CM – Alan Wake remastered review: a nice coat of paint on a decade-old classic

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Long before Jesse Faden and the people of Control lost their minds to sensitive refrigerators and rubber ducks, Alan Wake engaged in an unholy battle with obsessed wooden tractors and combines. In hindsight, it seems obvious that these two worlds would eventually collide in Remedy’s newly formed Wake-Iverse – such is their shared love for shadowy, flying objects – but little in the dark days of 2010, we didn’t know that Remedy’s tortured horror writer would make such a big comeback eleven years later.

Well, at least it’s over on consoles. While the original Alan Wake had a short, year-long vacation from Steam in 2017 due to the expiration of his music licenses, PC folks have been able to play Remedy’s cult classic more or less continuously since its release in 2012. Alan Wake Remastered, however, it’s the first time it’s ever come to PlayStation (it’s been an Xbox exclusive console all these years), and its revamped character models, higher frame rates, and 4K texture packs feel very much destined for PS4 and PS5 players whip up this old but new character in Jesse’s life faster than we do on PC. In fact, if there’s still a perfectly good version of Alan Wake sitting right on Steam for less than half the cost of this new remaster, it’s probably better to play the original than the money on this latest nip and wasting polygon tuck.

Or should the question arise, is it even worth going back to Alan Wake in the cold light of 2021? At the time, our Alec (RPS in Peace) was less than impressed with his third-person shoot and torch-based fight, and found his line of collectible coffee bottles just another incoherent distraction in his overwritten and slightly nonsensical plot. I have much better memories of Alan Wake, and yes, while the coffee bottles still serve no other purpose than to be a glitzy, shiny collectible to find in the all-consuming darkness, I see them more as a nod to his own Twin Peaksian setting than anything else. Besides that, as much as I enjoyed revisiting this handsome remaster of Alan Wake, the decade in between has done little for its overall subtlety. The game’s script, and heavy use of voice-over narration to fuel the central idea of ​​a book brought to life by Wake, are full ankle-biting clangs that you really have every one of these eleven years since its original release on Xbox Let 360 feel. Instead of letting his melting pot of horror tropes and inspiration breathe and simmer beneath the surface, Alan Wake keeps hitting you on the head, almost as if he’s afraid you won’t get the reference unless it’s explicitly for you spelled out.

In Alan Wake, for example, there is a moment at the beginning when an obsessed madman throws an ax through a wooden door, just like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. The camera angle and Alan’s frightened sucker are an exact reflection of the scene in the film, but instead of skilfully letting the moment sit in silence and giving the player space to perhaps reflect on the game’s own relationship between fiction and reality, Alan’s Motormouth- Just telling it doesn’t help. Without missing a beat, he babbles about how he should better call for help before old Stucky comes and fetches him « like Nicholson in The Shining ». Those awkward parts of the storytelling may be more forgivable, now we’re approaching Alan Wake as a museum piece rather than a modern release, but it can still be a little harrowing.

Thankfully, the game’s tense romp through the misty Washington pine forests remains just as nerve-wracking as it was all those years ago. This is a remaster that looks every bit as stunning as I remember it being, and while it’s a shame Alan Wake didn’t use Remastered HDR or ray tracing for Alan’s trusty torchlight, Remedy’s knack is at covering her margins with a deep sense of swirling fear saturate, right at the top with the horror sizes that negate the need for fancy lighting effects to do the heavy lifting. Its thick tree line sways and creaks in the dark, while the combination of thick, billowing fog and ominous sound design signals danger zones where the game’s possessed enemies, known as The Taken, lurk in the undergrowth. Daytime scenes look a little sharper under the glaring light of the sun, but they’re still welcome moments of relief for you to breathe easy again.

If anything, it’s now the game’s cutscenes that let this remaster down , with its locked frame rate of 30 fps and lower resolution doing the smooth, crisp clarity of 60 fps gameplay a disservice. Remedy and his colleagues at D3T obviously put a lot of effort into the remastered cutscenes, swapping out old character models for the new ones, and fixing some of the lip-sync issues that plagued the original, but it’s a shame they didn’t go a step further and bring it up them to the same standard as everything else. Granted, there were still a few moments where my PC groaned under the weight of it all at 4K – and that with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 behind it – but those moments of slowdown were thankfully rare, let alone – existed, when I switched on DLSS or reduced the resolution to 2560×1440.

Performance issues aside, I’m still impressed with how many miles Remedy can squeeze out of her simple torch ‘n’ gun loop. Alec might not have been particularly thrilled at the time, but for me the way Remedy naturally gets players to build their tool sets from scratch in each of the six chapters (and sometimes multiple times within those chapters) means just enough uncertainty to to help keep players busy.

To the uninitiated, Alan’s shadowy enemies cannot be harmed unless they are first burned by the power of his torch. Once the spell is broken, it’s time to attack them with your ever-changing arsenal, whether it’s a simple revolver, a pump-action shotgun, or a powerful hunting rifle. Occasionally, you’ll only have a flare gun or handful of flash grenades on hand, but these are just as deadly in their own way. At other times, all you have is a flashlight that forces you to take it to the nearest health-promoting lamppost where The Taken can’t reach you, and indulge in Remedy’s love of slow motion with a few well-timed evasive maneuvers on occasion. Sure, it might not add as much variety to the table as your Resident Evil Villages or Evil Withins, but I felt adequately challenged at all times on the Normal difficulty, and the balance between ammo and flashlight batteries was consistently rated well.

The only thing that got a little thin during my playthrough was that enemies always had a fairly predictable tendency to chase Alan from behind when they were in the woods. When playing on the gamepad, this meant that each encounter was accompanied by a rather tedious twist before the action could begin, but luckily the point-and-shoot mouse controls are much more responsive. In fact, I was surprised at how similar the kick from Alan’s guns felt to Control’s morphing service gun, which gives the gunplay a nice sense of continuity despite the decade between the two releases.

It’s not just forests and dark shadow battles, either. Alan Wake abducts the players with a satisfying zeal to new places, swaps his thickets and winding mountain paths for dripping mines, owns huts on the cliffs, maze gardens, dams and a particularly memorable sequence with a farm and a pyrotechnic show in Viking style. While the first half of the game may be a little too serious on the Stephen King and Twin Peaks source material, we head to the retro small town eatery, the police station, and the local trailer park before we get into the good stuff, the second half really lets down Get your hair down and silliness to make their mark on their unique mix of action and survival horror.

So yeah, given Alan Wake’s newly established role in Remedy’s Connected Universe, I’d say it’s worth making the trip back to Bright Falls to get a new understanding of this important piece of gaming history. Whether you do it with this shiny new remaster or the original Steam version is up to you. Personally, I’m not sure if this remaster has to pay twice as much for the same adventure. It would be a different story if ray tracing or HDR was involved, or if the original was limited to 30 fps like its Xbox 360 counterpart, but aside from the newly reworked character models, Alan Wake Remastered looks similar to the original PC version. While it makes sense to have a fresh, clean version of the game that everyone can enjoy in the run-up to the next RCU, Alan Wake Remastered is a far more important buy for those who play on the console than we do on the console PC.

Catherine Castle

Katharine is the editor-in-chief of RPS, which means she is to blame for all of this now. After joining the team in 2017, she spent a lot of time in the RPS hardware mines testing all parts of our PCs, but now she can also write about all the beautiful games we play on them. She’ll play pretty much anything she can get her hands on and is very partial to JRPGs and getting quests.

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