Even eleven years later, Alan Wake remains one of the most unique games I’ve ever played, and a masterclass in psychological horror. Alan Wake Remastered brings a substantial visual upgrade to the game, but underneath it’s the same core experience, with one interesting exception.
The story focuses on the titular Alan Wake, a best-selling writer taking a vacation with his wife in the small town of Bright Falls, Washington. Alan has been in the middle of a dry spell with his writing, and his wife Alice hopes that the getaway can get his creativity flowing again. Soon enough, however, Alan stumbles upon a mysterious supernatural phenomenon where an unwritten novel of his starts coming to life and is trying to kill him.
The game’s narrative plays out like a television drama with different episodes, ending credits, and a recap. The pacing of Alan Wake’s story is spot on, as Remedy clearly designed each episode like a TV show, with a specific twist and climax.
“Alan Wake remains one of the most unique games I’ve ever played, and a masterclass in psychological horror.”
To get the new elements out of the way, Alan Wake Remastered’s visual upgrades are, by and large, pretty good. The 4K presentation helps bring more dynamic color to the world of Alan Wake, and the environments, in particular, look absolutely stunning, and on par with anything you’d see today.
On the other hand, however, the character models have not aged nearly as well. The models have clearly been updated, but they still look incredibly rough, especially in terms of facial animations. Looking at the environments and textures, you could forget Alan Wake is an eleven-year-old game, but the character models bring that fact screaming back to the surface.
Alan Wake has always been an absurdly atmospheric horror game, but the remaster helps crank all of that up even more. The way mist creeps over the hills and light filters through the trees is as breathtaking as it is eerie. There’s an unsettling atmosphere that permeates the entire game and combining that with quality audio design creates an experience that can easily get under your skin.
One of the most unique qualities about Alan Wake Remastered lies in its combat system, and how the game plays with the idea of light and darkness. Every enemy Alan faces is wrapped in darkness, and that has to be burned off first before you can use a weapon to damage them. This is done by using Alan’s flashlight, flares, or other light sources. The game’s entire design is wrapped into this idea, as there’s no targeting reticle, but instead a bright flashlight beam that serves as one.
“Alan can do a quick dodge to avoid enemies, but that’s pretty much his only means of defense.”
Holding the left trigger allows you to “aim” the flashlight, which burns the darkness at a faster rate but depletes the flashlight meter. The flashlight meter will recharge, but survival horror elements come into play with batteries you can use to instantly restore the flashlight, as well as ammo. Alan can do a quick dodge to avoid enemies, but that’s pretty much his only means of defense.
Alan Wake’s combat is superbly dynamic, and the game does a fantastic job of introducing new weapons, mechanics, enemies, and more, across the entire experience. Combat has a “crunchy” feel to it, with each bullet you shoot having weight behind it. It’s essential to master the dodging system, and the more time you sink into combat, the more you start to learn the little tricks. Things like dropping a flare on the ground, so you can combine it with your flashlight to burn darkness twice as fast, or the fact that you can still aim your flashlight at enemies while you reload.
The remaster features the entire main game of Alan Wake, as well as the two DLC episodes, The Signal and The Writer. Alan Wake’s DLC does a great job of expanding on both the story and gameplay of the original, and for anyone that might have missed it years ago, this remaster is a fantastic way to experience those stories.
While I said Alan Wake Remastered is the same experience underneath, that’s not entirely true, as there is a somewhat new element that seemingly hints at a future for the series. The original game had a wealth of different collectibles and objects to find, like thermoses, stacks of cans, and more. One of the more unique things to find, however, were QR codes scattered throughout the game that, when scanned, would take you to various places like the Alan Wake Facebook page or a video of director Sam Lake.
Those same QR codes are present in this version, but now they take you to unlisted YouTube videos of Alan talking while at his typewriter, the same style of videos that were featured in Control’s AWE expansion. I don’t want to spoil what’s in these videos, but for fans of Alan Wake, or Remedy in general, there are some very intriguing things.
As someone that’s played through Alan Wake at least four times, I was interested to see how well it held up with this remastered version. Yes, Alan Wake has some absurd story twists and cheesy moments, but that all plays into its charm. There’s clear inspiration from television series like Twin Peaks, The Twilight Zone, and The X-Files, but Alan Wake Remastered still manages to carve out its own unique identity.