It’s been 11 long years since the original Alan Wake released for the Xbox 360. At the time, it received high praise from both critics and gamers alike, and since then many had dreamed that Remedy would one day release a sequel. Sadly, that never happened though in its spot we did get two brand-new IPs, those being Quantum Break, and the highly acclaimed award winning, Control.
Fortunately for us, Remedy surprised everyone with an announcement that Alan Wake was getting remastered, and what’s more, would be released the following month! Our Alan Wake Remastered review talks about the differences the original has with the remaster, and we also treat it as a review wherein we assume the gamer hasn’t played the original.
An American Horror Story
In Alan Wake, you play as renowned international best-selling thriller author, Alan Wake. Having been struggling the last two years with his latest novel due to a bad case of writer’s block, Alan and his wife, Alice, decide it’s time they have a change in scenery by going on a bit of a vacation. The place? Bright Falls, a secluded town located somewhere in the mountains of Washington.
It’s a small town, filled with lodging and many friendly and welcoming folks. For both Alan and Alice, it’s the perfect place to get away from it all. However, upon arrival Alan has a strange nightmare of shadowy figures hunting him through a forest. A dream, but one that felt all too real for Alan.
Dismissing it as a dream, Alan and Alice soon find themselves settling in at a cabin by the lake. Unbeknownst to Alan, Alice has brought Alan’s writing equipment in hopes that the change in scenery would resolve his writer’s block. As you can imagine Alan isn’t too happy about this as the whole purpose of him coming to Bright Falls was to get away from work. So understandably, he storms out of the cabin as nightfall sets in.
It’s not long after that he hears a loud scream coming from the cabin, and upon returning he finds his wife sinking to the bottom of the lake. Frantically, he dives in to rescue her only to wake up moments later in his vehicle that had apparently crashed. A full week has gone by and Alan has no recollection of anything in the lost time, nor knows the whereabouts of his wife. It’s here where the mystery of Bright Falls begins as Alan will soon discover that his dreams aren’t dreams at all and that the town of Bright Falls is hiding a dark and sinister secret — one that Alan isn’t quite ready to face.
Honestly if you haven’t played Alan Wake yet, you really should, especially if you’re a fan of Remedy’s other titles like Control. It’s a phenomenal story that has clearly shaped the studio since its original release and having replayed Alan Wake for the first time in nearly 11 years, I’m reminded of why I fell in love with Remedy’s work in the first place. Alan Wake story is one that feels wonderfully aged, still capable of invoking those psychological thrills and mysteries that you would get from the works it’s inspired from. It’s like a good Stephen King novel brought to life through a video game.
The gameplay itself plays into the narrative, as the only form of defense that Alan has is a flashlight that makes the dark entities vulnerable to gunshots. It seems kind of silly when you think about it, but the combat is enjoyable and incorporates the story in a smart way. There are even collectibles scattered throughout the game that come in the form of pages from a manuscript, one that Alan hasn’t even written yet. He is literally writing the story as we play the game, and these pages reveal more plot details that you may have missed the first time around.
Overall, the story and gameplay offer a very satisfying experience. That shouldn’t come much as a surprise though, as the original already offered that, so I guess the real question is, how good of a remaster is Alan Wake?
The Definite Experience
I’m always cautious about remasters because more often than not they’re just a simple resolution bump in order to bring a title to full HD. I’ve been burned before with some lazy ports, and with studio d3t (Shenmue HD, Mafia 2 remaster) assisting here I had some big concerns, though thankfully for the most part this is one of their better remasters.
First, resolution and frame-rate has been increased. Whereas the original was capped off at 30fps (frames-per-second), the remaster now supports 60fps on certain consoles and runs at full 4K. Both of these are extremely welcome changes, and for PlayStation gamers experiencing Alan Wake for the time, there is no better way to play than with those options. Testing Alan Wake on the PS5 we noticed nearly zero dips during gameplay and the image quality was spectacularly clear. However, cutscenes for whatever reason felt like they were rendered at 30fps with very noticeable jittering.
That’s a pretty common issue with cutscenes in remasters, as often it would require a studio to recreate the scene entirely since they come in a video format rather than rendered in real-time. The thing is, these have been re-rendered as evident from the new character models and improved textures. Perhaps a bug, one that will hopefully get fixed.
And as mentioned, the remaster has new character models and improved textures. It’s an impressive improvement as the environments are even more stunning than before. Everything has a sharper look, with objects in the distance now being more distinguishable. It’s how a remaster should be done when it comes to upgrading textures, and the improvements are massive when compared to the Xbox 360 version.
It looks fantastic, and even more so when it comes to character models.
The one thing I will say is, compared to the original PC version, Alan Wake handles its blacks a lot better than the remaster.
Left is the remaster, and the right is original PC.
Still, the Remaster is without a question the better looking version when taking into account all the new improvements. The only big annoyance is that the remaster doesn’t appear to improve the character’s animations all that much. They’re definitely better than what they were before, but they still look stiff when it comes to facial expressions and general movement. In cutscenes especially some of the facial animations are awkward and not at all what they should be.
As for utilizing the DualSense controller, Alan Wake adds some resistance feedback to the triggers when firing a gun or shining your flashlight. It’s not a game-changer like it is in some titles, but it is an enjoyable implementation of the new controller features.
Further, Remedy has also gone back and added some additional content. First, the original two DLC episodes ‘The Signal’ and ‘The Writer,’ are included in this release. If you missed out on those now is your chance to finally get to experience them. Sadly, however, the standalone American Nightmare DLC is not included, nor has it been announced as getting a remastered treatment. It’s a massive piece of story content to just leave out like this, though we do have our fingers crossed it will arrive later as a DLC.
Lastly, Remedy is offering a completely new commentary track for the remaster. It still features the original one, but for those wanting some brand-new developer insight and a reflection of the studio looking back at Alan Wake, well now you have it.
Outside of the lack of the American Nightmare DLC, Alan Wake Remastered is without a question the definite way to play Alan Wake. Improved performance coupled with immensely improved visuals makes the journey back into Bright Falls well worth taking again for fans. And if you’re one of the many who are new the IP, well get ready for one incredible experience.
- Spectacular story
- Combat has aged well and is enjoyable.
- Visual improvements makes it well worth the revisit.
- Rock solid 60fps during gameplay.
- Character animations can be stiff at times.
- Cutscenes see frame rate drops.
- American Nightmare not included, leaving a huge chunk of story out.