“The night is dark and full of terrors”. This line from Game of Thrones perfectly captures what Alan Wake is all about and I am so so glad that Remedy, backed by Epic, remastered this 11-year-old masterpiece.
Fired up Alan Wake Remastered and I was transported back to when I was 17, no responsibilities whatsoever in life, fully enjoying Alan Wake on my hacked Xbox 360. Funny thing with nostalgia, playing through this gorgeous remaster is exactly how I remember Alan Wake looking in my head. When it was first released 11 years ago, Alan Wake was a visually impressive game, but this remaster elevates it to a completely new level of graphical fidelity.
It is to be expected though, as we are two generations later with beastly consoles that are capable of astonishing things. Alan Wake Remastered runs at a smooth and steady 60fps in a 4K and looks absolutely stunning in action. The lighting is phenomenal. During the night the woods around Bright Falls are fantastically eery as the only source of light is moonlight and the shadows it creates as light passes through the clouds and tree branches make the whole forest come to life.
The dense volumetric fog, wind effects, and the excellent soundscape only add to the overall atmosphere fully immersing you into this beautiful dark place. Unfortunately, I couldn’t snap any screenshots from the game as tapping the Share button on the DualSense also pauses the game, making it impossible to snap a picture of the stunning vistas. Hopefully, Remedy *cough remedies this in a future patch.
Apart from the improvements to the lighting, this remaster features richer environmental details with improved textures and additional geometry and new character models with improved body and facial animations. They have also completely redone the cinematic cut-scenes and they look really good when compared to the original. One minor annoyance with the cutscenes is that there’s a slight jittery up and down camera movement, very difficult to spot, but once you do it becomes very apparent. Hopefully, they can fix it in a future patch, if there’s indeed a problem with it.
You should play this at night without any lights, of course, and I promise you that from start to finish you’ll experience shivers all throughout the body. It is carefully designed that way, to always keep you on edge as you don’t know what might happen when you take that corner, drop down from that ledge or enter that dark stable, shack, whatever you might find in the woods. You never know what lurks in the shadows. It’s horror done right, in my opinion, as it constantly builds the tension all throughout releasing it at the perfect moment. Yeah, there are no cheap jump scares here.
The original Alan Wake was released 11 years ago, but that doesn't mean I can spoil things freely as I believe many new eyes will get to experience this game for the first time. It goes places, mostly dark places, but it also goes to some WTF ones and some humor ones for good measure.
Alan Wake is a famous writer, but for the last two years, he hasn’t managed to write one page for his new book. So his wife Alice sets up a vacation for them, which we later find that there was more to this vacation that meets the eye, to the town of Bright Falls. This is not a normal town. Weird weather phenomena, scary sounds, people going insane out of the blue, or just completely disappearing are common occurrences in this small Pacific Northwestern town. But no one really seems to care all that much apart from the outcasts or the "town crazies" no one believes when they should.
Anyway, minutes after having an argument with Alan as he angrily leaves the cabin, Alice is attacked and gets taken by a dark mysterious presence. Alan rushes into the cabin searching for Alice but to no avail. He hears a splash and dives into Cauldron Lake hoping to save his wife from drowning and cut. Fast forward seven days, Alan wakes up in a car crash without any recollection of what has happened this past week. As he tries to make his way on foot towards the Bright Falls, he discovers pages of a horror story he has supposedly written, but he has no memory of.
As you progress through the episode, Alan is forced to question this reality and his sanity, as page by page, the story he has written comes to life, and mind you, it’s not a happy story. This hostile presence of supernatural darkness is taking over everyone it finds, turning them against him. He has no choice left, but to arm himself with a flashlight, a couple of weapons and go solo against this army of darkness.
The pages of the unfinished manuscript you find as you progress through the story not only give more details about what happened is happening and more insight about Alan’s and the rest of the characters’ psyche, but also foreshadow the events that are bound to happen. Radio and TV shows, you can find while playing, expand the story. and do a wonderful job of building up this amazing and weird world. This remaster also includes the two additional episodes, bringing the total number of episodes to eight, that were released as DLC after the original launch. These episodes answer some questions while raising many new ones and they are good ones. Included there's a developer's commentary you can turn on in the settings for some juicy behind the scenes detail that true fans would absolutely love.
Remedy’s latest masterpiece, Control, gave us slight hints in the collectible documents that it was set in the same universe as Alan Wake, but didn’t really confirm it. Well, they confirmed that later with the excellent AWE expansion for Control where what happened in Bright Falls was indeed an Altered World Event. I am so so happy that they did that, cause playing through Alan Wake, today, knowing that it’s in the same universe as Control, with all of the crazy good out of this world shit that they introduced and teased in that game… man I am super excited to play whatever Project Condor turns out to be. I trust the geniuses over at Remedy.
Another thing that Remedy does extremely well is gameplay. The Taken, the people possessed by the dark presence, will hunt you down and kill you with hatchets, sickles, giant axes, chainsaws, etc. Shooting them with your revolver or shotgun does nothing to them as long as they are imbued with darkness. That’s where the trusty flashlight comes into play. Aim and focus the flashlight towards these enemies to dissipate the shadowy shield and once that’s gone well, it’s open season. A couple of revolver shots, two shotgun shells, or just a round from the hunting rifle will bring most of them down. The weapons feel so good in Alan Wake. Smooth animation, excellent sound design, and the bullet hit feedback make firing these guns extremely satisfying. You can also fire a flare gun which works pretty much like a grenade launcher as it lights up the whole area disintegrating the taken. Other tools at Alan’s disposal are signal flares and flashbangs where the first lights up an area slowly dissipating the darkness and the later well, obliterates most of them in one flashy bang.
The PlayStation 5 version of Alan Wake Remastered supports DualSense’s vibration and haptics. The left trigger aims Alan’s flashlight and the harder you press, the more intensity the flashlight will have. The right trigger is used to shoot weapons, but there’s a clear difference in tactile feedback and resistance when using a pistol versus a rifle.
You’ll need all of these tools to cause the combat in Alan Wake is fast. The Taken always come in numbers and will relentlessly rush to attack you over and over again. So you need to be quick on your feet, dodge any incoming attacks, focus the flashlight to get rid of the darkness, and shoot to kill. Flocks of birds will attack you off and on and the more you progress through the story the more possessed objects. like barrels, tree trunks, train parts, a bulldozer, heck, even a giant ass harvester will come flying for your head.
Light equals safety in this world. Generators with lights on top of them can be found in the wild that heals you up and serves as checkpoints. In the Nightmare difficulty reaching these spots is a must if you want to survive, while in Normal mode you can easily mow down large groups of the taken if you have explored and scavenged a bit of ammo before.
Exploration is somewhat limited due to the linear nature of the game, but it is highly rewarding when you find a hidden ammo cache as it makes the next encounter more fun or a manuscript page that expands the story or a coffee thermos just for that satisfying collectible feeling. There are also some sequences where you can drive a car and let me say that it is extremely satisfying drifting into and taking out multiple taken at once.
Alan Wake Remastered is a glorious remaster of an 11-year-old masterpiece which, in my books, makes this also a masterpiece. It’s a visually stunning game with an intriguing immersive story, excellent world-building and satisfying gameplay. Old fans, Control fans, new players, doesn’t matter, everyone should play Alan Wake Remastered. Thanks for reading.
The game was reviewed on a PS5 using a code provided by the publisher. Alan Wake Remastered is out October 5th 2021 for PC, PlayStation, and Xbox.