During this, the spookiest month of the year, I've been enjoying my return to Bright Falls in Alan Wake Remastered.
Alan Wake has always felt like a cult classic, and while I think it's a game that many people remember fondly, it feels like a growing number are coming to appreciate it for the first time thanks to this re-release and the break-out success of Remedy's Control (which actually featured an Alan Wake crossover as part of its DLC).
I have always really enjoyed the premise of Alan Wake: a famous crime-thriller novelist takes a vacation to overcome writer's block, only to find the events of a horror novel he doesn't remember writing coming to life around him. If you like your mysteries served up with a healthy side of Americana, then this will be right up your street.
Bright Falls is a fun place to explore and, aside from its entertaining "Anytown, USA" feeling, it plays host to a number of likeable characters that add some personal stakes to the story, as you end up caring about the fate of the town. Imagine the town in Stardew Valley being assaulted by some dark supernatural phenomenon - you'd want to help put things right!
The game controls pretty much as I remember it controlling back in the original release, for better and for worse. I occasionally find myself wishing the camera was a little more centred on Alan, but it likes to keep him left-of-frame. Here's an example of where the camera tends to sit:
This makes for some cool cinematic-looking moments, but feels a little awkward as you move around, and especially during combat. You can rotate the camera at will, but it always feels a bit like you're fighting with the game as it quickly returns to whatever position it prefers.
As seems to be true for so many horror games, that clumsiness at least lends itself to heightened tension when combat does roll around. Using torches, flares, and flash bangs to burn away the shadowy defences of the Taken (spectral former citizens possessed by some malevolent force) before letting rip with a variety of decently satisfying weapons remains enjoyable in Alan Wake, even if it does become a little repetitive by game's end.
This version of the game looks great, but without sitting down to watch a direct comparison video, it's hard to know how much work has been done to improve on the original visuals. Alan Wake was always a great looking game, and I always thought it was a rare example of a horror game that did as great a job rendering day-time environments as it did spooky night-time scenes. With that in mind, this release of the game is definitely more of a polishing-up than a ground-up re-imagining. Nevertheless, Alan Wake Remastered provides crisp visuals and solid performance while matching my memory of the original's aesthetic, which is about as much as you could hope for with a remaster of this scope.
If you're into collecting stuff, Alan Wake has you covered, as there's an absurd amount to find:
- 100 flasks of (damn fine) coffee
- 91 manuscript pages
- 15 nightmare-mode-only manuscript pages
- 14 "Night Springs" TV shows
- 11 radio shows
- 25 readable signs
- 30 supply chests
- 12 can pyramids
I can't quite see myself going to the trouble of all that, but at least these add something extra to look for as you make your way around the forests, lakes, and cabins that surround Bright Falls. Some are definitely worth seeking out, though - particularly the Night Springs shows, which pay homage to The Twilight Zone, and the KBF-FM radio broadcasts. These feel inspired by Coast to Coast and add a tonne of atmosphere as you explore around in the dark. Have a listen:
I think these are pretty special, and a cool way for the game to reflect on what you've been up to, as the host and guests will often be discussing events related to Alan's escapades. If you're a fan of Twin Peaks, Stephen King, and horror in general, you'll get a lot out of the many references to be found scattered around.
Anyway, I think I'll leave this here. Alan Wake is great, and this seems like the best way to experience it either for the first time or the next time.