"Stephen King once wrote that 'Nightmares exist outside of logic, and there’s little fun to be had in explanations; they’re antithetical to the poetry of fear.'
In a horror story, the victim keeps asking 'Why?' But there can be no explanation, and there shouldn’t be one.
The unanswered mystery is what stays with us the longest, and it’s what we’ll remember in the end."
Alan Wake Remastered Review | Beautiful Light, Mysterious Darkness
Remedy has returned to one of their most beloved games, Alan Wake, and have given it a full makeover. Some aspects of this makeover have turned out really, really well like the updated scenery, lighting, and foliage.
Other aspects of the game, however, serve as a reminder that this is definitely a remaster, not a remake. As a whole the experience is still enjoyable, even if you’ve played it before, with Alan Wake still serving as the closest thing to a Stephen King game that we have.
In fact, the entire story feels like a love letter to classic, almost campy horror from Stephen King to Twin Peaks to The Twilight Zone. But for me, mostly Stephen King.
If you’re a fan, you’ll love how many references to King there are scattered throughout the game. It was one of the things that first drew me to Alan Wake over a decade ago, and is the thing that pulled me back in now.
Playing Alan Wake almost feels like exploring through pages of a book, which is emphasized by the collectible pages you pick up as you work your way through each chapter of the game. You could also say there’s the feeling of being in a dream (or a nightmare) in Alan Wake as well.
Specifically, some of the self-aware parts of Alan Wake’s story remind me of one of my favorite Nightmare on Elm Street films, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. The script in that film offers insight into current and future events, similar to the pages you pick up in Alan Wake.
To this day, the collectible pages in Alan Wake really stand out to me as a clever way to do collectibles in a game as there's natural motivation to go around looking for them.
As you play Alan Wake, there's an ever present desire to investigate and learn more about the mysteries of the game, so those collectible pages become delicious little breadcrumbs you can’t help but seek out.
It also helps that Alan’s flashlight is useful for more than dealing with shadowy foes as it can sometimes reveal hidden arrows that point you in a different direction.
You may find supplies, you may find a collectible thermos (not as cool as the pages but a great scavenger hunt item for completionists), or you may find a page out in a place you might have otherwise overlooked.
Alan Wake is a game that rewards you for paying attention, both to the story and character dialogue, but also to the environments themselves. With the remaster, Remedy has made the game’s environments all the more enjoyable to explore.
The remastered scenery, lighting, foliage, views, and vistas are extremely impressive. I remember just standing on the boat at the start of the game ignoring Alan’s wife Alice and her desire to take a picture of Alan and just appreciating how beautiful the views were.
The same goes for areas in Bright Falls itself like the diner. The lighting really does a lot to enhance the natural beauty of the game that was already there. I spent a lot of time playing Alan Wake Remastered just walking around whenever possible, listening to NPC conversations, and just in general soaking up the atmosphere.
The remastered visuals are almost perfect… with the exception of Alan’s face.
I feel conflicted talking about this as I know the updated face is closer to that of the original actor and how Alan was intended to look, and I do appreciate that, but the end result just looks odd.
Again, not talking about the actor’s face here (they're honestly very handsome), but rather how Remedy rendered and animated it in the remastered game itself.
It’s somewhat noticeable during cutscenes where Alan is talking, but even more noticeable when he's just standing around chatting with other characters. The animations of his eyes and mouth look off in ways that are hard to describe, creating a sort of uncanny valley effect.
It doesn’t help that sometimes when Alan is standing still listening to someone else talk, his head will also turn and swivel a little too quickly, especially if you do any sort of moving around with the camera or Alan himself.
Combine that with some of the odd blinking and mouth movements and he ends up looking a little possessed.
Other characters have some quirks to their updated faces too, but none are as distracting as Alan himself. He is the protagonist, after all. You see a lot of him. That said, you can still mostly ignore this as you work your way through the game because the core gameplay is just as fun now as it was when the game first released.
I still thoroughly enjoy vanquishing shadowy foes by first illuminating them with Alan’s flashlight, then shooting at them. Or by using flares. Whatever your preference is in approaching the game's combat, there's some wiggle room to play around which is always nice.
Alan Wake’s gameplay excels at pulling you in and keeping you invested thanks to the well-balanced peaks and valleys of tension and resolution throughout. There’s tension in each enemy encounter, tension as you explore a new area in search of clues, and obviously tension in the underlying story.
However, there are also moments of respite where you can dwell on the strange and unusual and catch your breath, right before you’re thrown back into the fray again. To me, Alan Wake shows just how talented the Remedy team is at storytelling because the game definitely holds up.
Even if you already know what’s going to happen in the story, it’s still a blast to go through it all again with a bewildered, frustrated Alan who just wants to know what the hell happened to his wife god damn it.
I hope the presence of this remaster means that Remedy is planning to revisit the series more in the future (it certainly seems like they plan to), because Alan Wake is such a staple for Remedy fans. As intriguing as Control was, and as captivating as Quantum Break was, there’s something really special and different about Alan Wake.
If you haven’t played the game, Alan Wake Remastered is a great way to experience it for the very first time.
That said, I still recommend and value the experience of the original, untouched game and feel like it is also worth playing despite being somewhat dated and clunky in certain areas. To be fair though, the remaster is dated and clunky in those areas as well because at the end of the day it’s a remaster, not a remake.
If you’ve played Alan Wake before, there are new, subtle (and some well-hidden) bits and pieces in the game’s story that’ll make revisiting the game worth your time. Just like the original game itself, there’s a feeling of something more lingering beneath the surface in Alan Wake Remastered.
Like Alan says… it’s not a lake; it’s an ocean.
If you dive down and explore its deepest depths, you will be rewarded. And for that reason, and so much more, I highly recommend checking out Alan Wake Remastered.
- Updated visuals to the game’s scenery look phenomenal and make exploring Bright Falls even more enjoyable.
- The game is still the same fun, highly praised experience it was over a decade ago.
- The game’s story holds up remarkably well, even if you’ve already played it and know how it ends.
- Collectible pages incentivize exploration in a fun way. Don't skip finding these!
- Alan’s remastered face isn’t on par with the game's other remastered visuals, and may be distracting for returning fans of the series.
- Some residual clunkiness in the game that makes it feel dated despite its updated visuals.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.