Alan Wake Remastered Review: Does it recreate the magic of the original?

Remedy Entertainment's Alan Wake, which originally released in 2010, is one of the reasons I chose to pursue a career in writing. I might not be bashing out best-selling crime fiction, but Alan Wake is a fantastic blend of written and visual storytelling that helped fifteen-year-old me figure out what he wanted to do with himself.

It's hard to explain, given the fact that Alan Wake itself isn't inherently about writing or world-building - Alan has done all of that for you - but it's a game that really makes writing exciting.

It makes you believe that you can change the world with your words and the mixed-media approach that utilises live-action alongside animated cut-scenes and manuscript pages make Alan Wake feel more alive than ever. When Remedy Entertainment announced that Alan Wake Remastered was going to be released, it's safe to say I was thrilled.

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It is a game I remember fondly getting a visual overhaul - with 4K visuals, new character models and refined cutscenes - on the next generation of consoles. It's also a chance for the next generation of gamers - or those who missed out on Alan Wake the first time around - to experience Remedy Entertainment's incredible title. If you were worried about Alan Wake Remastered doing a disservice to the original release, don't. Thankfully, this release is as wonderfully mysterious and gripping as the original.

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Alan Wake Remastered feels like Alan Wake

Alan Wake Remastered, for all its technological improvements, still feels like Alan Wake - for better or worse. There are parts of Alan Wake Remastered that play exceptionally well - however, there are parts that just don't work. They didn't work very well in 2010 and they still don't work now.

The combat in Alan Wake remastered, for example, is something I enjoy immensely. I understand it might not be for everyone, but the aggressive "over the shoulder" camera perspective lends itself well to the situation at hand. Alan Wake has to defeat the Darkness with light and he almost always has a flashlight to hand. This isn't just a weapon in Alan Wake Remastered though - It also acts as a crosshair for combat. Wherever you want Alan Wake to look, the dim torchlight follows.

Alan Wake Remastered
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POINT AND SHINE - Your torch is a life-saver in Bright Falls

This makes your fight against the Taken, those who have been consumed by the Darkness, very exciting. They come at you from all angles and you are always on your toes in a fight. Alan Wake isn't the most athletic protagonist - he's a writer, not an Olympian - so you need to pick and choose when you dodge and when you run.

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He doesn't have the stamina to outrun his opponents for long; if you need to reload or let your torch battery recharge, you need to time your escape perfectly.

On the flip side, Alan Wake Remastered does little to address the issues with Alan Wake's gameplay - mainly, the driving mechanics and jumping.

Driving isn't a major part of Alan Wake, but there's still a lot more driving in Alan Wake than I remember. It's forgettable and it plays poorly. The areas you drive through in Alan Wake Remastered aren't open-ended, however, they are quite a bit bigger than your average Alan Wake environment. This means you can spend quite a bit of time in them, comparatively speaking, if you want. The only issue is, you don't really want to.

Alan Wake Remastered's selection of vehicles all feel the same to drive - they don't feel like they have any traction, steering is sluggish and susceptible to oversteering issues, and they're all just so slow. These sections feel like a chore to play and navigate, taking away from an otherwise largely wonderful experience.

Alan Wake Remastered
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DRIVING - We suppose Alan Wake is a writer, not a driver...

In addition to this, Alan Wake's jumping is still an issue in Alan Wake Remastered. Much like the previously-discussed driving, there are sections of Alan Wake that rely heavily on this mechanic - even more so in the additional DLC content.

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If there are any "clambering" animations in Alan Wake Remastered, I didn't find them. Every time I had to jump over something, or onto something, it felt like a struggle. With enough spamming of the "jump button", Alan Wake would eventually make the jump. However, this is never as easy as it looks and it's one part of Alan Wake Remastered that remains as frustrating as in the 2010 release.

Thankfully, there's a lot of good that comes with the bad in Alan Wake Remastered.

The narrative and world-building is unrivalled

Alan Wake Remastered might feel a little dated, but it's all about the storytelling and world-building in play. It draws on David Lynch's Twin Peaks, Stephen King's brand of supernatural horror, and the mysteries of The Twilight Zone to create a gripping narrative that keeps you invested from the moment you pick up the controller to well after you have finished playing.

I'm not going to delve into the specifics, in an effort to avoid heavy spoilers, but Alan Wake Remastered is about a writer who learns that what he's written - while under the influence of the Darkness - is affecting the world around him.

There are several moments in Alan Wake where you find a Manuscript Page detailing a part of the upcoming narrative - in a sense, you spoil it for yourself. However, this only pulls you into the narrative further. You find yourself asking a lot of the questions Alan Wake himself does and you feel connected to him as a protagonist. He's as confused as you are - the fate of Bright Falls is in your hands, but you don't even know if you're going to be able to save everyone in time.

The story has been written and the ink has dried - everything Alan Wake does is scripted, but entirely against fate. It's a narrative experience like no other.

One thing that makes Remedy Entertainment's Alan Wake Remastered so special is how it uses live-action cutscenes to bring the world to life. Whether this is a cardboard standee of Alan Wake promoting his new book, an episode of the fictitious show Night Springs, or flashes of Alan Wake losing his sanity - they all help bring Alan Wake to life in a way few other titles do.

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Alan Wake Remastered
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LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS - Alan Wake Remastered isn't perfect, but that doesn't mean it's bad

Unfortunately, Alan Wake's real-world branding has been replaced in Alan Wake Remastered - there are no more Verizon billboards in Night Springs. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, but it was another factor of the original release that helped breathe life into Alan Wake.

You recognised the brands and felt even more at home in the world it was creating. Thankfully, though, this omission doesn't really harm the immersion enough to be a concern. You're often too busy trying not to die to focus on what brand the batteries are.

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Remastered cutscenes are Alan Wake's biggest issue

Alan Wake Remastered features new character models and refreshed cutscenes to match the graphical improvements in-game. For the most part, they're all excellent.

Matthew Poretta's performance as Alan Wake is second to none, really, and Fred Berman as Alan's trusty best friend-slash-manager Barry Wheeler is a delight. Hearing Poretta narrating the mysterious Manuscript Pages with such perfected cadence is enough of a reason to pick up Alan Wake Remastered - however, the cutscenes are where Alan Wake Remastered stumbles and it's painful.

For some reason, the cutscenes rendered throughout Alan Wake Remastered are played at a much lower FPS than the rest of the game. The difference is so noticeable that I thought it was a buffering issue at first on PS5, and it could be.

Either way, it happens during every cutscene in Alan Wake Remastered. After a few cutscenes, you get used to the lower FPS and it isn't as much of an issue, but it was a little bit of a distraction in the opening sequences of the game - which is a shame given the exciting narrative unfolding before your eyes.

The live-action sections of the game don't suffer from this issue though, and you can see an example of one below.

It's also these moments that allow you to appreciate the updated character models for Alan Wake and the Remastered cast of characters. They are a lot better than the originals, but it took a little while to get used to Alan Wake's new face - he looks a lot more like the live-action facial model, Ilkka Villi, now.

It reminded me of the controversy around Insomniac Games' remastered Peter Parker in Spider-Man. Alan Wake Remastered's Alan Wake is better, you just have to learn to let go of what you remember.

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Verdict

Alan Wake Remastered does little to remedy the flaws of the original release and there are some cutscene stuttering issues that harm an otherwise polished experience. Bright Falls has never looked better and felt as terrifying in this faithful remaster that offers an iconic narrative experience a fresh lick of paint for the next generation of consoles - and players.

Playing Alan Wake again was like stepping back in time - I really can't imagine there's another remaster out there that would keep me as hooked - and bring up the same emotions - as Alan Wake Remastered. If you've played it before, play it again. If you haven't played it yet, I envy you. This is a game everyone should play.

RealSport Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Alan Wake Remastered was reviewed on PS5 with a code provided by Remedy.