Alan Wake Remastered (PS5) Game Review – An excellent upgrade of an already superior horror title

An excellent upgrade of an already superior horror title

Survival horror game Alan Wake was originally released on the Xbox 360 in 2010 and it garnered a lot of praise due to its impressive visuals, creepy atmosphere, and haunting storyline that could have come straight from the pages of a Stephen King novel.

It’s no surprise that the game’s plotting does resemble the fiction of the esteemed horror author as the developers at Remedy Entertainment said they used King as a reference during the making of the game. This is evidenced by the lead protagonist, Alan Wake, who is a horror novelist suffering from writer’s block.

Many of King’s books have centred around similar struggling authors, including Misery, with a bed-bound Paul Sheldon held captive by fruitcake of a nurse Annie Wilkes, and The Shining, which saw the gradual unravelling of writer Jack Torrance during a stay in a haunted hotel. Alan Wake is a classic King character then, albeit one who has been created by a storyteller with a love of the author’s work rather than the master of horror himself.

There are other similarities to King’s works in the game, including a bulldozer that develops a mind of its own (which brings to mind the malevolent vehicles in Christine and Maximum Overdrive), and a madman trying to break down a door with an axe (The Shining is the obvious reference here).

Fans of Stephen King relished the game back in the day for these less-than-subtle nods to his works, as did survival horror fans in general, due to the tense atmosphere that permeates throughout the game, and the mysterious surroundings of the town of Bright Falls that are fun to explore, despite the possibility of death at any moment.

But that was then and this is now. Does the remastered version of Alan Wake still hold up as a decent game?

The answer is yes, although it might be of more interest to people who have never played the game than those that have, as it’s still the same title at heart. That being said, it does come with DLC that lovers of the first game may have missed out on originally, so there’s at least one reason to return to the nightmarish world of Alan Wake if you’re wondering about its replay value.

On the PS5, the game looks stunning at times, with a pin-sharp 4K resolution that really makes the game stand out, especially during the scenes set in daylight which feature beautiful mountainous backgrounds and other scenes of beauty scattered in and around the game’s fictional town. The game looks good at nighttime too thanks to the excellent lighting effects that cast shadows over Alan’s surroundings, and the cloud of fog that is hauntingly beautiful when Alan casts torchlight upon it.

Character models have a lot more detail thanks to the increased resolution although facial animations aren’t quite up to par with current-gen standards and movement is sometimes a little stiff. As such, it is clear that this is a remaster and not a complete remake, but when you get wrapped up in the game’s story and terrifying set-pieces, you won’t have time to notice the game’s occasional flaws.

Elsewhere, the game is the same as it always was, with Alan traipsing through tall forests, logging camps, dry creeks, and a variety of other locations in search of answers about his missing wife. Clues can be picked up in-story from some of the game’s characters but a lot of information is kept hidden unless you make the effort to pick up the manuscript pages that are scattered throughout the different areas in the game.

You can also pick up useful info when listening to the game’s radios or watching the Twilight Zone-like TV show that can be viewed on television screens within some indoor environments.

Structurally, the game is made up of episodes, with cliffhangers at the end of each one and recaps at the beginning of each new instalment. The breaks between episodes are sometimes welcome as they provide breathing space between segments that are tense and stressful to play through. They can also remind us to put down the joypad for a moment as we might be too engrossed in the game otherwise to remember to take a break.

The game’s location of Bright Falls is interesting enough although the forest areas are sometimes confusing to traverse. The objective marker comes in useful during moments when you might get lost although it tends to give you a general idea of where to go next rather than a direct route to your next destination.

This isn’t a big issue, however, as the game actively encourages you to explore away from the beaten path, as ammo for the game’s weapons and batteries for Alan’s torch are often hidden away in dark corners of the game’s environments.

When it comes to ammo and batteries, it’s wise to conserve as much as you can. They are sometimes in short supply, so if you accidentally waste them, certain segments of the game may be difficult to play through. This is because Alan’s enemies, which are humans that have been possessed by darkness, are often high in number, so can be difficult to overcome without the relevant resources.

If you haven’t played the game, you probably aren’t aware that your torch is useful for more than just your explorations around the game’s dark environs. You actively need to point your torch at the enemies as this is your only way to cast out their darkness and weaken them. When weakened, these enemies can be disposed of pretty quickly, so a steady supply of batteries is always useful.

If you don’t weaken them with your torchlight, you will waste a lot more ammo, and as I suggested, that could make life very hard for you if you run out of flares or bullets.

Enemy encounters are rarely easy so you need to be prepared for a challenge. Some of your foes come at you with shovels while others stand at a distance throwing hatchets in your direction. During the early moments in the game when there are only 2 or 3 enemies to take down at a time, combat can be easily managed. But when there are a lot more enemies than that attacking you, you will need as many resources as you can to save yourself from being pummelled to death.

You don’t always have to shoot at enemies, however. It’s possible to lure them towards cliffs and other steep points where you can dodge at just the right moment to make them stumble ahead and fall to their doom. You can also run away, but this is sometimes ineffective during scenes when there are a lot of enemies chasing you, as Alan’s low amount of stamina means you will soon run out of breath and become outnumbered.

As mentioned, it is possible to dodge attacks, and the game slows down with a cinematic effect when you manage to do this successfully. But again, if there are a lot of enemies attacking you at once, dodging becomes a bit hit-and-miss (literally) as if one enemy doesn’t whack you over the head with a shovel, another might still hit you with their fist or a flying hatchet.

There are moments when the game becomes very frustrating as a consequence, although your experience might be less difficult if you play on the appropriately named ‘easy’ mode.

Alan Wake was already a good game when it was released a decade or so ago and it’s even better now thanks to the upscaled visuals and improved frame rate. As a sequel is on the way, this might be worth another playthrough, even if you have played it before, as a reminder of the game’s story may be useful if it ties into Alan Wake 2.

If you haven’t played the game, I thoroughly recommend that you do so. With a captivating story and a tense survival experience, this should be more than satisfying, especially if you’re a fan of other third-person horror titles, such as The Evil Within and Silent Hill

Alan Wake is not a perfect game, even with the changes that have been made, but it’s still a superior title that still looks and plays well today.

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10

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