Alan Wake Remastered Review

Alan holding a flashlight while in the woods, the title is seen on the left side.

Review

Alan Wake Remastered Review

October 4, 2021

By: Tyler Chancey

More Info About This Game
Publisher
Epic Games
Release Date
May 18, 2010 (Calendar)
Purchase (Some links may be affiliated)
 
 

Alan Wake Remastered has been a long time coming. Remedy Entertainment's strange yet deeply engrossing psychological thriller has endured as one of gaming's high-profile cult classics. It's a game that has only continued to grow in popularity thanks to positive word of mouth and its growing importance in the Remedy Connected Universe. But it is no secret that an eleven-year-old game is going to be hard to go back to for some.

Thankfully, Remedy has partnered with Epic Games and d3t Studios to help update the game for modern consoles and PCs. Simply put, this is the exact same experience fans fell in love with back in the day, now with a major facelift. By that same token, there are areas that could have benefited from a few more modern touches.

 

A Miracle Illuminated

First, it must be stated how big a change Alan Wake Remastered makes for the better. Speaking as someone who replayed the original release more times than was healthy, playing through this updated version felt like experiencing the story again for the first time. Gone are the rough textures and uncanny valley mannequin character models. Replacing them are busy landscapes of foliage and mountainous terrain illuminated by some overhauled bloom and lighting effects. On top of all of that, the sound mixing, as well as composer Petri Alenko's score, have gotten an update. If you have surround sound headphones, Alan Wake Remastered's audio will get under your skin in the best way.

 
 

As for the revamped character models, they are stellar.  Just about everyone is now fully performance or facial captured in cutscenes, and it helps add a lot more emotional weight to the story's various twists and turns. These are changes that are truly transformative.

While sections can pause and go at times, the well-paced bread crumb trail mystery mixed with the shared-media presentation - this is a video game structured like a TV show about the events of a writer's manuscript packed with licensed music after all - all combine into an almost ethereal experience.

There are a few spots that can feel undercooked. Some supporting characters don't fully make it out of the uncanny valley - expressive faces but robotic movements - and there are a few spots of geography that stick out. Also, while the game itself runs spectacularly, some of the cutscenes appear to be locked to a certain framerate and have some visual hiccups. This can potentially be taken care of with updates and patches, but overall, Bright Falls and its inhabitants have never looked better.

Alan aiming his flashlight and gun at several shadowy enemies
Did someone order a gunfight!?

Killing Your Darlings

Technical updates aside, Alan Wake Remastered is the same gameplay experience at its core from 2010. This is still the story of bestselling author Alan Wake unraveling the mystery of his missing wife and the manuscript of a horror story with his name on it dreadfully coming true. The game is still chopped up into daytime sections where you interact with major characters and explore locations, followed by nighttime sections where you are running through the woods fighting for your life between safe-havens.

This is where the game shows its age the most. While the game's central “fight with light” mechanic is used for some clever puzzle and scenario design, a lot of which still hold up really well, gunfights and arena fights can drag. Despite some diverse options, you get like environmental effects, flashbangs, and explosive flaregun shots, some fights can boil down to “aim light source at an enemy, break down the shield, pump full of lead, repeat.” On top of that, the (thankfully minimal) platforming sections can feel dodgy and imprecise at the best of times.

In addition to Alan Wake Remastered containing all of the content found in the original release, including the two DLC episodes and the “making of” video commentary track, there is a new Remastered audio commentary

The Bird's Leg Cabin, the windows in the second floor illuminated
Cauldron Lake is a special place...

Finally, while the central mystery plot and story turns all still pack some sinister punch, Alan Wake Remastered highlights some of the 2010s more annoying gaming trends. The attempts at having a “cinematic” presentation with dramatic slow motion and the camera pulling away to show a threat behind you. The overabundance of voice-over narration telling you where to go, prompts that draw your attention to events or areas of interest, audio logs, and slow walking sequences can make the story feel more like a lecture than an experience.

In 2021 this can make the narrative sections boring or slow, but what keeps it from turning into a meandering mess is Sam Lake's distinct writing style. While sections can pause and go at times, the well-paced bread crumb trail mystery mixed with the shared-media presentation - this is a video game structured like a TV show about the events of a writer's manuscript packed with licensed music after all - all combine into an almost ethereal experience.

 
Alan aiming his flashlight at a large enemy wielding a sledgehammer
I guess he's not here for the Friday special.

Book Club Ramblings

If there is a major problem I have with Alan Wake Remastered, it's that I wish there were a few more modern bells and whistles attached. There is no Photo Mode, which is a shame considering all the effort that went into updating the game's assets. Furthermore, while there are some decent accessibility options available such as subtitle and audio adjustment as well as button remapping, some colorblind modes wouldn't go amiss.

There is one additional bit of content that players might appreciate. In addition to Alan Wake Remastered containing all of the content found in the original release, including the two DLC episodes and the “making of” video commentary track, there is a new Remastered audio commentary. Broadly speaking, this audio track is Sam Lake talking at length about the story's various plotpoints as well as his own inspirations for the story. Some of his musings have been mentioned before in interviews, but it makes for a great companion piece for a second playthrough or for hardcore fans who want to know more.

Fair warning, the commentary goes into great detail about major story spoilers, not just in the plot of Alan Wake, but for Control and the AWE expansion. Sadly, both of these commentaries do not cover the DLC episodes. While both The Signal and The Writer are enjoyable nonetheless, they barely hide the fact that they're mostly filler and set-up for a sequel or follow-up.

Alan looking over a lake and mountain landscape at sunset
Hey, this gives me an idea for a book.

Alan Wake Remastered | Final Thoughts

While some of its design and narrative beats are products of their time, Alan Wake Remastered is a fantastic update to a game that is truly unforgettable. If you loved the original release, then you will greatly appreciate all of the updates made to how this new version looks and sounds. If you've never played the original before but are interested in a Steven King-inspired trek through the mind of a creative battling his own imagination, then this is a must-play.

 

And Remedy, please confirm you're officially working on that sequel, some of us have been waiting a long time for it.


TechRaptor reviewed Alan Wake Remastered on PlayStation 5 with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and on PC via the Epic Games Store.

Review Summary

Review Summary

8.5
Barring some antiquated gameplay elements from a decade ago, Alan Wake Remastered is a stellar facelift for a beloved action-horror thriller experience.

Pros

  • Impressive Updates to Characters and World
  • Remastered Audio and Optimized Framerate
  • Entertaining Remastered Director's Commentary

Cons

  • Mediocre Accessibility Options
  • Annoying "Cinematic" Camera Tricks
a candid selfie of the staff writer, husky build, blond hair, caucasian.
Staff Writer

Born in 1990, Tyler Chancey's earliest memories were of an NES controller in his hands, and with it a passion that continued into his adulthood. He's written for multiple sites, has podcasted, and has continued to shape and encourage new talent to greater heights.

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