When talking about a developer like Remedy Entertainment today, it’s almost inevitable that Control will come up in some capacity. It’s arguably the perfect encapsulation of what you’d expect from a Remedy game, but it’s also important to remember the foundation that Control finds its roots from. For its time, Alan Wake was unlike anything else, an experimental hybrid of Remedy’s trademark visceral action with the timeless mood and atmosphere of something like Twin Peaks. Alan Wake Remastered modernizes the classic for current consoles, and while some aspects of its design are definitively stuck in the past, the majority of the experience is timeless, unforgettable, and a must play for anyone who hasn’t been entranced by the captivating world of Bright Falls before.
In an attempt to try and ease his writer’s block, author Alan Wake and his wife Alice decide to holiday to Bright Falls, a small, quaint countryside town with a tight-knit community. Without spoiling too much, Alice seems to have been kidnapped by a malevolent force that haunts Bright Falls during the night, and Alan takes it upon himself to fight back in order to save Alice. It’s a surface level premise that gets deeper and deeper as you progress through the six different episodes, each one ending on a cliff-hanger as if it’s a weekly TV show.
It twists and turns in so many unpredictable ways, and it’s an experience best played blind to truly appreciate it. Comparative to Control, it’s a narrative that is all about player perspective and theory building. Alan Wake never outright tells you why, what, or how these things happen, it merely gives you some facts, and it’s up to you how you want to put it all together. What really sells the experience is a fantastic cast of varied and unique characters. Some are weird and kooky, while others are seemingly crazy and will often leave you feeling uncertain about the true nature of Bright Falls. To add on to this further, Alan Wake Remastered also includes the 2 special DLC episodes, which further flesh out the world, characters, and the story of Alan and Alice.
If there’s one thing that’s consistent across all of Remedy’s titles, it’s that they always have a unique way of telling stories. Whether its Quantum Break’s episodic TV series, or the distinct comic book panels of Max Payne, there’s a signature flair to be found in each game that separates them from the rest. Alan Wake is no different, with Alan often narrating story events as they unfold from his perspective. It’s written as if he’s writing a novel based on his experience, which is a nice nod to the initial premise of the story, but also ties into the broader narrative in ways I won’t spoil. There are also manuscript pages you can find scattered throughout each episode which further add on to the world building, characters, and setting. Needless to say, it’s this kind of storytelling that creates such a unique experience, and it still feels fresh nearly 12 years later.
The core gameplay loop of Alan Wake is relatively simple, but it lends itself to the themes and narrative nicely, even if there are a few missteps along the way. A small portion of gameplay is spent investigating Bright Falls and talking to its residents during the daytime. These sections are somewhat explorative but are often very short and serve as a means for the narrative to move forward. Most of your time will be spent during the night, where Bright Falls is under the stranglehold of darkness, a force that takes people and objects, and uses them to do its bidding. As Alan, your main weapon against the taken army is light. Torches, floodlights, flashbangs, and flares will all weaken taken enemies, making them vulnerable to traditional firearms. While there’s a limited selection of guns on offer here, each one has the kind of punch and tactility you expect from a Remedy game.
Where the combat stumbles a bit, is in its boss fights, and encounters with possessed objects. Boss encounters boil down to some big darkness possessed object that needs to be exposed to light for however long. While it has a novelty at first, it quickly wears out its welcome and becomes a frustrating and boring affair that had me wishing I was fighting regular enemies instead. It also doesn’t help that Alan’s ability to dodge feels near useless when a harvester is hurtling towards you at high speeds.
When you aren’t in combat, you’ll often be exploring or engaging in the odd puzzle. Resource management is paramount in early episodes, if you don’t actively look for ammunition, you will find yourself struggling to take down the unrelenting hordes of taken. Unfortunately, the inverse is also true in later episodes, where being thorough can lead to an over-abundance of supplies, often trivializing the encounters that were clearly designed to be filled with suspense. This issue is somewhat alleviated in Nightmare mode, but I doubt most players will be inclined to choose Nightmare on their first time through. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else to the gameplay than that, and you’ll find that repetition can set in quickly, no matter how good Remedy’s gunplay feels. Puzzles navigational or otherwise help a bit to break up the monotony but are too sparse and spread apart.
That being said, though, there’s something innately terrifying about an intangible force that’s constantly hunting you, and no amount of ammunition or repetitious gameplay is able to change that. Trees are uprooted from the ground like it’s nothing, school buses land mere feet away from Alan, and boats are plucked from the sea and thrown at you as if there’s a storm that’s constantly raging. It’s this fact that makes the mad dashes to checkpoints in the hope to conserve ammunition so thrilling and suspenseful. Alan Wake has atmosphere in spades, with the only respite from the oppression coming from the sparingly placed light sources in each episode.
You don’t have to look too hard to find out that the original Alan Wake is a gorgeous looking game at points, but the Remastered version takes that further without compromising on the timeless art style and contrast between shadow and light that made it special. The lighting here is positively excellent, with Bright Falls looking picturesque during the day, and terrifying during the night. Thick fogs cover the landscapes and weave in and out of its dense foliage. While it’s easy to think that most episode would largely look and feel the same, each one is set within its own unique environment that gives it its own identity. It’s obviously not to the same level of a full-scale remake, but its remarkable that this game came out on hardware that’s two generations old now and looks this good. Performance on PS5 is also rock solid, and no matter how crazy the action got on screen, the game held a smooth 60 frames per second.
Alan Wake Remastered is a prime example of if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. The story, and the way it’s told is truly timeless, and it's a game that everyone should experience. Some of its design might be stuck in the past, but none of it ever feels detrimental to the overall experience, and the visual facelift just makes the experience that much better. Whether you’re a new fan of Remedy’s work, or a long-time player, there’s never been a better excuse to visit or return to Bright Falls.
Captivating world, characters, and narrative
Incredibly satisfying gunplay
Full of atmosphere and tension
Improved visuals and better performance enhance the experience
Little gameplay variation which leads to repetition
Boss fights and possessed objects are underwhelming