‘Alan Wake Remastered’ Spoiler-Free Review: A Captivating Story Trapped in All-Consuming Darkness
Remedy Entertainment is giving gamers another chance to defeat the darkness. Eleven years after the original Alan Wake, the studio has created Alan Wake Remastered: the same story, but with a serious facelift in terms of graphics. Back in 2010, Alan Wake was only available on Xbox consoles, followed by PC one year later. This time around, PlayStation gamers can also experience the horror and thrill of Alan Wake’s adventure.
With Alan Wake Remastered, Remedy aims to satisfy the nostalgic hunger of longtime fans and intrigue a new generation of players. But can the game impress audiences a second time?
A video game, book, and television show wrapped into one
Alan Wake follows the titular novel writer on vacation with his wife, Alice, to Bright Falls, Washington. The small town where everyone knows everyone seems like an inviting destination at first, but Bright Falls quickly loses its charm when Alice goes missing.
After a week of unconsciousness, Alan awakens to find his wife gone and himself trapped in the woods. Finding Alice will be no easy task, as a mysterious darkness from Alan’s latest novel has come to life. The darkness possesses townspeople and sends them to take Alan down before he can get to his wife.
Alan Wake knows how to tell a story. I’m playing a video game, but I can’t help but feel like I’m watching a TV series or reading a gripping mystery novel. The story is split into six episodes, each with a “previously on…” recap of the prior episode and a cliffhanger ending.
Meanwhile, Alan narrates the story from start to finish, with his inner monologues mimicking the first-person past-tense style of his latest manuscript. Some of the narration does creep into cheesy territory, but to be fair, some of the best horror novels always do.
In addition to Alan’s narratives, pieces of the story can be found throughout the game in the form of collectible manuscript pages, radio commentary, and a Twilight Zone-esque television series called Night Springs. Even Alan Wake speedrunners might want to stop and explore these mediums to get the full picture.
Remedy Entertainment remastered everything about ‘Alan Wake’ — even its flaws
When Remedy announced Alan Wake Remastered, it promised to maintain the essence of the original game. The remaster focused mostly on visuals, upgrading the graphics to support 4K resolution. Everything fans loved about Alan Wake is still there, but unfortunately, so is everything they hated.
Back in the day, one of the bigger complaints about Alan Wake’s gameplay mechanics was Alan’s dodge feature. He’s supposed to be able to dodge hits from enemies by swiftly moving to the side or backward, but the mechanic didn’t always function correctly. This sometimes resulted in accidental falls off cliffs or backing oneself into a wall. The dodge mechanic hasn’t improved in the remaster.
Alan Wake’s combat, in general, could use some tweaks. Throughout the game, Alan encounters possessed individuals shrouded in darkness. Their weakness, of course, is light, so players must use a flashlight to draw the darkness out. Once that’s done, they can take enemies down with some bullets.
The camera follows closely behind Alan, which becomes a problem when enemies like to ambush him from behind. The angle also tends to shift, which can throw off players’ aim. Those possessed guys are fast, too, so there’s really no time to play with the camera.
Flash, shoot, run, repeat…and repeat…and repeat
Basically, Alan Wake has two areas of gameplay: daytime and nighttime. During the day, players can explore freely and speak to Night Falls residents, but these sections don’t last long. It seems like Alan wakes up in the morning, blinks once, and it’s nighttime again. There’s still room to explore at night, but just be prepared for several ambushes.
Thus, the game can feel a bit repetitive. Alan doesn’t have many options for protecting himself; players can find shotguns, revolvers, ammo, flares, flashbangs, and flashlight batteries throughout the woods, but supplies are limited. If Alan runs out of supplies, there’s no other line of defense.
Running is an option, of course, but not always a viable one. Alan’s stamina is very limited. After what seems like 30 seconds of sprinting, he’ll slow down and need to catch his breath.
In a way, though, all of these so-called flaws add to the realness of Alan Wake. If someone is really getting chased through the woods all night by possessed construction workers with axes, they won’t be able to run forever. They won’t have unlimited ammo. These limitations add to the game’s heart-pounding thrill.
Alan Wake Remastered does a fantastic job of creating a spooky atmosphere, complete with an ominous fog in the forest and quiet but suspenseful background music. By the time you’re finished, you might come to fear the darkness.
Alan Wake Remastered launches on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC on Oct. 5.