Alan Wake has received a significant visual upgrade and most of the time, its gameplay systems hold up pretty well, even for today's standards.
What you need to know
- What is it? A remaster of 2010 critically acclaimed thriller horror.
- Reviewed on: PC - Ryzen 5 3600, Radeon RX 6800, 16GB RAM
- Developer: Remedy Entertainment
- Publisher: Epic Games
- Release date: October 5, 2021
- Available on: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5
Alan Wake Remaster is a worthy upgrade to Remedy Entertainment's critically acclaimed thriller-horror from 2010. Just over a decade after the initial launch on Xbox, Alan Wake still feels fresh with engaging combat, twisting and intriguing story and well-written characters. Add some fancy new visuals to that and you have a horror game that is most definitely worth your time.
You won't find many better stories than Alan Wake. The game kicks off when you, a best-selling thriller novelist named Alan Wake, and the love of your life and accomplished photographer Alice, arrive in a small fictional town of Bright Falls, set somewhere in Washington.
As soon as you get there, you notice that strange things start to happen and your wife mysteriously disappears in a nearby lake. Alan then starts to experience supernatural encounters as one of his books, which he can't even remember ever working on, comes to life, page by page.
A dark presence starts to spread over Bright Falls, possessing the townsfolk and playing with Wake's mind, who has to fight the darkness all while questioning his own sanity and trying to save his wife.
The structure of Alan Wake is almost identical to a thriller TV series with episodes that usually end with big cliffhangers.
Alan Wake's story is like something you can usually read in Stephen King's novels - it's brimming with nightmares, fear, but at the same time, determination and courage, as Wake continues to search for his beloved Alice.
Expect many twists and turns, setbacks and memorable characters on this journey.
The structure of Alan Wake is very similar, almost identical to a thriller TV series with episodes that usually end with big cliffhangers. This was a unique feature over a decade ago when the original was released, and it still feels very fresh and different. If only we got more horror games utilising such pacing.
Speaking about pacing, Alan Wake's story will never feel dull or unnecessarily long, even when some gameplay elements are not doing it any favours. You'll always want more and always eagerly try to get to the next cutscene to see where this dark thriller is taking you next.
Alan Wake's gameplay loops consist of a lot of shooting and walking with some occasional and very simple puzzle solving.
It's certainly not the highlight of this game, except for the combat, which still feels great to this day. When fighting the dark presence, Wake uses a combination of light and various weapons.
First, you have to purge the dark presence from the possessed townsfolk with your flashlight or some other source of light, to make them vulnerable to gunshots and then shoot them a couple of times to completely eliminate the threat.
The game has several types of flashlights that will be your best friend from start to finish. Some are weaker but more durable while others are much more powerful but they run out of battery pretty quickly.
In addition to flashlights, you have flares, flashbangs, flare guns and street lamps at your disposal to fight these supernatural elements.
As for weapons, there's a good old reliable revolver, two types of shotguns and a hunting rifle. The flare gun can also be used to quickly eliminate a large group of enemies just like a flashbang. These two are the most powerful weapons in the game but don't expect to have them with you all the time since the game take away your weapons after each episode.
All weapons feel good and punchy and in combination with flashlights, they make Alan Wake's combat quite enjoyable, especially when you get to fight large groups of enemies where you can smartly use flares for crowd control.
You'll find flashlight batteries, ammo and weapons scattered all around the world. In some cases, there's probably a bit too much of them, at least on the medium difficulty, so you'll never really feel the necessity to conserve your ammo. I haven't tried Nightmare difficulty so I can't really comment on ammo and batteries scarcity on this particular difficulty.
The combat is fun and engaging initially but can feel dull later on thanks to repetitive action sequences.
One thing that bugged me quite often during my 10-hour playthrough is how dull the level design gets when you are treading through the same forest for the fifth or sixth time.
The distance between the objectives can be unnecessarily long most of the time and these paths are usually filled with action sequences that don't offer anything meaningful other than being just another action sequence for the sake of action sequences.
This is one of the reasons why I couldn't get myself to finish Alan Wake back in 2010 and my second try a couple of years later was also filled with frustration for exactly the same reason.
Don't get me wrong here, if Alan Wake actually had to offer something fresh and meaningful to the story every time it asked me to walk through another forest, I would be ok with that. But, the otherwise great combat quickly gets repetitive, though, Alan Wake does try hard to make it engaging until the end by adding some special enemy types later on.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The original Alan Wake is to this day, still a gorgeous game thanks to its art style which lifts the overall atmosphere of the game. Now with a couple of noticeable and other more significant visual upgrades, Alan Wake looks and plays better than ever.
The lightning, which has received improvements, feels crucial in Alan Wake, creating this eerie atmosphere as you traverse the fog-covered mountains, forests, farms and streets of Bright Falls.
In a game where the light is so important, where you have your flashlight on 99 per cent of the time, it's critical that the visual side of the game compliments such gameplay mechanic for an immersive and atmospheric thriller-horror experience, and I'm happy to say that Remedy did not disappoint here.
Alan Wake Remastered is a gorgeous game with an art style that perfectly compliments the lore and the world.
Though, I really have to mention that the lack of ray-tracing and HDR does seem like a missed opportunity as I feel that such tech would push the atmosphere of the game to the next level.
But not for a moment did I thought that Alan Wake's visuals feel dated or look bad. This is a gorgeous game with an art style that perfectly matches what the writers of Alan Wake's story put on paper.
As for the sound, the remaster features a brand-new audio commentary track featuring one and only Same Lake, who was the lead writer on the game and creative director at Remedy. While the new commentary is not a huge new addition, it's a very welcomed one, offering a deeper dive into the narrative of Alan Wake and Lake's writing process.
Just like the visuals, the sound effects during gameplay work great to add another layer of tension to the already creepy atmosphere. The game constantly plays deep and moody tracks in the background, reminding you over and over again that you're trapped in these nightmarish surroundings, these dark woods with supernatural beings that are always there, waiting to consume you.
And of course, the lovely soundtrack is back with hits like The Poet And The Muse of Old Gods of Asgard, a heavy metal band that appears in the game. You also get to rock on their stage but with a slightly different set of tools.
Over a decade since the original dropped on Xbox 360, Remedy Entertainment's thriller-horror Alan Wake still has the capacity to outshine modern horror games that rely on cheap jump scares, leaving aside the most important aspect of a true horror story - creating an eerie atmosphere with excellent writing, story and characters.
While some of the old problems are still present, which is understandable - this is a remaster after all - Alan Wake Remastered has plenty to offer, especially if you like a Stephen King kind of horror.
Remedy, we are ready for the sequel.
A massive thank you to Remedy Entertainment for providing us with a review copy for this game.