In this third-person shooter, players assume the role of a writer named Alan Wake who searches for his missing wife in a mysterious lakeside town. Players explore the town and surrounding woods, interact with characters, solve puzzles, and gather clues along the way. Players must battle humanoid enemies known as the "Taken" by using various light sources (flashlights, floodlights, "flahsbang" grenades); they can also use pistols and shotguns to kill the enemies. The Taken react to damage by disappearing in a flash of embers and shadows. Cutscenes also depict the Taken wielding axes and killing characters off-screen. In one sequence, a long blood trail can be seen leading up to a wounded character in a cabin. Some characters smoke cigarettes or reference alcohol and hangovers; one cutscene depicts two drunken characters slurring their speech while conversing (e.g., "I feel like my brain is coming out of my nose. I'm gonna get the recipe off those kooks and be a, a, a booze millionaire!."). Language such as "sh*t," "a*shole," and "b*tch" can be heard in the dialogue.