I love the original Alan Wake. For me it's one of the best games of the Xbox 360 era and lifted Remedy Entertainment out of Max Payne's shadow. Yes, it was hammy, with some real clunky lines spoken by "I am a writer" Alan Wake, and yes, the name is right on the nose, but it's a game brimming with atmosphere and top notch gameplay mechanics. I hope this Remaster gives people another chance to see the game how I see it, as it deserves to be remembered: in high regard.
As a remaster and not a remake, if you go into the game having not seen the original for over a decade it's easy to think not much has changed. Things look as I remembered them, although my brain knows the Xbox 360 game didn't render at such a high resolution - I'm playing on Xbox Series X.
Look closer and compare to the original, though, and there are clear improvements, most notably in character models, objects, and textures. Things are more detailed, less angular, and sporting far more detail. Alan Wake Remastered doesn't look like a game developed from the ground up for release in 2021, but it still looks impressive and more than pulls off its slightly kooky TV show vibe.
It's not exactly Twin Peaks, but neither is it the X-Files, mostly feeling like a massively extended episode of The Outer Limits. Something strange is going on in Bright Falls, and Alan is at the centre of it - just now with a more detailed coat and a better face.
Still intact is the core light and weapon combat system. Enemies are weakened by light, and I never get tired of blasting a foe with Alan's torch then dispatching them with a shotgun, accompanied by a hit of slow motion. As game mechanics go, it just feels great and makes combat a real highlight.
There are clear signs that Alan Wake is approaching its teenage years, most notably in the way characters behave outside of cutscenes, sort of awkwardly hanging about like mannequins. In my head this is for some reason linked to how NPCs behaved in PC games of the Half-Life 2 era, and Alan's wife, Alice, on the ferry at the start of the game is a perfect example of it in action.
Although I am a fan of the so bad it's good writing, some lines do cross over into the "it's just bad" category, and there are some bizarre character interactions that at best could be called bad soap opera acting. It's part of what Alan Wake is, so I'm glad these weren't tidied up, but I expect a full sequel, if it happens, will be a lot slicker.
Something else I'm glad remains intact here is the end of chapter songs, followed by the "Previously on" montages. Alan Wake wasn't an episodic game, but this structure really played into the vibe the game was going for. The licenced music gave the whole game added credibility and the tracks always tied off each chapter nicely.
If you're wondering, the two DLCs for the original game, The Signal and The Writer, are included, and both are worth playing. Not included is the standalone spin-off, American Nightmare, which is a shame, but it was its own, more action-oriented thing so not a huge surprise.
Alan Wake was and still is an occasionally bizarre action horror game, with some lovely set-pieces, fun combat, and what I hope is a slightly tongue-in-cheek sense of self-importance. I think it stands up remarkably well 11 years after its original release and this Remaster is the best way to experience what I consider to be a modern classic.
Disclaimer: Tested on Xbox Series X, with a copy of the game provided by the publisher. Also available on Xbox One, Xbox Series S, PS4, PS5, and PC.