Alan Wake Remastered Review: Still A Masterpiece (XSX)

Alan Wake Remastered introduces a surreal and atmospheric story to a new generation, and provides a nostalgic retelling for veteran fans. Find out if the survival horror gameplay is still fun, and if the enhanced visuals are worth the price tag in this review.

Alan Wake Remastered Review Still A Masterpiece Xbox Series X cover

Alan Wake Remastered is basically the same game Microsoft published on the Xbox 360 back in 2010. It’s quite an achievement then that eleven years (and two console generations) later, the horror-lite title remains one of the best story-driven experiences available in video games.

The gloomy fog contrasted with bright lights is instantly recognizable to veteran fans. Except this time they are treated to 4K textures and 60FPS gameplay. For curious newcomers, the updated visuals and packaged-in DLC episodes make this remaster the definitive go-to experience to start Alan’s journey in Bright Falls.

Alan Wake Remastered is available now for the Epic Games Store, PS4/PS5, and Xbox One/Xbox Series X|S for your regional pricing.

Alan Wake Remastered - Launch Trailer

Story – In Dreams

The story of Alan Wake plays out like an elongated Twilight Zone episode, with the nuance and characterization of a Stephen King novel. AKA, it’s weird. This is played for laughs at points, but is mostly treated with respect and an understanding of what makes a good story. The dream-like atmosphere developer Remedy wraps the whole experience in is established at the very beginning, in an actual dream of Alan’s. It does a good job in setting up the disjointed way the story develops.

The opening then introduces us to Bright Falls, a small town in Washington that Alan and his wife, Alice, have come to on vacation. Alan’s got a serious case of writer’s block, and Alice thinks the unassuming town can help him overcome it. Not long after they get settled in their cabin, Alice goes missing, and Alan loses his memory. Trying to get Alice back is the central goal of the game. As a result she isn’t given much characterization past ‘is Alan’s wife’. This is disappointing in a game that otherwise does a stellar job with its supporting roles.

The stand-out of these being Barry Wheeler, Alan’s best friend and agent. He provides most of the comic relief. Although he might come across as annoying to some, he has a certain charm that I find endearing. The spot-on delivery of voice actor Fred Burman is a big reason why Barry works.

Writing has never looked so creepy.

Writing has never looked so creepy.

As good as Barry is, the main reason the title’s story is still one the best about is its approach to Alan’s occupation as a writer, and its commentary on artistic creativity. Even better is the unpretentious way this is handled. Alan may have monologues musing on how a story feels out of his control, and there are some obvious metaphors about editing and such—but it all comes with a sustained creepy atmosphere, and borderline B-Movie dialogue.

Although inspired by David Lynch projects like Twin Peaks, the game is far more accessible to casual horror fans and gamers. While certain plot points are left open to interpretation, they don’t feel like you need to have studied dream interpretation to explore their meaning. In the game, an episode of the fictional show Night Springs (a blatant Twilight Zone homage) states “it’s a fine line between the stupid and the sublime”. Alan Wake walks this line with finesse.

Barry being Barry.

Barry being Barry.

The only niggling issue I have with the story is how long it takes for anything significant to happen. Alan basically has the same objective to work towards in Episodes 2 and 3. The second episode could have been cut completely with little consequence. If it wasn’t for the impeccable dark atmosphere and fun survival horror gameplay, the first half would be pretty boring.

Gameplay – Up Jumped The Devil

In his search for Alice, Alan must battle the Taken. Dark entities that have ‘taken’ over the residents of Bright Falls. The third-person shooter requires players to lower their shields with a light source, like a flashlight or flare, before finishing them off with a firearm. Although it is a shooter, you won’t find cover to hide behind or ammo drops from dead enemies. It’s a survival horror title first, and a shooter second. Meaning resource management is important. This has the ability to create some tense situations that had me reaching for a life-saving flare gun more than once.

Combat is fun, but repetitive in Alan Wake.

Combat is fun, but repetitive in Alan Wake.

However, if you have a tendency to scrub an area for resources, the combat won’t prove too challenging. There are just too many places to stock up on supplies to make it a consistently tense horror experience. Instead, it’s a somewhat repetitive dance of easily lowering shields and killing an enemy, before moving on to a new area to do the jig again. It does help that Alan is (rather conveniently) stripped of his weapons at the start of each episode. This resets the tension for a while, but soon returns to the predictable rhythm once a gun has been found. The gameplay is in no way bad because of this, it just doesn’t offer much variety. 

There are also a few issues with the general gameplay. The biggest being the delay between pressing a button, and Alan doing the action. Most of my deaths came from when I needed to quickly deploy a flare, or stop using one of the floodlights found during important set pieces. The delay resulted in dying because I couldn’t get a flare out in time, or I got stuck in a loop of disengaging with a floodlight, only to hold it again while enemies attacked me from behind. There are also some pretty unnecessary traversal moments where Alan has possessed objects flying at him. You can either run, or use a light source to get rid of them. I feel these moments were included to try and add some variety to the repetitive combat, but they just ended up being annoying.

A tense combat situation.

A tense combat situation.

Then there are the plethora of collectibles to be found throughout the main game and 2 DLC episodes: Coffee Thermoses, Radios, Pyramid Cans, Signs, and a lot more. The best of these is the Manuscript Pages for Alan’s latest novel ‘Departure’. Each page is found out of order, and offers a glimpse into the future of the story, expanding on characters’ thoughts and feelings. It was always fun to come across a page. My time in Bright Falls wouldn’t be the same without them, Pat Maine’s local radio show, and stopping to watch every episode of Night Springs.

Graphics & Audio – The Poet and the Muse

The main appeal of buying the remaster over the original (and cheaper) copy of Alan Wake is definitely the visual enhancements. Although the graphical jump isn’t a drastic upgrade for PC players, for console owners, it’s a huge improvement. The foggy woods and quaint streets of Bright Falls are now illuminated by dynamic lighting, boast 4K visuals, and the game now runs at 60FPS. It’s a beautiful upgrade that eliminates the blurriness of the 360 version, bringing the town to life.

However, the changes to character models are a little jarring at times. They definitely have the same amount of polish as the rest of the visual improvements, but they do stray from their original look. I personally liked the improvements to Alan and Alice’s models, but Barry somehow manages to look just a tad terrifying. There’s also some odd stuttering that appears during cutscenes. This occurs because the scenes are running at 30FPS. Contrasted with 60FPS gameplay, it makes them seem clunky and out of sync. It’s a little disappointing, as key story moments are often portrayed in cutscenes. 

The original score by Petri Alanko is a fine accompaniment to the spooky atmosphere. Even better is the original and licensed music. Poets of the Fall feature alongside their fictional counterparts, The Old Gods of Asgard. One famous fight in Episode 4 features their song “Children of The Elder God”. New players won’t be forgetting this fun moment anytime soon.

Bonus Features – A Writer’s Dream

The big addition is the two DLC episodes that expand the story. Both lean heavily into a dreamlike setting and atmosphere. They actually do a great job of providing some gameplay variation that the main game lacks. Expanding on this, players can find QR codes that link to Control-esque videos of tantalizing new Alan monologues when scanned.

My favorite bonus feature in the remaster is lead writer Sam Lake’s new audio commentary track. As you make your way through Bright Falls, Lake provides insight into how he constructed the story, and his interpretation of events. There’s also a technical audio track that was included in the PC release, that can now be enjoyed on consoles as well. These audio tracks make collectible hunting a little less tedious, and encourage replayability.

Alan Wake Remastered was reviewed on Xbox Series X.

Summary
Alan Wake Remastered is the definitive version of Alan's story in Bright Falls. It is the exact same game that acquired quiet respect amongst fans and critics following its 2010 release. Only now it boasts 4K visuals and 60FPS gameplay. Along with some welcome bonus features, and packaged-in DLC, the remaster is a must for superfans, and a fantastic starting point for curious newcomers, with only a few small annoyances that stop it just short of reaching perfection.
Good
  • Still one of the best told stories in video games.
  • Fun survival horror-lite gameplay.
  • Great wordbuilding with some memorable collectibles.
  • Updated visuals are a vast improvement from the original console version.
  • Interesting bonus features.
Bad
  • Takes a long time for anything significant to occur in the story.
  • Cutscenes only run at 30FPS which look odd next to 60FPS gameplay.
9
Amazing

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