Eerie fog creeping around your feet, flashlight and gun in hand, you sprint towards a flickering light in the distance for salvation. This sentence may bring you back to the mid-Xbox 360 generation, and if it doesn’t, chances are Alan Wake by Remedy Entertainment was a game that escaped your purview. Luckily, Alan Wake Remastered is here to fix that.
The Steven King and David Lynch-inspired action-adventure game is getting new life in the form of a 4K remaster. Alan Wake Remastered is also the first time PlayStation players can experience the game that has become a cult classic for so many. Control won so many hearts and re-introduced Alan’s character in its AWE DLC. It feels right that everyone can go back to the beginning and see why Alan Wake holds so much importance to Remedy and games of its ilk.
Alan Wake Remastered certainly boasts the visual improvements Remedy set out to achieve. The lighting contrasts better with the dark portions of the world, creating an unsettling environment for players to navigate through. The character models in cutscenes are more defined and emotive. However, while all the improvements make Alan Wake perform better, it’s still very much a game of the Xbox 360 era. The gameplay and system conventions do feel outdated.
That said, the story and performances of Alan Wake are timeless. Alan Wake Remastered tells a captivating and strange tale that unfolds like a season of an enthralling TV thriller.
The idyllic streets of Bright Falls
If you’re stepping into Alan Wake Remastered with fresh eyes, you may be wondering what the hype surrounding the game’s story may be about. Alan Wake centers around a renowned writer and novelist who the game is named after. After suffering from writer’s block, Alan and his wife Alice take a vacation to the sleepy town of Bright Falls. This town is very much a mirror of Twin Peaks. Everyone knows each other and the diner is the local hotspot, but underneath all the cheeriness of the town, a dark presence lingers.
As Alan and Alice settle into their rented cabin, it’s not long before Alice is dragged into the dark depths of the nearby lake. Alan awakens a week later after losing consciousness. At night, hostile shadowy figures called Taken now roam the lush woods and streets, hunting for Alan Wake. Determined to save Alice, Alan sets off to fight the dark forces and solve the mystery of exactly what plagues Bright Falls.
Alan Wake Remastered has reminded me how brilliant the minds of Remedy head Sam Lake and its creative team are. Alan Wake’s story is deeply embroiled in the works of Steven King and David Lynch. Fans of the psychological thriller genre will find tons of nods and clear lines of inspiration. Maybe some tropes are a little too on the nose, but they all play so intricately well together. Alan Wake sits somewhere between a profound, conceptual narrative and a campy tale of survival. The narrative’s twists and turns hold up to today’s standards, and as I replayed it I remembered why Remedy became such a standout studio in the first place.
It’s not a lake, it’s an ocean
Remedy used Alan Wake Remastered as a way to polish the original game for a brand new audience. A large part of what went into the remastered is the 4K visuals. As a part of the improved graphics, lighting and color contrast have also been improved. Light plays a strong part thematically in Alan Wake, and it was nice to see the studio treat isometric lighting with such care in and out of Remastered cutscenes.
The improved visuals go a long way to affect the overall atmosphere. Alan Wake isn’t a horror game by definition. Though, it does have some jump scares and unsettling moments. Most are in part due to the environment and how it lulls you.
Aside from the lighting and atmosphere, character models look better in cutscenes. Alan Wake, based heavily on character voice actor Matthew Poretta, is more defined. Facial features and inflections are more apparent throughout. This also goes for other characters, including Wake’s friend and agent Barry Wheeler. Although Barry has received his fair share of criticisms from the Alan Wake community, he does feel more human in this version.
From a performance aspect, this is the best version of Alan Wake. Playing on PlayStation 5 felt like a moment for the community. It’s now accessible to a swath of new players. Remedy even included some notable systems that take advantage of the DualSense controller, like adaptive triggers. It’s nothing revolutionary, but a nice touch for the game’s new audience.
Additionally, Sam Lake provides new commentary throughout the game when the option is selected. Like watching the director’s commentary throughout a movie, it was nice to hear Lake reflect on the game every so often.
Like reading an old book
As much as Alan Wake Remastered is polished to today’s standards, older sensibilities are apparent from the get-go. The moment-to-moment gameplay of Alan Wake is still embroiled in that earlier generation. Combat is slower and feels like a game of its time when compared to modern-day counterparts. When facing off against the Taken, Alan must use his flashlight to destroy an enemy’s shadow before shooting it with bullets. These two systems go hand in hand as players must keep on top of munitions and find more in the open areas of each area.
You may end up getting lost in some of the more sprawling areas, especially if you are committed to finding all 300+ collectibles. There’s no in-game map to help you navigate, so you’ll have to use the small radar on your HUD. It’s a bit archaic but never stops Alan Wake Remastered from being enjoyable to play. Whether it’s your first time playing or your third, you’ll find an experience that handles well. It’s just that it’s a game from another era. In fact, there’s something oddly comforting in how it all feels while playing. Even for an 11-year-old game, it’s nostalgic in many ways.
Where Alan Wake and its structure really stand out is the way its six-episode act unfolds. Alan Wake bookends each “mission” as if you were watching an episode of an HBO series. Each episode begins with a recap of the story thus far. You’re welcomed to skip it if you’re binging through the 9-10 hour experience. But if you are playing it in bite-sized portions, they may prove useful. I really like the novelty of it as it helps better paint this homage to Twin Peaks. You’ll also get to experience Alan Wake’s two pieces of DLC, which is a nice bonus.
Alan Wake remains an important game for a lot of players. Since 2010, players who had the chance to play Remedy’s defining title have been clamoring for a follow-up. Alan Wake Remastered may be a small step to a larger end goal. Releasing the game for PlayStation players will undoubtedly grow its fanbase – and its cries for a sequel.
Though, it’s important to recognize that Alan Wake Remastered very much represents those Xbox 360-era convictions. Having an abundance of collectibles to distract players or a non-traditional button layout is all a part of this nostalgic experience. Through all that, Poretta’s performance and Remedy’s storytelling withstand the test of time. Alan Wake Remastered is very much worth the playthrough, especially if you’re new to the title.
Alan Wake Remastered is available on October 5 on Epic Game Store, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
* A review code for Alan Wake Remastered was provided by the publisher for review purposes.*