I love the original Alan Wake. For me, it’s one of the best games of the Xbox 360 era and it pulled Remedy Entertainment out of the shadow of Max Payne. Yes, it was a lot of fun, with some really awkward lines uttered by “I’m a writer” Alan Wake, and yes, the name is right on the nose, but it’s a game brimming with atmosphere and top-notch gameplay mechanics. I hope this Remaster gives people another chance to see the game the way I see it, as it deserves to be remembered – in high regard.
As a remaster rather than a remake, if you walk into the game without having seen the original for over a decade, it’s easy to think that not much has changed. Things look the way I remembered them, although my brain knows that the Xbox 360 game did not render at such a high resolution; I am playing on Xbox Series X.
However, take a closer look and compare it to the original, and there are clear improvements, especially in the character models, objects, and textures. Things are more detailed, less angular, and show off a lot more detail. Alan Wake Remastered doesn’t look like a game developed from scratch for its 2021 release, but it still looks impressive and more than achieves its slightly eccentric TV show vibe.
It’s not exactly Twin Peaks, but neither are the X-Files, mostly it feels like a hugely extended episode of The Outer Limits. Something strange is happening in Bright Falls, and Alan is at the center of it, right now with a more detailed coat and a better face.
Still intact is the central light and weapon combat system. Enemies are weakened by light, and I never tire of shooting an enemy with Alan’s torch and then dispatching them with a shotgun, accompanied by a slow motion shot. As the game mechanics progress, it feels great and makes the combat a real highlight.
There are clear signs that Alan Wake is approaching his teens, especially in the way the characters behave outside of cut scenes, as if awkwardly walking around like mannequins. In my head this is related for some reason to the behavior of NPCs in Half-Life 2 era PC games, and Alan’s wife Alice on the ferry at the beginning of the game is a perfect example of this. in action.
Although I am a fan of writing so bad that it is good, some lines fall into the category of “it’s just bad,” and there are some strange interactions between characters that, at best, could be called bad acting in soap operas. It’s part of who Alan Wake is, so I’m glad they weren’t fixed, but I hope a full sequel, if it happens, will be a lot more elegant.
Something else that I’m happy to see remains intact here is the end of the chapter songs, followed by the “Previously In” montages. Alan Wake wasn’t an episodic game, but this structure really fit the vibe the game was chasing. The licensed music gave the whole game added credibility and the tracks always pulled each chapter together very well.
If you’re wondering, the original game’s two DLCs, The Signal and The Writer, are included, and both are worth playing. It doesn’t include the indie spinoff, American Nightmare, which is a shame, but it was its own thing, more action-oriented, so not much of a surprise.
Alan Wake was and still is an occasionally bizarre action horror game, with some lovely pieces, hilarious combat, and what I hope is a slightly ironic sense of self-importance. I think it holds up remarkably well 11 years after its original release and this Remaster is the best way to experience what I consider to be a modern classic.
Disclaimer: Tested on Xbox Series X, with a copy of the game provided by the publisher. Also available on Xbox One, Xbox Series S, PS4, PS5, and PC.