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Alan Wake Remastered review

Alan Wake Remastered adds a shiny coat of paint to the beloved action-thriller

Alan Wake Remastered gameplay
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Epic Games Publishing)

Our Verdict

Alan Wake Remastered doesn’t overhaul the original foundations, but it does add welcome improvements to a game that has mostly stood the test of time.

For

  • Compelling story
  • Engaging gameplay
  • Runs better than ever
  • Includes both DLC expansions

Against

  • Wipes your items too often
  • Shows its age visually
Alan Wake Remastered review: Specs

Platforms: PS5/Xbox Series X/PS4/Xbox One/PC
Price: $30
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Genre: Action

Since its original release back in 2010, Alan Wake has become a video game cult classic. Now more than a decade later, the game has been re-released for modern systems in the form of Alan Wake Remastered. 

The clue is very much in the name here. Alan Wake Remastered takes the original game, packages it up with its two DLC expansions, and adds some very welcome performance and visual improvements.

This isn’t a full-scale remake. The game plays just as it did before, and even the added visual improvements cannot hide the fact that Alan Wake was originally released on the Xbox 360. 

However, great games stand the test of time, and that’s very much been the case with Alan Wake. The chance to re-experience — or enjoy for the first time — one of the finest games of its generation is a welcome one. Read on for our full review of Alan Wake Remastered.

Alan Wake Remastered review: Gameplay 

Alan Wake Remastered is a third-person action game, with some light survival horror elements. You're cast as the eponymous hero in a quest to discover the whereabouts of your missing wife. Along the way, you'll face off against a range of townsfolk, all of whom have been corrupted by a dark eldritch presence.

Alan Wake Remastered gameplay

(Image credit: Epic Games Publishing)

Using a one-two combination of your gun and flashlight, you must stop the darkness that has infected the citizens of the remote mountain town of Bright Fall, Washington. In essence, you shine your torch to weaken an enemy’s defenses enough to pump them full of lead.

This was an innovative combat system back in 2010, and even in 2021, it remains extremely satisfying. Halting a hulking enemy in their tracks with a powerful blast of light, popping off a few headshots, and watching your foe evaporate into a shower of shining particles never gets old. 

You also make use of additional items like flares and flashbangs which add some much-needed versatility to your arsenal. Choosing the right moment to burn a flare or unpin a powerful flashbang is essential in order to escape some of the game’s more bruising encounters. 

Speaking of challenging combat sections, even on normal, Alan Wake Remastered puts up a fight. It’s definitely not a brutally difficult game, but you’ll need to keep your wits about you. Enemies are aggressive and love spawning behind you for added fright factor.

Alan Wake Remastered gameplay

(Image credit: Epic Games Publishing)

Thankfully, well-placed checkpoints keep the game from ever becoming too frustrating. Although, in the final third part of the game, there are a few combat sections that run a tad long. The main campaign, however, runs a breezy eight hours in length, so there’s never really time for repetition to set in. 

One aspect that can occasionally cause irritation is how regularly the game strips you of all your items. Often you’ll finish a section, watch a cutscene and then begin the next segment with all your ammo and equipment taken away. This does help keep the tension high, as you never become overpowered, but it can be irksome to lose all your best tools after purposefully holding onto them. 

The enjoyable third-person gunplay is complemented by a couple of very simple puzzles, and some driving sections that didn’t control very well even in 2010. The passage of time hasn’t been very kind to them. Mercifully, these sections are brief and don’t drag the otherwise stellar pacing down. 

Alan Wake Remastered review: Story 

Story was where the original Alan Wake truly triumphed, and that’s still the case with this remastered edition. The game feels like a loving tribute to the works of Stephen King, with a healthy dash of television classic Twin Peaks thrown in for good measure. 

Alan Wake Remastered cutscene

(Image credit: Epic Games Publishing)

The central mystery that sees famous writer Alan Wake come to Bright Falls to escape his crippling writer's block — only to be thrust into a spooky adventure after his wife vanishes — is a compelling one. 

The game is split into five distinct chapters; each is framed like an episode of a television series. They start with a “previously on Alan Wake” recap and conclude with a tantalizing cliffhanger and title card. It’s all very reminiscent of binge-worthy TV hits such as Lost.

This format was novel upon the game’s original release, but the rise of online streaming since has made this structure all the more powerful. Playing Alan Wake Remastered feels like marathoning a popular Netflix show. When one episode ends you’ll be eager to instantly begin the next.

Alan Wake Remastered cutscene

(Image credit: Epic Games Publishing)

Back in 2010, Alan Wake received some criticism for its fairly unsatisfying final moments, but the inclusion of the game’s two DLC chapters “The Signal” and “The Writer” alleviates this issue in the remaster. These short episodes continue the core narrative and provide some enjoyable gameplay twists as well. Make sure you don’t skip them. 

The narrative still remains open-ended, but the two expansions go a long way in making Alan Wake Remastered feel like a complete story rather than a tale that lacks a proper conclusion.  

Alan Wake Remastered review: Visuals and sound 

Presented in glorious 4K resolution at 60 fps on PS5, Alan Wake Remastered is easily the best-looking and best-performing version of the game available. Combat feels smooth thanks to the framerate boost and the idyllic yet sinister town of Bright Falls has never looked better. 

Of course, because this is a remaster and not a remake of an 11-year-old game, it does look fairly dated in parts. However, Alan Wake Remastered is by no means ugly, and its coherent visual design has aged very gracefully. Though, you’re unlikely to be fooled into believing you’re playing a modern release.

Alan Wake Remastered visual of the town during cutscene

(Image credit: Epic Games Publishing)

It’s the animations that really let the presentation down. Wake himself moves with all the grace of a reversing tank, and he jumps like one too. His inability to hop over small fences and medium-sized boulders can make traversing the game’s usually very dark environments more difficult than necessary. 

Conversely, time has been rather kind to the game’s sound design. The soundtrack is extremely fitting with folk tunes and sinister strings setting the mood, plus the voice acting is stellar from basically the entire cast.

Alan Wake Remastered review: Verdict

Alan Wake Remastered offers both newcomers and veterans the chance to experience one of the finest games of the Xbox 360 era in its best-ever form. Furthermore, this re-release sees the game make its debut on PlayStation systems, which brings Alan Wake to a whole new audience. 

While developer Remedy Entertainment has since gone on to make more polished action games in the form of Quantum Break and Control, when it comes to narrative, atmosphere, and memorable characters, Alan Wake still ranks among the studio’s best efforts. 

Alan Wake Remastered is an easy recommendation for anyone who’s not experienced the joys of using a household flashlight to take down nightmarish enemies, and even those who have already played the game should still give serious thoughts to a return. Bright Falls is most certainly worth another haunting visit. 

Rory is a staff writer at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics including tech news, deals, gaming, streaming and more. When he’s not writing hot takes on the latest gaming hardware and streaming shows, he can be found watching a borderline unhealthy amount of movies and being thoroughly disappointed by his terrible football team.