Remasters are becoming a bit of the norm these days. Take a beloved game from the last cycle, tidy it up for modern consoles, mess around with some gameplay elements and sometimes, throw in DLC and bonus content. It’s a way to introduce a new audience to a classic game while also banking on that treasured word ‘nostalgia’.
Sometimes though, you get the bare minimum and Alan Wake Remastered is the bare minimum.
Released for the Xbox 360 in May of 2010, the developer Remedy Entertainment struck gold with their psychological thriller/horror game. The game puts you in the shoes of highly successful horror writer Alan Wake as he is taking a much-needed break from the book tours, partying and city life with his wife.
The pair have gone to the idyllic location of Bright Falls in Washington where they plan to spend some time at an isolated log cabin on a lake. Alan is looking forward to some peace and quiet but his wife, Alice had an ulterior motive for this trip. You see Alan is suffering from writer’s block and Alice is hoping that the change of location will help clear his mind and allow him to get creative again.
When he makes this discovery, Alan is far from happy and the pair row resulting in him storming out of the cabin. Outside and beginning to calm down, all the lights in the cabin go off causing his wife to panic (she has a fear of the dark) so Alan rushes back. Only to find her sinking into the lake as though she fell off the balcony.
Alan dives after her and in the murky water sees Alice being dragged deeper by a dark force.
Some time later, Alan wakes up behind the wheel of his car seemingly having had a crash, driving off the road. There is no sign of Alice and his memory is foggy but he knows something sinister took her. How and why? That’s what players will have to find out as Bright Falls itself begins to succumb to the darkness.
There’s a real Twin Peaks vibe to Alan Wake. Not just because it’s set in a secluded town surrounded by deep forest, but also because of its unusual narrative, odd characters and how the game is broken up into chapters. It’s the story telling and atmosphere that Alan Wake excels at. You’ll feel the chill of the wind, be wary of the dark and be engrossed by the twists and turns of a cleverly written horror tale.
Over a decade later, these elements hold up and with a visual upgrade that this remaster brings, the atmosphere is even better. Enhanced by a phenomenal soundtrack. However, what doesn’t hold up nor has seen any improvements is general gameplay and combat.
Players will remember that, a lot of the time, Alan Wake can be quite tedious as you move through similar looking locations. Dealing with the same enemy types until you get to the next set-piece that can often be unnecessarily frustrating.
The Taken are the main enemies of the game. Townspeople who have been ‘taken’ over by the darkness and have one goal – to kill Alan Wake. To protect himself, Wake can find and use guns but the darkness shields the enemies. So, first you need to use light to destroy the shield then take them out with firepower. It’s a simple premise that can be tense, thanks to the sudden appearance of The Taken and their abilities to surround you. However, it is very repetitive and the tactics never change even when faced with different versions of The Taken.
Blind them with light, shoot them dead. That’s it. Unfortunately, combat makes up a large portion of gameplay and it does get monotonous. It doesn’t help that Alan moves like he is hungover and has the stamina of a 20 a-day smoker.
There are some great set-pieces though which do help refresh things when staleness has truly set in. Later, when armed with flares, flash grenades and an array of weapons, big battles can re-spark the tension. A great sequence at some aging rockers’ farm and fights with possessed farm equipment are just a few of the more fun moments of gameplay.
Aside from combat, Alan Wake is basically an ‘A to B’ game. Where you’re making your way through deserted locations with occasional obstacles to overcome to get to the next part of the story. Along the way; Alan’s narration, the manuscript pages and other collectibles help keep things focused but a lot of the time, it’s just not that interesting to explore.
It’s all about the atmosphere it creates and the story it tells. For all the complaints about repetitive combat and the lack of variety in gameplay, the positives do outweigh the negatives. Especially if this is your first time playing it. You’ll be hooked by the story and want to see how it plays out.
As for the remastering? As stated at the start of this review… it’s basic. Mostly cosmetic to make it look better and with faster load times.
It’s the best version of Alan Wake you’re going to play but returning players might find that age overall hasn’t been so kind.
We still freaking love Barry though.
Alan Wake Remastered
The Final Score - 7/10