Although mainstream developers have not fully embraced the genre today, I believe that technological advances in the seventh generation of video game consoles (Especially PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) ushered in an era of story-driven games. Unlike previous generations, where games relied on the balance between narrative and gameplay (with an emphasis on the latter) to retain audience attention, with the right idea, heavy lifting could be performed by the story and the visual. The end product was games that played like an interactive movie. In the AAA gaming market, there were two major players. On the PlayStation site, Quantic Dream delivered experiences like murder mystery Heavy rain and the supernatural thriller Beyond two souls with Elliot Page and Willem Dafoe. On the Xbox side was Remedy entertainment, which undoubtedly delivered one of the best Xbox 360 exclusives at the time – Alan Wake.
More than a decade after its first release, the console’s exclusivity is now over Alan Wake, the rights are now in the hands of Remedy Entertainment itself. Therefore, the studio partnered with Epic Games to bring a Remastered version not only to the PC – but also PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S. This makes sense, given that Remedy Entertainment’s “cinematic universe” was confirmed in the acclaimed 2019 multi-platform release Control, which offered one Alan Wake DLC and had many links to its overall history.
To be one Remastered edition, this collection of Alan Wake contains all the original base game + DLC content. Outside of the inclusion of a new audio commentary track recorded specifically for this release, what you get from start to finish is the same as you would have gotten in 2010. Back in the day, I was striving for 100% Alan Wake’s results , so To say that I played the whole story repeatedly would not be an understatement – given the collectibles that were to be found. Perhaps assisted by the nicer visuals a bit, the story still holds true to this day and has an intriguing thriller narrative that keeps you glued to your seat through an entire chapter – if not more. For those playing this for the first time, I really envy you.
Alan Wake is a story about light versus darkness, with the author’s creativity at the center. The title character is a famous writer who has experienced several years of author block and increasingly wild antics. His wife, Alice, takes him on a trip to a mysterious village known as Bright Falls for rest, relaxation and maybe (she hopes) inspiration. Still, things escalate rapidly as an unknown force catches Alice, and Alan wakes up a week later at the wheel of a car that tumbles over a cliff. Roaming in the bushland of Bright Falls at night in hopes of contacting someone, however, turns out to be dangerous … as it quickly becomes clear to Alan that horrors await those who do not stay in the light. This is only a start on his journey to save his wife, solve the mysteries that Thomas Zane left behind, and potentially completely stop a threat of darkness.
The history about Alan Wake found in six chapters, each lasting a few hours in length. Each turns out to have the lovely balance between gameplay and narrative delivery, with complementary material filling the world through pages of Alan’s unauthorized book telling about the future. The story is entertaining and has all the possibilities for the cult hit it became, answered some questions but let the players hypothesize what is coming. The DLC chapters must be played after the end of the main campaign. Although they have a narrative purpose for spoiler reasons, these arise as several ‘challenge methods’ in terms of offering the quality and quantity that the main chapters do.
Gameplay takes the form of a third-person shooter that mostly sees you take control of Alan as he travels across Night Falls in the evening when shadows come to attack him. By being consistent with the story of light and darkness, your primary means of defense is a flashlight that can be used to weaken and stun enemies before firing them with one of several firearms or light-based objects that can be thrown. As someone who is not necessarily good at any shooting game, I can attest to that Alan Wake is very accessible to everyone at any level. The challenge is not so much “can I hit this enemy” but more “can I use my limited ammunition in the best way so as not to run dry / be overrun by shadows”. Having less emphasis on your actual ‘shooter genre’ talent gives a greater focus on using light to your advantage.
The biggest change in Alan Wake Remastered comes from the element you would expect from any Remaster – the visual. Despite being available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X | S and Windows PC, some of the advanced graphics features such as ray-tracing or multiple visual profiles are not available, which is a real shame — especially for a game that makes so frequent use of light choices to evoke certain emotions in the player. The changes from the Xbox 360 to the latest generation consoles are nonetheless impressive – with 4K graphics at 60 fps, reworked movie scenes, updated character models and general improvements to the environment and lighting. You would be hard pressed to call it one of the most beautiful games so far in this generation, but is a significant improvement over the original.
As mentioned earlier, the only new addition to Alan Wake Remastered is a new audio annotation that can be turned on and off (or even with the original limited edition audio annotations) in the Settings menu. The new comment comes exclusively from Alan Wake’s lead author Sam Lake, who talks about spoiler-full content about both Alan Wake and Control. I love this little touch and the comment was very interesting to hear. Unfortunately, it was hard to hear over the overall gameplay, and it would have been nice to have been able to pause the game to listen to it without the other audiovisual distractions.
Alan Wake is one of those cult classic video games that really deserves all the attention and recognition it receives. Although it has not yet received the long-awaited successor (outside of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, which is … a game), hopes here that this release along with Control continues to welcome newcomers to this classic … and that it leads to something more prominent in the years to come.
A PlayStation 5 review code for Alan Wake Remastered was provided by Australian distributor Five Star Games.