Gaming Horror

A Masterpiece: Reanimated? – Reviewing Alan Wake Remastered

While preparing to write about Alan Wake Remastered this past week since the game’s release, I came across an interesting take; the graphical jump and related improvements, while welcome, were not needed for a game that has aged well as well as Alan Wake has. Basically, Alan Wake Remastered has a difficult time justifying its existence, especially on PC and Xbox, where the original release has been available since its release eleven years ago. After playing the first three chapters of the remaster, I started to understand this position. Now that I’ve completed the game, I hold the same point of view.

Let’s not ignore that there are some definite positives. First and foremost is the sheer graphical fidelity. Even with the settings maxed out on PC, the texture work and lighting are visibly improved, even on my PS4 copy. The much-improved character models, in addition to looking more accurate to their face models, especially the title character, have significantly more points of articulation, which improve all the expressions tenfold. While I do miss the derpy-looking and unintentionally hilarious expressions, this is a change I can live with. The use of in-engine cutscenes is also very welcome, as it should future-proof the game as resolutions increase.

The stuttering ferry in the opening of the original release is now fixed in the remaster, making that several-minute sequence much more bearable. The option to turn off motion blur is a game-changer as well, as the annoying feature had to have a fan patch to remove and fix on PC. The rest of the changes are mostly minor, ranging from different posters on the walls of the opening’s nightmare cabin to the game’s three QR codes. The original release leads to the franchise’s Facebook page, but the remaster leads to new content. Youtube videos, filmed and edited like the director calls in developer Remedy’s last game, Control, tie Alan Wake to that game, even more, tightening the connection in preparation to both games’ announced sequels.

Despite all of these positives, there are two negatives that, while very nitpicky, bother me to no end. The first is the audio desyncing in the cutscenes, especially prevalent in the first ten-to-fifteen seconds of each before it syncs back up. It’s odd, but in the grand scheme of things, minor. The second problem is much more prevalent and annoying. The camera in the remaster annoyingly auto-locks to my player character’s left shoulder, and will often drift from his right to his left, especially when turning the camera to the left. Even though switching shoulders has a much smoother and slower transition in the remaster, the constant drift to the left shoulder is irritating and off-putting. Fortunately, both of these issues can be fixed in future patches.

The worst offender about this product is the “tiny” problem of missing an entire expansion: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. A remaster like this is the perfect time to dust off this hidden gem and repackage the whole franchise (the base game, the two DLCs, and the expansion) into one perfect package. The remaster excludes this, unfortunately. There is also the question of whether or not the game needed an update. The original release, despite those minor issues of lower resolution and occasionally stuttery moments, still looks really good and has aged exceptionally well, much like another third-person horror title that doesn’t need a remake *cough* Dead Space *cough*. The voice acting is still exceptional, and the storytelling convincing and immersive. The combat is still super tight. At its core, the remaster of Alan Wake is a lot like the PS4 release of The Last Of US Part I, largely unnecessary if the original is readily available.

Alan Wake Remastered has little that justifies the 32$ I spent on it. As much as I like finally owning a physical copy of one of my favorite games, the improvements are minor, and even though the future-proofing is hard to disagree with, it’s hard to recommend a purchase if the original game is already owned. The missing expansion is another ding against it as well, as it cuts out an important part of Alan’s story. Even so, Alan Wake is still the rock-solid game it has always been. If you do not own the game already, the remaster is the perfect time to purchase and play for the first time, especially for PlayStation owners. Here’s hoping it brings enough newcomers to fund that long-desired-for sequel.

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