A flashlight often spells vulnerability in horror games; it’s something to grasp desperately when the bullets run dry. In Alan Wake – Remedy’s 2010 very Stephen-King-inspired, Twilight Zone-meets-Resident-Evil-4 adventure – your torch is your trustiest weapon. Just don’t let its glow linger on this remaster’s freshly renovated scenery for too long, or you’ll risk getting spooked at just how sparse the improvements really are.
Alan Wake knows exactly what kind of game it is. It always has, and it’s that confidence that keeps it positive in the minds of so many. Alan Wake flaunts its influences — primarily David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and the works of Stephen King — so blatantly that Alan might as well be wearing a Carrie t-shirt and leaving recordings for his secretary, Diane.
If anything, it's now the game's cutscenes that let this remaster down, with their locked 30fps frame rate and lower resolution doing a disservice to the smooth, pin-sharp clarity of its moment to moment 60fps gameplay. Remedy and fellow collaborators D3T have clearly put a lot of effort into the remastered cutscenes, swapping out old character models for the new ones and fixing some of the lip syncing issues that plagued the original, but it's a shame they didn't go one step further and bring them up to the same standard as everything else. Admittedly, there were still a couple of moments when my PC groaned under the weight of it all at 4K - and that's with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 under its belt - but thankfully these moments of slowdown were few and far between, not to mention non-existent when I switched on DLSS or knocked the resolution down to 2560x1440.
The storytelling is a mixed bag. Whether you can see its stilted dialogue as a tribute to Lynchian uncanniness, or perhaps a wry wink at Alan’s own shortcomings as a writer, will depend on how generous you’re feeling to the writers at Remedy Entertainment. On the evidence of Max Payne’s indulgent noir navel-gazing and Control’s overwrought monologues, the studio is quite capable of both ironic and genuinely clumsy dialogue.
When you strip away all the frustrations with playing Alan Wake, it oozes with atmosphere. The way enemies slink out from behind trees is spine-tingling, even after I’ve seen it 20 times. The way the wind blows through the forest when you’re alone, even when nothing scary is happening, is reminiscent of reading a horror novel in your bed at night, when everyone else is sound asleep.
Alan Wake Remastered looks and feels much like the original PC release. While it makes sense to have a fresh, clean version of the game that everyone can enjoy in the run-up to whatever's next in the RCU, Alan Wake Remastered is a much more essential purchase for those playing on console than it is for us on PC.