When Alan Wake first launched back in 2010, it had the unfortunate task of going up against Red Dead Redemption. The initial batch of people jumping into the game was small, but thankfully over the years, it's gained a cult following via word of mouth. Fast forward to today and developer Remedy Entertainment is working on bringing a connected universe to fans, gathering games such as Control and Alan Wake into one shared franchise. As a result, Alan Wake Remastered has arrived in the hopes of garnering a wider audience, and absolutely succeeds at brushing up this classic horror title.
The story of Alan Wake sees the titular character taking a vacation with his wife Alice, in an attempt to break out of a period of writer's block the successful author is facing. What transpires is a horror-fuelled adventure, as Wake's upcoming book - that he can't remember writing - appears to be coming to life before his very eyes. The game merges survival horror elements from titles such as Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark, whilst also sprinkling some horror iconic film influences, including sequences reminiscent of The Shining. For anyone who has grown up reading Stephen King novels, the story of Alan Wake will resonate massively.
All of this is broken up into segmented chapters, giving the feeling of a TV series playing out. Each episode begins recapping the events of the previous one, and every single chapter closes out on a cliff-hanger, begging you to continue forward. It's an addictive loop, something Remedy also attempted with Quantum Break but failed to nail as hard as they do here. Alan Wake also understands how close the horror and comedy genre are, succeeding in blending them both in darkly humorous ways, without sacrificing the tension.
The story is approached linearly, with players controlling Wake through a variety of environments. Some moments give the feeling of a more open-ended game, but the story funnels you down one path. Your time will mostly be spent fending off shadowy figures in some pretty unique combat. Before raining down gunfire, you'll need to whittle their health down with your trusty flashlight. It means you'll have to come face to face with the enemies in some truly terrifying encounters, made even worse when you're forced to fend off multiple foes at once.
Outside of combat, you'll be exploring the world and finding all sorts of collectables. Being a remaster, Alan Wake does little to change up the core experience, meaning there are still far too many objects to find in the world. With over 100 manuscript pages, 100 thermos cups to find, and several other collectables, you'll spend an extraordinary amount of time combing the world for anything you find. It felt over-saturated back in 2010, and it still detracts from the experience, especially for completionists. It's especially irritating when some of these items contain key story elements that you could potentially miss.
There are also a few QR codes, which were seen in the original, but here they link to completely new rewards. New for the remaster are a series of videos that can be unlocked by simply scanning them on your smart device. While we don't want to reveal what the contents are, they do work to flesh out Remedy's plans for a connected universe, providing more Alan Wake lore for fans who want to expand their knowledge.
Once the main campaign is done, the remaster also packs in the two superb post-launch episodes: The Signal and The Writer. For anyone who's invested in the story, these are paramount to understand the full picture. In all honesty, it's baffling that Remedy omitted them from the main game and added them as paid DLC, as they feel like a necessity in regards to the overall narrative. Luckily, they're both included here as part of the main admission fee, so be sure to spend a few extra hours unveiling their secrets.
As for the remastered visuals, it's a pretty strong upgrade, sometimes looking like a brand-new game entirely. Remedy has pumped a lot of love into their cult classic title, ensuring that returning fans feel at home and new fans understand what the fuss is all about. The core experience remains the same, with all the same problems the original faced, such as a cumbersome camera, some frustrating enemy encounters and floaty controls, but the visual experience of it all brings it up to 2021 standards.
The 4K resolution looks incredible, especially on Xbox Series X, and is accompanied by a smooth 60fps during its gameplay. Cutscenes don't pack the same punch, remaining at 30fps, but the main game is the best Alan Wake has ever felt. Lighting is a particular highlight, increasing the moody atmosphere even more than the original version. The way the light reflects off enemies as you shine your flashlight never ceases to get old. Character models have also been improved, and while the lip-syncing looks off in a fair few situations (Remedy is looking to address this prior to launch), they fit more within modern standards than their 2010 counterparts.
If you've never played Alan Wake, this is the best possible way to experience the game. For anyone who loves horror or Remedy's other titles, there's a ton to unpack here with an engaging narrative and stellar gameplay. The remastered enhancements bolster the game even further, giving it a place in today's gaming world, and while the gameplay doesn't perhaps hold up as well as it did in 2010, Alan Wake Remastered is still as joyous as it was back then and a perfect treat for the Halloween season.