It’s still weird for me that Alan Wake is 11 years old. His the game I think of when I remember the beloved classics of the Xbox 360.
Remedy’s passionate project took nearly a decade to come to fruition in the 2000s. Inspired by the works of Stephen King, David Lynch and Dean Koontz, the game tells the story of a crime author suffering from the freeze-up. the writer who unwittingly writes a horror story that comes to life. It’s set in Bright Falls, a sleepy mining town not far from Lynch’s own Twin Peaks.
After replaying it on launch day in 2010, I was an immediate fan. The references to horror culture, along with Remedy’s knack for mixing humor and dark fantasy, were a great recipe. In fact, it was even gambling that convinced me to pursue writing as a hobby, setting me on the path to becoming a writer myself.
But it was not without problems. The huge world of Bright Falls, with its intricate detail and varied terrain, forced Remedy to lower the resolution for Alan Wake to hit its 30fps target. In fact, it only worked at 540p. It was manageable in 2010, when many of us were still playing on old CRT televisions. But try playing Alan Wake in 2021 and it’s hugely entertaining.
Not to mention, the game also featured janky character animations, awkward lip-syncing, and more importantly a deal with Microsoft meant it could never be released on PlayStation consoles. That is to say until now.
A NEW START
A year after the start of a new generation of consoles, it was definitely a good time to remaster Alan Wake. Despite a few hiccups, Remedy’s Control was a big hit with players and critics alike. The game contained many references to Alan Wake, even going so far as to include his involvement in the story in a DLC expansion. All signs point to Remedy revisiting Bright Falls in a potential sequel. But with the original game slightly outdated and not available on PlayStation, Alan Wake Remastered is certainly a more accessible way to play the game today.
So, for those who come to Alan Wake for the first time with the remaster, what does it actually look like?
The game is a mysterious thriller that follows titular Alan Wake trying to solve the disappearance of his wife who has been taken by a dark supernatural force. Over six episodes (and two bonus DLC episodes), you explore the town of Bright Falls and its surrounding forests and nature trails, trying to unravel the mystery and defeat the evil presence.
For the most part, that includes trekking through the woods defeating enemies the Dark Presence sends after you. Called the “Taken,” these enemies are helpless against the light. You use light sources like torches and flares to deplete their shields, then burst a few bullets to scatter them. It’s also the weakest part of the game, with a flush and repeat style with every enemy approach. There’s no variety in how you approach each encounter, with the only real difference between enemy types being the strength of their health and shields.
HOW MUCH CHANGED?
That didn’t change at all in the remaster. In fact, Remedy was deliberately aiming to not change much in Alan Wake Remastered from the original. It certainly feels like a step back if you come from Control. While this game suffered from a similar issue of enemies overly reliant on shields, the number of weapons and abilities Jesse Faden had at his disposal made these systems fun to use.
Other annoying elements from the original game that carried over to the remaster include Alan’s low stamina, in which he can’t sprint longer than a brisk walk before he gets tired, and audio mixing issues that make some dialogues that are difficult to hear.
The inclusion of the special “The Signal” and “The Writer” DLC at no additional cost is an expected but welcome addition. While not too story-loaded, they build on the combat and puzzle design of the original game and offer wacky levels for you to explore. It would have been nice if the smaller standalone “Alan Wake’s American Nightmare” could have been included in the remaster as well, but time and budget constraints may have made that impossible at the moment.
On the other hand, one of my favorite changes in Alan Wake Remastered are the improved character models. Alan actually looks like Ilkka Villi now, who played him in the live-action segments. It also comes with better animations. Her face is more expressive, actually showing an emotional range this time compared to her old face in the original. Other characters like Hartman, Rose, and the Anderson brothers also saw similar improvements.
“THE BEST VERSION OF THE GAME TO DATE”
In contrast, the improvements to the environment are much more subtle. With the improvement in framerate and resolution, it certainly looks like the best version of the game to date (although I’m somewhat disappointed that the cutscenes are still presented at 30FPS). But it’s a remaster that still looks a lot like a 2010 game. Fans of the original may be saddened that there aren’t too many drastic improvements here, especially if they’ve played the version as well. PC that looked much better than Xbox 360.
However, with the launch of the game on PlayStation, it will certainly be much more accessible to new players. We always love to see previously exclusive games coming to new platforms, and Alan Wake Remastered is no exception. I can also see Control fans looking for this game before the teased sequel Remedy is reportedly developing. In fact, without spoiling too much, there are even a few little clues inside the remaster that may point to this.
Overall though, Alan Wake Remastered is the same game as in 2010, but with slightly nicer graphics. If you liked the original, you’ll probably like it. If you hated it, there is nothing in this new version that will make you change your mind. And if you’re brand new to the show, this is definitely the best place to start.
A code for the Xbox version of Alan Wake Remastered has been sent by PR for review.
Featured Image Credit: Remedy Entertainment
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