Remedy's iconic tale is back, but does it stand the test of time?
Eleven years ago, when Remedy released Alan Wake for the very first time on Xbox 360 and Windows PC, it generated a kind of collective hysteria. Drawing heavily from Stephen King's novels (the good ones, of course!) and the surreal and disturbing cinematic imagery that mixes the first movies by Cronenberg and Lynch, the psychological thriller game by the Finnish studio entered the hearts of many fans in the genre with a certain arrogance. The audience's requests for a direct sequel to that game have been in vain, despite two DLCs and one spin-off, Alan Wake's American Nightmare, which have expanded its narrative universe; yet, Remedy has never seemed in any way interested in continuing this project. At least, not directly, given that the studio has never wasted time disseminating their following games, starting with Quantum Break and Control (in the latter there is even a DLC, AWE, dedicated to Alan Wake's case followed by the Federal Bureau of Control), lots of Easter eggs and winks. In short, it's a one-shot game, to be consumed and fleshed out until exhaustion; but, is in fact, unique.
Remedy has long flirted with Alan Wake's fans, wanted to keep them on their toes. It's with a certain amount of gratitude, for the trust and affection shown in all these years, that the Nordic studio has decided to reward the players devoted to the legend of Alan Wake with a surprise announcement, last summer: Alan Wake Remastered. Thanks to Epic Games Publishing, the game - long exclusive to PC and Xbox players - is finally preparing to make itself known to a hitherto unprecedented audience, that of PlayStation consoles, but also to be (re)discovered by Microsoft and PC users with this new version. Here, in fact, Alan Wake doesn't just redo its makeup, but also it aims to rejuvenate some elements now dated to make it more attractive for the new generation of players, but also for the new generations of consoles. And the result, after having literally consumed it over the last weekend, is truly satisfying.
I will spend a few words on the plot, since it has remained the same since the 2010 game, but it serves to give context to those of you who don't yet know the story. Alan Wake is a famous New York author struck by "writer's block". To try to rediscover his lost inspiration, the man decides to take a vacation with his wife Alice in the small lakeside town of Bright Falls, in a delightful cottage on the islet of Cauldron Lake. What seems like a moment of leisure soon turns into a nightmare: after a quarrel between the two spouses, Alice disappears into thin air, swallowed by the waters of the lake, and Alan dives to save her. It's at that moment that the man wakes up in a crashed car, finding the page of his manuscript, entitled Departure, which he doesn't remember ever typing. From here he begins his tormented wanderings through Bright Falls in an attempt to save Alice, encountering frightening night creatures (The Fallen) and a dark presence that envelops the entire city, like a curse.
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Needless to say: narrative-wise, Alan Wake Remastered still manages to be stimulating and intriguing even after a decade. The rhythm is very balanced and well cadenced, and everything flows with great fluidity for all its chapters. Speaking of fluidity, just as happened for the PC version, Remedy has decided to keep the format of the QR Codes scattered within each chapter, with which it's possible to access the Visions of Alan, small live action Easter eggs that in the original game tended to dampen the rhythm of the story as they were inserted within the narrative structure. On the contrary, this transmedia solution allows the player to choose if and when to watch these videos which, although they are not useful for the purposes of the plot itself, allow you to delve deeper into the exquisitely surreal mood of the game and empathise with the twisted mind of Alan.
A tip for those who play Alan Wake for the first time: turn on the radios and TVs scattered around the game world, they give you a lot of additional lore and enrich the game world; not only that, there's also a funny sequence with Sam Lake himself, host of a late talk show together with Alan himself, to present his latest book. One of the tastiest moments among the proposed visions, believe me. Likewise, get lost in the world of Bright Falls to find the pages of Alan's manuscript - sometimes there are some interesting suggestions. We haven't told you anything.
Being a remaster, it goes without saying that one of the strengths of this version are the improvements made to the audio and visual sector of the game, although we cannot speak of something revolutionary. The game itself was quite state-of-the-art when it debuted in 2010. Here Remedy mainly intervened on the frame rate and resolution, which in the next-gen versions goes up to 4K and 60 FPS. The difference is quite clear compared to the old gen versions, also thanks to the fact that an excellent job has been done on what concerns the lighting. Bright Fall - illuminated by the moon and shrouded in darkness - takes on a mystical, disturbing mood, also thanks to an impeccable use of shadows. The game world appears more alive than ever, this also thanks to the updated textures, which give more details to the environments.
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The characters have also been markedly retouched to make them more modern and in step with the times, in addition to the fact that Remedy has also worked decisively on the cutscenes, working on facial animations and improved lip sync. We are not as happy with the in-game animations, which are a bit stiff if you put the camera in front of the characters busy talking. But net of this criticism, the remaster work is truly excellent and allows Alan Wake to stand the trial of time. In the version we played, the one for PlayStation 5, there's a good implementation in the use of DualSense, at least to give depth to the gaming experience. Too bad there was no support for adaptive triggers, which would have given the weapons greater realism, as well as the use of the speaker inside the controller to reproduce the audio of radio and TV broadcasts - but even in this case, it's a small criticism of a product that, on the whole, works very well. Speaking of the audio sector, also in this case the full potential of PS5 has been exploited, offering an enveloping and truly immersive sound experience. Uploads are almost instant too, and entering the scary world of Alan Wake is practically immediate.
Are we therefore satisfied with this next-gen return (and not only) of Alan Wake? Absolutely. Despite carrying an abundant decade on its shoulders, Remedy's game wins the test of time, offering an experience that is still incredibly modern and engaging, with that new generation touch that is enough to make it still modern. Replaying it 11 years after its debut has in no way affected its status as a masterpiece, on the contrary: it makes you want to have more and more. Who knows if this Alan Wake Remastered is a testing ground for Remedy itself to understand if the time is ripe to think about an Alan Wake 2, this time without excluding any player. In the meantime, let's settle for enjoying this horror pearl for previous and current generation consoles (and PCs), because it's totally worth it. PS: The farm sequence is still crazy!
9 / 10
It's still a masterpiece; it stands the test of time; Remedy has done a great job on the audio and visual sectors; playing in 4K / 60 fps on new-gen consoles is great; Finally on PlayStation consoles!
The in-game facial animations are a bit stiff; DualSense integration was not fully exploited.