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Alan Wake Remastered Review

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Alan Wake Remastered Review

Wake me up inside... 

Alan Wake’s everlasting legacy has had a huge impact on Remedy’s vision in creating one of the most unique thrillers into a franchise. While the studio had every intent to follow-up with a direct sequel, its XBOX360 exclusive black-comedy spin-off American Nightmare, never reached the commercial success its fathering entry had garnered. Sam Lake’s creation held a significant and cultural impact within the industry, heralded for implementing alluring tropes that were akin to Hollywood-like arthouse thrillers. While there had been a plethora of cinematic action-adventure experiences that came before it, none had challenged the survival-horror genre while not entirely seating itself firmly to the one category. If anything, Alan Wake could be best described as the ‘Death Stranding’ of yesteryear, with a deep, psychological narrative that spins out of Control – no pun intended – while making your toes curl simultaneously.

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It had been teased for almost a decade that Alan Wake 2 was on its way. Alas, we were met with a spiritual successor as alluded to in Control. While only referencing Alan Wake, and heightening the supernatural mystique of its universe – also the inclusion of the Alan Wake Expansion (AWE) DLC – it satiated an appetite that fans hungered for in Alan Wake’s open ending. Now, 11 years after its initial release for the XBOX360, rumours are rampant that Remedy are indeed working steadfast on a true sequel to the title that gave the studio hope post-Max Payne. After teasers and hints that have been dead dropped in tweets and posts, the Alan Wake Remaster gives fans hope that the Finnish studio are indeed preparing for a massive 2022, but first they want to take us on a nerve-racking, spine-tingling trip down memory lane.

Are you afraid of the Dark?...

Before anything, I want to note that the remaster of Alan Wake is emphasised as its titled, ‘Alan Wake Remastered’. It’s not a remake, but has been graphically overhauled to look marvellous on newer platforms. Playing on PC, I can unequivocally note that it runs excellently and looks fantastic. I’ll get more in depth into its mechanics, but I will note quickly that it does play like a game from 2010. There’s no massive redesign, or upgrade in its architecture, rather a focus on aesthetics, model improvements, textures and shading and other eye-catching modifications that make for a modernised take on the cult classic. It’s hard to discern whether the title has aged poorly, or like a fine wine but as it holds merit to more obscure hallmarks like rapid or fixed quicktime events for progression, like blazing a burling school of bats or avoiding a horde of enemies in unconventional ways that are more-or-less dormant in our current gaming climate.

For the uninitiated, the story follows award winning novelist Alan Wake. Suffering a long stint of writers block, his wife Alice convinces the author to take a small trip to Bright Falls, Washington with hopes of clearing his mind, hoping to get past the cognisant barricade that’s causing a creative stifle. His friend agent Barry Wheeler, also coerces the pessimistic writer into making the trek to the mountainside for some fresh air. Before they arrive, Alan suffers a nightmare that see’s a mysterious figure attempt to murder him not before someone saves him and aids the philanthropist by teaching him how to use light to defeat the shadows. Woken from the strange stupor, Alan collects the keys to their cabin from an elderly woman who explains that Carl, the landlord had come down with an illness and was told to hand the keys to him.

She guides Alan and Alice towards their cabin located on an enclave at Cauldron Lake. Alice then tells Alan that she had planned a psychologist appointment, with hopes of dissecting Alan’s two-year long writer’s block, with hopes Dr. Emil Hartman can break the cycle. Aggravated that his wife would do suck a thing, Alan leaves the cabin until Alice cries out for help. He rushes back to discover Alice being forced by a mysterious tide that drags her into the lake. Alan tries to go after Alice, only to pass out as he sinks. He awakes a week after the events, behind the wheel of a car that has driven off-road, with no recollection of him driving or even how he got there. Searching for the nearest gas station, he is confronted once again by the same dark figures that haunted him in his nightmares, to once again be saved by the same presence that guided him to safety who leaves a draft entitled Departure by Alan Wake; a manuscript in which the author has no memory of writing.

a game that attained critical acclaim off its incredible narrative, and sensational delivery with an unconventional melding of different genre's Alan Wake deservedly cemented itself in gaming history as one of action-adventure's most alluring.

Reading through pages of the draft, he discovers each event written had taken place already with more yet to come. He soon discovers that the town is possessed and encounters a “sick” Carl Stucky, who he unfortunately kills to survive. Alerting authorities, Alan tries to convince Sheriff Sarah Breaker that his wife had been kidnapped, only for the officer to inform Alan that there was no island, and no Cauldron Lake for years. It sank with a disastrous eruption that occurred years prior. Alan is apprehended, and taken to the local police station with his friend Barry arriving to Bright Falls looking for him. Alan takes a call from a person claiming to be his wife’s kidnapper, demanding a trade for the manuscript in exchange of his wife. 

Alan agrees to meet with the criminal in a park nearby, with the kidnapper holding the same elderly woman they met back at the cabin hostage, explaining to him that he never actually had Alice and had fallen for his trap. Suddenly a dark tornado launches Alan back into the waters of Cauldron Lake, where he is awoken by Dr. Hartman, who diagnoses Alan with a psychotic break, explaining his premonitions to be fabrications from stress. Alan erupts in fury, but Hartman convinces the author to calm down, as he believes everything is saying to be true; Cauldron Lake was indeed a supernatural hotspot.

Falling inside the black...

SOLID POINTS

✔️Gorgeous reskin and remodelling.

✔️Same great thriller with engrossing characters.

✔️Spine-tingling; a cult classic reborn.

❌Some graphical issues, bugs, etc. Easily ironed out with a patch.

❌Despite graphical improvements, still plays like Alan Wake in 2010.

So as mentioned, it’s a remaster; not a remake. Prepare to play a game that looks like a modernised reclaim, but encompasses shortcomings of dated gunplay and traversal mechanics that have been inarguably surpassed by two generations. I can’t say that it’s a disappointment, but some mechanical polish would have done Alan Wake Remastered some favours. There’s a certain jank to the way its models continue to manoeuvre, seeming out of place for something that looks so good. For the faithful that grind this title year in and year out, they’ll most definitely notice the subtleties in change that have been bolstered onto some environments, including lighting improvements – something I was stirred by playing the original on the XBOX360.

Enemies known as the “taken” are still just as brainless as they were in the original, carrying around shovels and chainsaws to attack Alan, while some may teleport for shock value. Schools of Ravens will try to throw Alan off, but you may follow Quicktime events to deter them from attacking. Concurrent use of your flashlight against the “darkness” with firearms such as a handgun or sawn off shotgun are simple yet effective offense. Like any shooter, ammo will be scattered but you will find your torchlight to be just as pivotal in your escapade around the supernatural hillside valley. You will have to find batteries to replenish your flashlight’s use, or wait for it to slowly charge.

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The darkness can be incapacitated by shining your torch at them then eradicated by shooting at them. There’s no health gauge, rather a light shield that is represented when aiming. Use of other light sources in the area will aid Alan, like flares, streetlights and flashbangs that can be found throughout your search. Floodlights can annihilate hordes of the Taken, while Alan can stand under streetlights to replenish his health. Health will regenerate but at a slower pace if not exposed to any light. While most of the game see’s you explore on foot, you may use a vehicle to traverse from certain mission markers, while running down any Taken that pose a threat. However, it should be noted that the driving is as clunky as it was in the original, and while there are some points that call for it, it’s not the most immersive nor realistic mechanic the game harnesses. This was in dire need of some reprogramming.

Chocked to the brim, full of exposition and purposely filled with dialogue and tropes found in cheesy horror flicks, Alan Wake still demonstrates a certain disposition in arthouse thrillers. Aesthetically, the remaster boasts a pleasing overlay that masks blemishes that are now evident from the original. Those ugly jagged edges and blurry textures are no more with detailed creases in aging skin, the lush shrubbery of Cauldron Lake and re-rendered CGI for immense sustainability and quality of life. Every improvement here does the title justice, but would have been a plus if we were delivered some gameplay polish from its dated blueprint. Matthew Porretta (Red Dead Redemption 2, Quantum Break) returns as lead protagonist Alan Wake, without the need for reprisal as all lines used for the remaster are recycled from the original. The performance of each character is heightened only by aesthetic improvements that have been drastically made here, other than that it’s stays the same.

Alan Wake Remastered is a love letter, a thank you and a “hope to see you soon” for its fan base. I cannot deny it, there has to be a reason a remaster of this cult hit has come out of nowhere. A sequel is surely on the horizon, and it’s certainly has fans clamouring for the author’s return. For a game that attained critical acclaim off its incredible narrative, and sensational delivery with an unconventional melding of different genre’s Alan Wake deservedly cemented itself in gaming history as one of action-adventure’s most alluring. ‘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 is what we’ll remember in the end.’

Alan Wake Remastered Review

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Alan Wake is an action-adventure game developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Microsoft Studios, released for the Xbox 360 in May 2010, and Microsoft Windows in February 2012.

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Story
8
Gameplay
7
Presentation
8
Sound
8
8

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