Eleven years after its release on Xbox 360, Alan Wake is considered a modern classic. It was a big budget game, created as a relaxed labor of love, free from the usual constraints of AAA game development. Remedy Entertainment has already taken a big hiatus with Max Payne 1 and 2. They have used the power of the stars to experiment quietly for many years, working on their vision while being funded by Microsoft. Originally considered an open-world survival title, Alan Wake was ultimately streamlined into a linear supernatural thriller experience. The game paved the way for Quantum Break and Control, but it never had a proper sequel. Although released as a standalone title, Alan Wake: American Nightmare felt more like a DLC / vignette type of content with a different protagonist.
The final DLC for Control has sparked renewed interest in the continuation of Alan’s story, which is likely in a secret pipeline somewhere. In the meantime, Remedy has decided to remaster the original for modern PCs and consoles. For the first time, Alan Wake is also available on PlayStation, removing exclusivity from the Microsoft ecosystem. I played the Remaster on PC, eager to see what the developers had done with the technical aspects of the original.
What, no ray tracing? What about HDR?
Frankly, I am a little disappointed with the result. Yes, the game is running at 4K / 60 fps; It supports ultra-wide screens and features significantly improved patterns and textures. Lip sync, primitive in the 2010 version, now works correctly. But the Remaster still lacks the best! There is no ray tracing and HDR, which feels like a missed opportunity given that all the game is about is light source-based combat. I guess the original game engine, which is also used here, was not suitable for this upgrade.
Cutscenes are always capped at 30 fps, which feels awkward when transitioning from smoother gameplay at 60 fps. At least Remedy has implemented DLSS, which is a big step up from traditional anti-aliasing. They also added a FoV tweak and film grain toggle, but they bugged motion blur. If you’re like me (sane person), you tend to turn motion blur off first in any game because you trust your eyes to simulate this effect naturally. If you do that here, you’ll ruin the spectacular spawning effect of the dark creatures you’re fighting all the time. Too bad.
Twin King, Stephen Peaks
Alan Wake Remastered will look like what you think you remember he looked like in 2010. But I didn’t play it for the look. I wanted another passage through a solid supernatural story worthy of the early Twin Peaks spiced with a bit of The Shining, which got unnecessarily complicated at the end. Just to be clear, by “End” I mean the end of the second DLC for the original, The Writer. Both DLC, The Signal and The Writer, are included with the remastered version.
So the story. Alan Wake is a successful novelist suffering from creative block. He tries to remedy this (ha!) By leaving the big city for a vacation in the Pacific Northwest. Specifically, a sleepy little town called Bright Falls. Accompanied by his wife Allice, who has a pathological fear of the dark, he completely ignores the fact that every sleeping little town near the Canadian border has a big, dark secret. He soon discovers that his unwritten novel has come to life. A force from another world kidnaps his wife and puts our reluctant hero on the path of violence mixed with introspection. And a lot of racing through the dark woods.
Different like night and day
Like the original, Alan Wake Remastered channels its own Chris Carter, breaking down into six tense episodes with plenty of cliffhangers. Most of them consist of a “tame” section used to establish the narrative during the day, the night portion being almost exclusively reserved for combat and survival. You will fight the malignant entity which manifests itself as a dark possessing force, capable of inhabiting both people and things. You’ll fight them by removing the protective layer of darkness by first aiming the flashlight at them and shooting them after the shield shatters.
As with all Resident Evil worth its salt, the Resource Mechanism is designed to feel restrictive, but it’s actually generous. You’ll have limited batteries and ammo, but the game will always provide more if you run out of it. Most of the time, you can also flee from danger to any strong light source, where The Taken cannot harm you. The light + lead mechanics are solid, carrying the game to the end.
The excellent writing, characterization, and storytelling set the game apart from most similar games. Alan Wake is a tense guy with a problem that sometimes turns him into an asshole, but you can easily understand his plight. The supporting cast is also strong, although the developers have graciously borrowed many tropes from Twin Peaks.
Is it worth it?
Alan Wake Remastered costs twice as much as the original game which is still available on Steam. Also, it’s exclusive to the Epic store, which coincided with its upgrade that implemented achievements. This doesn’t bode well for my OCD as I like my franchises to be carefully sorted under one roof. Your mileage may vary, but definitely go for Remaster if it’s your first time with Alan Wake.
- A cult classic with a new coat of paint.
- Excellent and satisfying combat mechanic.
- No ray tracing, no HDR and the motion blur is messed up.
- The story gets too strange towards the end.