A conniving darkness has engulfed the paradisiacal town of Bright Falls, and best-selling writer Alan Wake is caught at the epicentre.
In last year or so since the release of the generation nine consoles has seen many a game remastered in order to keep up: Crysis, Skyrim, Observer – but a new kid is now on the block, and we think many of you will be fond to remember him - Alan Wake. Coming on October the 5th to Xbox Series X|S and the PlayStation 5 and 4 pro is an enhanced edition of Remedy Entertainment’s gaming classic, it’s not the remaster we think we wanted, but it is the remaster we needed.
An introduction to Alan Wake
The original 2010-released Alan Wake title is a blast from the past for many seasoned gamers; critics and casuals alike were enamoured with the Xbox 360 game in the years following its release. Now that Alan Wake’s story is over a decade old, Remedy felt that it needed to be retold using the latest technology, yet they also recognise that there are some eminent boots to fill here – you can’t just slap a bit of 4K on Alan Wake and call it redux, that would be a disservice. Consequently, Remedy partnered with d3t, an upcoming remaster team adept at preserving the feel of a game while realising the heights of the modern gamer’s hopes and expectations – name me a better duo? Remaster or not, if you are a fan of Remedy’s work, like Control, you will know full well that these psychedelic, mind-bending titles are as addictive as they are masterful. If you haven’t been so lucky as to play Alan Wake before, this game is a psychological thriller with no shortage of action and survival sequences, a suspenseful, episodic, chapter by chapter inquiry into the fever dream Alan Wake has summoned. After all, Alan Wake is a crime-detective author – he wrote the book on investigation – literally!
'Now that Alan Wake’s story is over a decade old, Remedy felt that it needed to be retold using the latest technology.'
What is the game's context?
Have you ever woken up dazed, feeling like you have missed a week? Yeah, me too. But have you actually missed a week? Well, the best-selling author Alan Wake has – and it might be his last. Coming to in a totalled car, Alan’s writing retreat to idyllic Bright Falls did not go exactly as planned. It started off well: Wake surpassed his writer’s block as he wrote a horror story named Departure, using the town of Bright Falls as his fictional guinea pig, mutating it on paper from utopia to nightmare as part of his next book. In a turn of events, Wake eventually ends up blacked out, awakening only to find himself embroiled in a world that has taken on the contents of his page, a story that finds a heartbeat and infects its surroundings. Alan comes to realise (as he is stalked into the night) that the denizens of the tucked-away town have transformed, mutated into possessed beings known as The Taken, and his wife, Alice, is missing. This is no bad dream; this is really happening. Fighting to retain his life and his sanity of mind, the notion that the only rest Alan is to receive in Bright Falls is in a coffin looms over him.
Is there shooting in Alan Wake?
How do you go about battling possessed individuals? Wake is not exactly a trained marksman, but with a bit of practice he employs flashlight and revolver, at least at first, against the Take, but in time we gain more sophisticated and efficient weaponry You see, the Taken are a force of darkness; light denudes their defences and allows Wake to inflict damage straight to the heart, so the flashlight is perhaps his deadliest piece. During the day, Alan has a chance to explore and come to terms with what has happened, speaking to the apparently unbothered townspeople, but at night he has no choice but to grapple with and outrun (or shoot) his foes. Alan Wake is a psychological thriller, not a bolted-on shooter, yet taking out and slow-motion dodging the Taken is an enjoyable experience and takes nothing away from where the game really excels: narrative, visuals and atmosphere.
'You see, the Taken are a force of darkness; light denudes their defences and allows Wake to inflict damage.'
What is gameplay like?
In-game, we take control of the eponymous Alan Wake and his notoriously weak lungs as we deal with animals, humans and objects possessed by the darkness. If truth be told, the original title still holds up respectably well today despite its age, but the graphical quality of the remastered version is first-class; facial design is intricate, crisp and clean, while the world is now textured and authentic, moving and swaying as it does in reality – Alan Wake looks as though it was made anew for the generation nine consoles. In an environment innately foreboding, Bright Falls must be subtle in how disturbing it is, hence why an entire team was assigned to revamping the myriad elements of the world, trees and such. Encountering the world mostly on foot, Alan Wake is played in third person and features the occasional driving scene to mix things up a bit…and put those headlights to good use. Though third-person play is on occasion criticised for a precluding a full gaming experience, Wake’s gloomy narration keeps players in the loop of Alan’s thoughts whilst simultaneously reminding us we are not alone when engulfed in the alpine mist.
Are the graphics any good?
Get this: Alan Wake runs in 4K and 60FPS on the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5. How crazy is that? Alan Wake? It’s a vast improvement to the 2010 title, and comparison videos such as this one only assert the extent of this enhancement further. With integrated haptic feedback on controllers like the DualSense, and virtually zero loading times on either console, Alan Wake submerges you into the dreary, enigmatic world of Bright Falls with its superlative graphics; it’s a pleasure to play this game, though it is hard to know if we should be appreciating the gold-standard Twin Peaks-style cut scenes or responding to our thumping heartbeat by firing some bullets and getting the hell out of dodge.
Automatically unlocking both the Signal and the Writer DLC packages, totalling just under twenty hours of gameplay, Remedy have polished the dust off a game that feels as though it is a product of the flickering thoughts you conjure as you read a compelling book; that is how intense and raw Alan Wake is. Although the game has so far eluded a release on the Nintendo Switch, to that we would say never say never – it could come. Either way, in its remaster Remedy have done Alan Wake the justice it deserves, retelling the tale of Wake and Bright Falls with the technology of present day – it is superb.
Images sourced from Remedy.