Alan Wake Remastered Review – September Ended
Developed by Remedy Entertainment
Published by Epic Games Publishing
Avaialble on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
In 2010 Alan Wake was launched as an Xbox 360 exclusive… and was promptly overshadowed because it launched the same day as absurd mega-hit Red Dead Redemption. This is, what is known as, an absolute crime. Thankfully Alan Wake was an extremely high-quality title and, while it didn’t quite game the level of renown it probably deserved at launch, it has remained in the public consciousness as one of the best horror thrillers around. After a half-sequel spin-off game and major parts of Control being devoted to it, Alan Wake is getting a second chance with Alan Wake Remastered. Has it aged well enough for this?
So first things first, what makes this a remaster, and what’s included? Well, you’ll get Alan Wake and both of its DLC expansions, The Signal and The Writer, which all combined are a solid 8 – 10 hours of thriller horror goodness. I kind of wish 2012’s Alan Wake’s American Nightmare was here to round the package out, but it seems everyone is trying to forget about that one. The game’s graphics have gotten a bit of a facelift, although this still mostly looks like a (very pretty) Xbox 360 game. There’s a new audio commentary that has Sam Lake talk about the game ten years later, all the awkward advertisements for Verizon and Energizer have been removed, and there are some new QR codes that, when scanned, bring you to videos of Alan ranting about… well, something. All of these are pretty minor, however, and this is basically the same game you remember playing in 2010.
If you don’t know the plot, Alan Wake is about, well… Alan Wake. A crime fiction writer who’s just killed off his big money-making character, he’s ready for his new book. Just one problem: Alan is suffering from a terrible case of writer’s block. His wife attempts to bring him to a resort in the woods to help him write, but instead, things get weird. Specifically, Alan wakes up after a week to find that he’s written a horror novel that is slowly coming true. People are dying, his wife has gone missing, and he’s being attacked by shadowy people intent on killing him. Now Alan needs to put the story back together and end in in a way that, hopefully, ends up with him alive.
When it works, the plot is a dramatic and well-done story. Alan is a fantastic character, the citizens of Bright Falls are interesting enough to be worth hanging out with, and in its best moments, the game manages to blend together Twin Peaks and Steven King in a way few others have ever managed. However, the story isn’t always at its best. There are some plotlines that feel like they’re added just for the sake of making it more complex, Agent Nightengale’s role in the plot mostly just seems to be there to have another character, and the last-minute inclusion of a doppelganger named Mr. Scratch both come to mind. However, these are a few small blemishes in what is probably one of my favorite Remedy Entertainment plots.
As for actually playing it, Alan Wake is a third-person shooter where you’ll have Alan run around lost in the woods, occasionally fighting shadow people. That may sound like a joke, but you will spend a lot of time lost in the woods. Despite this, I never felt frustrated while lost. In what is perhaps one of the best compliments I can give the level designers, these are quite possibly the most immersive forests in any game I’ve played. The work put into making sure you’re just the right amount of lost is absurd and pays off wonderfully.
You’re not alone in these woods, which should be rather obvious. The woods are full of citizens of Bright Falls, who have been possessed by the darkness that Alan has accidentally written into the world. This darkness shields them from harm and gives them unnatural powers. This can include things like being able to teleport or create axes out of thin air to throw. Thankfully, you can use light to dissipate this darkness. It won’t kill the enemy, but it removes their invulnerability and powers so you can use a gun to finish the job. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the combat system is good enough for the game’s run time and has just the right amount of unique enemy types to deal with. Later in you’ll also encounter flocks of birds and random items possessed by the darkness that fling themselves at you. Both can be beaten with just light, but require slightly different strategies to deal with.
You’ll have a few different tools to help with this. There are a couple of flashlight types, ranging from your standard flashlight to big lanterns that eat batteries quickly but put out a ton of light. You also have flares, which will keep all enemies away from you for a few precious seconds, and flashbangs, which just explode and kill enemies. You also get a flare gun which, hilariously, works like a BFG: it shoots out a flare that just ends so many enemies in a single bright flash. Less helpful than all this? The dodge. Awkward and clumsy, the dodge felt like a 50/50 on if it’d actually work or not. Worse, if you get hit, it’s very easy to get caught in a highly damaging combo.
This partially feels like a holdover from 2010, which Alan Wake has a few of in unfortunate places. The game’s obsession with suddenly presenting cinematic camera angles is a particularly bad one. When new enemies spawn, the game crawls into slow motion and makes you see them. Perform a dodge perfectly? Shoot a flare gun into a crowd of enemies? A special cinematic moment that Remedy thought looked cool? In all cases, it means a goofy slow-mo camera that really doesn’t do much other than hold up the game.
But it’s hard to be mad when this is one small problem in a game that is, for the most part, a lot of fun. It took me about 8 hours to get through the base game, and in that time I got to see plenty of situations that were really awesome. One part of the game had Alan needing to navigate a hedge maze, avoiding enemies while his best friend yells instructions out at him. Another sees Alan losing his gun, needing to team up with a kidnapper in a mutual attempt for both of them to survive. In probably my favorite scene of the game, Alan uses the props from an abandoned rock and roll concert, blasting metal music while using pyrotechnics to throw off the enemies. I know it’s a very dumb moment, but it’s the best one.
If you haven’t played them before, both DLC chapters are also fantastic additions to the game. While their plots basically just go over the same points as the main game and don’t push the plot forward in any way, they are still full of genuinely fantastic moments. The final boss of the first DLC is easily my favorite gameplay situation in all of Alan Wake, while the second DLC almost feels like a bizarre Half-Life mod map where everything just sort of floats above an endless pit. It’s hilariously awesome.
Honestly, I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that Alan Wake Remastered exists. I deeply love the original game, and I was upset that it never seemed to get the fair shake it deserved (damn you Rockstar!) Now, this remaster makes it look better and gives a whole new generation of people a chance to play the game. I strongly suggest anyone who hasn’t takes it.