Alan Wake was something well out of the ordinary in a number of ways when it first came out in 2010. Borrowing the dark thriller and mystery vibes from the likes of Stephen King and other popular authors of the sort, Alan Wake invited players into a harrowing tale that bent nightmares and reality. Sanity and madness were always in question as Wake fought to survive Bright Falls and save his wife Alice from danger. Here in October 2021, Alan Wake Remastered has returned on modern consoles with sharpened visuals to reinvite players back into the nightmare. However, while the gameplay holds up and the visuals are generally crisper and more improved, some of the pages on this story are dog-eared, even in their 4k form.
Revisiting Bright Falls
Alan Wake puts players in the role of the titular character, who is a crime thriller author suffering from a two-year stint of writer’s block. Alan’s wife, Alice, brings him to Bright Falls in hopes that the idyllic mountain town can help inspire him. However, it isn’t long after their arrival that strange things occur. A strange woman haunts Alan and Alice soon after their arrival and eventually seems to kidnap the latter. Meanwhile, Alan is plagued by nightmares of shadowy figures attacking him that soon bleed into reality. Only by utilizing light sources can Wake expose them to harm and fight back with a mix of flashlights, other light sources, and weapons like revolvers and shotguns in what becomes a third-person action-thriller as he traverses Bright Falls and the game’s story in an episodic level format.
The big addition to Alan Wake Remastered is the upgrade to 4K resolution. It boosted the visuals for the most part and I can say with certainty that the in-game play is smoother and more crisp than ever. There are some odd little glitches leftover; I saw some characters’ heads jerk around weirdly when tracking Alan’s movement near them as they were talking to him and Alan’s attack dodging mechanic produces all sorts of silly movement sometimes. Moreover, the default sound in the game seems heavily unbalanced. Pro-tip: If you want to hear what characters are saying during particularly chaotic moments (like when a shadow tornado is chasing you), you’re going to want to go into the volume settings and reduce sound effects and maybe even music volume down beneath voice.
However, outside of these things, the gameplay of Alan Wake Remastered is a delightful improvement over the old stuff. The primary mechanic of shining your flashlight on shadowy attackers to weaken them before finishing them off with gunfire feels more intense and satisfying than ever before when done successfully. Hitting assailants with a flare gun or an environmental floodlight to clear out multiple shadows at once is even more fun. All of it moves in a buttery smooth framerate that keeps the action moving well as you unravel the secrets of Bright Falls. There are even new secrets to discover. Early in the game, I discovered a QR code on a bulletin board that works and leads to something interesting for fans, so even those who have been to Bright Falls before have something to keep an eye out for.
Unfortunately, I can’t give similar credit to the cutscenes of Alan Wake Remastered. These, again, look nicer than before for the most part, but the framerate is just not consistent there. Even on a PS5, anytime I was treated to a cutscene, there was a moment or two where the framerate would drop and it would momentarily stutter through the scene. It was really jarring considering how smoothly the in-game runs and it seems to be an obnoxiously contrasting detail throughout the game.
Bringing light back to the dark
Despite the sound issue that is user-side fixable and the animation and cutscene bugs which are not, I’d still say Alan Wake Remastered is worth the return trip. The journey through it is a thrilling mystery in which it’s often difficult to tell where reality ends and madness begins and the in-game progression, exploration, and combat have been benefitted heavily by this upgrade. Moreover, Alan Wake Remastered brings much of its DLC along with it, including The Signal and The Writer. There’s even an in-game commentary track by Alan Wake writer Sam Lake if you’ve been through the journey before and want some behind-the-scenes fun to go with your playthrough. Those QR codes and other secrets I mentioned prior make things even more fun and interesting for the returning player.
Alan Wake Remastered doesn’t clean up every page of this adventure and the unpolished parts stand out glaringly among the polished ones. Even so, if you’re looking for a decent (if not somewhat aged) action-thriller that is likely to lead into something new, Alan Wake Remastered delivers that much, whether it’s your first time to Bright Falls or a return trip.
These impressions are based on a digital PS5 copy supplied by the publisher. Alan Wake Remastered comes out on October 5, 2021 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via the Epic Games Store.