The era of remakes and remasters is apparently not over, but this time we’re talking about a game that deserves the service. Specifically, Alan Wake is an excellent thriller-horror game that was released more than 10 years ago. It enjoys a decent remaster that brings it to new consoles, but suffers from some noticeable limitations. This is our review of Alan Wake Remastered.
If Memento and Twin Peaks had a child it would have been called Alan Wake. A horror-thriller with an intriguing story, full of tense moments and a smart protagonist. It begins with the titular character, a successful writer, going on vacation with his wife to a small mountain town called Bright Falls. The vacation takes an unfortunate turn when Alice, Wake’s wife, disappears and Alan Wake realizes he’s lost a week he can’t remember.
While the premise is nothing that hasn’t been told before, the game’s story is told almost perfectly. The fact that Wake is a writer, and the various events that happen in the game are narrated by himself is a great way to expose the story. The story is very well written, with tense moments and excellent pacing. I often found myself glued to the couch waiting for the next big event to see how the action unfolds.
However, the game’s story suffers from trying to expand into too many parts. Half thriller, quarter horror, quarter action – Alan Wake can’t decide what kind of game it wants to be. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does change the dynamic of the story a bit and can be a little distracting. This indecision spills over worse, however, on the gameplay than on the story.
A classic story can be remembered for decades, but mediocre gameplay, not so much. Gameplay in Alan Wake Remastered is unfortunately limited by the year in which they originally made their debut. While the combat mechanics are interesting, specifically the use of the flashlight to expose enemies in the game being a very good one, it is particularly repetitive. A fight here, a bit of running through the woods, a fight there, cramped space, fight, and so on.
While the Remaster didn’t focus on gameplay in its improvements, some of those improvements are felt in this chapter as well. Specifically, the haptic feedback for DualSense feels and matches the atmosphere of the game very well. Although after halfway through the game, the “horror” moments get weaker and weaker, this haptic feedback adds considerably to the experience.
Alan Wake suffers from the same problem as Resident Evil Village – it doesn’t want to scare you anymore. Specifically, the beginning of the game throws you against enemies with a small arsenal: the all-important flashlight, a gun, and maybe some flares. Those moments are scary because you’re not prepared for those fights. After they shove a whole arsenal down your throat, those moments don’t seem so scary.
Alan Wake’s gameplay feels monotonous and although it has moments where new mechanics are introduced to the player, they don’t have a grand impact on the game. It’s all about using the flashlight to expose enemies and using weapons to kill them.
Graphically speaking, the remaster has done its job. The graphical improvements are welcome, especially the 4K resolution and 60 frames per second on current-gen consoles. Also, the character models and textures of buildings and environments are very good. Special effects are also very realistic, with smoke looking like smoke and bullets looking like bullets.
While the remaster has improved on all of these aspects, the game’s graphics aren’t the best you’ll see this year. Of course, it’s a remaster, not a remake, so we shouldn’t expect a completely different game graphically. Still, more effort could have been put into changing the aesthetics of the game a bit.
This statement is a double-edged sword – I know. Fans of the game will say there’s nothing wrong with it and they’re fine with the fact that the remaster didn’t change that. But even for a horror game set in a small mountain town, I want to see something other than darkness and trees. The game’s graphics are clean, free of mistakes and bugs in this chapter, but these should be taken as a normality, not a plus.
Sound and horror games go hand in hand, and Alan Wake does not disappoint. The soundtrack and atmospheric sounds are phenomenal. The songs that are played after the conclusion of each episode of the game perfectly match the atmosphere of that episode. Also, the dialogue and voice acting are of a very high standard, and for a thriller-horror game it is extremely well written.
The vocal actors did a particularly good job, led by the lead. His moments of narration when something important happens, reading manuscripts found through the game, all of Alan Wake’s lines are very good. The other characters in the game don’t fall short either, one of my favourites being Pat Maine, the local radio host, who you’ll meet quite often if you collect everything the game has to offer. And since I’m a genuine completist, I’ve heard him quite often.
However, even Alan Wake suffers from cliché moments. Certain lines don’t really make sense in the plot and are just there to give some “colour” to the characters. But even so, the sound in the game is very good and helps a lot the atmosphere of the game.
Either you’re scared, or you want to know more, or it’s as if they don’t talk anymore. Like the game’s story, the atmosphere is hard to pin down to one genre. The beginning of the game focuses more on horror and thriller, with the horror being lost in the second half and swapped for action. However, the atmosphere of the game is very good, and although the game world is not the most inspired, it feels real.
The characters and story draw you into the small world of Alan Wake, but not for long. The monotony of locations and enemies gets repetitive very quickly, and this detracts a little from the atmosphere. Still, for a thiller game, the mystery and strangeness of events and locations are well maintained, and this makes for a particularly interesting atmosphere.
Alan Wake is a game that deserves to return to gamers’ memories. For those who played it 11 years ago on Xbox 360 or PC, I don’t know if it’s worth playing it again now. But for those of you (myself included) who haven’t played it before, it’s totally worth it. It’s a thriller-horror game with a story worthy of the big screens, and while it has some pretty big limitations in the gameplay department, it has a charm all its own. It’s the kind of game that a lot of people don’t make these days, and that’s what sets it apart from many.
Our criteria at Games Row for rating games are as objective as can be. Of course, reviews are influenced (also) by personal experiences. So our ratings may not meet everyone’s expectations.