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Alan Wake Remastered Review

Alan Wake Remastered

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There are some games that breathe atmosphere, although arguably not nearly enough. It’s really more of a film or book thing, and yet occasionally a title comes along and surprises you. Alan Wake was one of those titles in 2010 – and its remaster remains impressed 11 years later.

Now, arguably that because it borrows so heavily from other sources. Stephen King is regularly name-checked. Twin Peaks is another obvious influence. Sometimes a little too obvious.

But all of that breathes life into a game that is unlike anything else we see. And I’m not really sure why that is. What is it about this style that, even 11 years later, makes it utterly unique?

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As a game the Remaster stands up well. Like a lot of games from the 360 era, a coat of paint goes a long way.

But it’s a coat of paint that doesn’t quite go far enough. Still, this is a title that deserves to be played and now this is the best way to play it.

Back into Darkness

Alan Wake could’ve been a regular third person action game. Even with the inclusion of a flash light as a weapon, it’s still effectively just a new take on running around shooting things.

What makes it different from every other shooter out there is its themes and style. Alan Wake is an author and his world is presented as a book. He narrates the things he finds, the obstacles he comes across. During the day everything is light and quickly, and at night the horrors come out.

If you’re thinking Deadly Premonition, you won’t be far wrong. That game, another Twin Peaks wannabe, borrowed a similar theme. Although it’s done much more successfully here.

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And so yes, you’ll have bursts of story followed by over-the-top action sequences. These sequences will have you fight monsters. But the context around it makes it feel utterly unlike anything else out there.

The atmosphere is incredible. There’s no arguing with it. They have borrowed the Stephen King style with barely a speed bump.

Of course, it helps that the third person action vibe is pretty good too. You’re not going to have to cope with the gameplay for the sake of the story here. You’ll enjoy both elements, even though there are moments that feel a bit dated. This is a 360 era game, albeit a good one.

So, the way the character interacts with his environment isn’t as up-to-date as it should be (although arguably that could be said for a lot of modern games too). In fact, within minutes of starting the game I was bouncing off the environment in weird ways.

But it is far from gamebreaking. Call it nostalgic charm.

There’s also some collectibles for you to find. These add to the experience if you enjoy it, but the gamifying might take away from the overall experience.

Remastering Alan Wake

Alan Wake is still as good a game as it ever was. Remedy knocked it out of the park in 2010, and the proof is that it still mostly stands up today.

The remaster brings with it better textures, a resolution bump and a handful of other graphical improvements, such as better character models. These are all nice, but effectively just exist to make it palatable to the modern audience. Without doing that you wouldn’t have bought the game again in 2021.

The effect is a nice looking game that doesn’t stand up with the best PS4/Xbox One games of today, but uses the “Remastered” label to remind people of why.

This isn’t a major problem. If you’ve played it on PC it probably isn’t worth the upgrade, but obviously it’s a huge improvement over the 2010 release on Xbox 360.

This is the only way to play it on modern consoles. Like it or hate it, that makes it the best we’re going to get.

Alone in the Dark

There are two missing features that are worth mentioning. Ray tracing is neither here nor there – it still hasn’t really justified itself on console and I’d rather have decent 4k than a ray traced experience that doesn’t really look any different.

The other is HDR, which is an abysmal feature to miss. This is a game about a character running around with a flash light. It was made for HDR.

The developer said they didn’t have the time to put it in place on their original engine. That’s a bit of a cop out. The result is areas that are far too dark or screens that are that bland kind of grey, mixing too bright with too dark and settling in a boring middle ground. HDR was sorely missed, and it means the potential for a very different experience is instantly gone. Playing it alongside Far Cry 6 highlighted just how important HDR can be in this sort of situation.

Would it have been hard to implement? Very possibly. But just because it’s a remaster doesn’t mean the best we should expect is 4k and better textures. Others will be less impacted. I found it sorely missing.

Graphics and Sound

Alan Wake is still a beautiful game, even with this missing feature. The location is beautifully designed and the improvements do serve to highlight just that.

Sometimes it’s not all about graphics, graphics, graphics. It doesn’t need to be the most recent game ever to make an impression. And here, especially, the visuals must serve the story.

And it all could have fallen apart without fantastic voice work, and it’s here in spades. The music, too, helps bring out the atmosphere. And, as I’ve said enough, atmosphere is everything here.

Alan Wake Remastered – Conclusion

This is the best way to play a brilliant game today on consoles. It deserves to be played, especially if you’re worn out on standard shooters.

It arguably doesn’t go far enough, but apart from that this is a good package celebrating an incredible character.

 

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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