" is played from a third-person perspective.
"Alan Wake" is played from a third-person perspective.

"Alan Wake" is a strange single-player adventure about a bestselling author in the middle of a dry spell. To overcome his writer's block, Alan's wife, Alice, brings him to a small northwestern town called Bright Falls, but Alice soon disappears.

After awakening from a blackout, Wake discovers an account of what happened that he can't remember writing -- until he starts finding sheets strewn throughout the town that fill in some blanks but foreshadow impending danger.

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In this game played from a third-person perspective, Wake talks with many residents to gather clues, explores this once-idyllic town and battles supernatural foes (collectively called "The Taken") using light as a common element in all the weapons and tools to help ward off what lurks in the darkness.

There is some puzzle-solving, too, but most of the game focuses on character interaction, exploration and combat.

Gamers who prefer story-driven adventures, such as Sony's "Heavy Rain" or EA's "Mass Effect 2" should appreciate "Alan Wake" as an interactive suspense novel with supernatural undertones.

"Skate 3"
3 stars out of 4
(PlayStation 3; Xbox 360; rated Teen; $59.99; skate.ea.com)

It's only been a year since Electronic Arts rolled out "Skate 2," a game that proved the publisher was serious about competing against Activision's "Tony Hawk" series.

"Skate 3" improves on 2009's offering with a new city, extra tricks and deeper online play, but it's not radically different than its predecessor. Therefore, those who own "Skate 2" might want to test out the new game first to decide whether it's worth the $60 price tag.

"Skate 3" focuses heavily on cooperative play, including team-based challenges in the fictitious city of Port Carverton. The goal of the meaty career mode is to start your own business and become the hottest skateboarding brand around. Your online buddies can join your crew to help take on various challenges, which include amassing a high score by pulling off midair tricks, achieving the longest jump, racing against others or taking part in photo shoots.

Also, back again is the fun Hall of Meat mode that rewards you for over-the-top spills.

If you need more people for team-based events, and your friends aren't online, computer-controlled skaters can fill in.

Improved "Flickit" controls place a heavy emphasis on the controller's dual analog sticks (to control your skater and board) and trigger buttons (for grabs and grinds). The new park creator is easier to use compared with last year's tool, and again allows you to create the ultimate skate park from scratch.