Alan Wake Remastered (PS5) Review

A few generations ago, my choice of console was the Xbox 360 – mainly due to the exclusives – yet I was never really a fan of stealth, horror, or spooky games, so I never had any interest in trying out Alan Wake when it originally launched back in 2010. Since then, I’ve heard a lot of great things about the title, seen all the requests and demands for a sequel, and I’ve even played the AWE DLC for Control – yet I still never went back to see what all the fuss was about. Well, not until last week when I had the chance to play Alan Wake Remastered on the PlayStation 5 all the way through, including the two DLC expansions.

Alan Wake launched as an Xbox 360 exclusive back in 2010, Remedy wanted the game to launch on both Xbox and PC but Microsoft cancelled the latter due to presuming you’d only enjoy the game and it’s atmosphere if playing from a couch, rather than a PC monitor on a desk. After two years of pushing by the developers, the game finally came to PC thanks to Nitro Games, just in time for the spin-off, American Nightmare, which launched a few days later on Xbox and on PC in the following months.

The IP was owned by Microsoft and remained dormant up until 2019, when Remedy were finally able to acquire it. Thus, with the backing of Epic Games and support from d3t Ltd, Remedy have released the long-awaited Alan Wake Remaster, not only on Xbox and PC platforms, but on Sony’s PlayStation for the first time!

The question is, does it hold up today and is it as good as people make it out to be? Let’s find out…

Alan Wake Remastered 1

What a warm welcome…

Alan Wake is a supernatural horror game staring the titular protagonist, a bestselling crime novelist who has been suffering from writer’s block for the last two years. As such, he and his wife, Alice, plan a trip to Bright Falls at the recommendation of his friend and agent, Barry. Before even stepping foot upon this isolated island, Alan is haunted by a disturbing dream filled with ghostly apparitions which can only be defeated by using lights to make them solid then finishing the job with a trusty firearm.

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Clearly a nightmare isn’t anything to worry about, it may be disturbing and quite frightening, but it’s not like it’s real… right?!

Not long into their trip, things tragically take a turn for the worst – an incident occurs at the cabin, Alice goes missing, and Alan blacks out for a whole week, awakening at the wheel of his car having driven off the road at some point. He makes an attempt to reach the nearby gas station when he realises, the evil, shadowy figures of his dreams are real and they’re not friendly…

Not only are you now on a mission to find your wife, but you must also fend off these mysterious ghost-like spirits, possessed townsfolk and vehicles, and collect the pages from a manuscript you don’t recall writing yet seem to describe future events. This is gonna be one hell of a holiday, one you’re bound to remember for the rest of your life…

Alan Wake Remastered 2

Burn!

Gameplay
Alan Wake Remastered is a third-person action game with mild horror jump scares and a gripping thriller narrative throughout. It’s presented as a TV show, with each chapter resembling an episode – complete with a song break between chapters and a “previously, on Alan Wake” catch-up at the start of each one. Supposedly, the developers wanted the game to be episodic but Microsoft demanded it launched as a complete package to avoid a drop in sales with each release.

For the majority of your short-term break, you’ll find yourself equipped with a torch and a selection of guns which you can swap between at will. As advised above, you can’t injure the ghostly enemies by simply shooting them, you must either shine your torch on them until they harden or lure them into the beam of a spotlight. Once they’re physical, unleash hell with a revolver, rifle, or shotgun, sending them back to where they came from.

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Alternatively, you can quickly make them stiff by lighting a flare, cause them to explode with a flashbang, or insta-kill them with the flare gun. If you really want to get creative, find a car, crank up the headlights, and turn them into roadkill!

Alan Wake Remastered 3

Ah shit, here we go again! (DLC)

Please sir, may I have some more?
Just like the original PC release, Alan Wake Remastered includes the base game and the two additional expansions. Both of these are a continuation of the main story, delving deeper into the events which happened following the rather unsatisfying ending – I can see why people have been asking for a sequel since it’s release. 

Each chapter will take around 1-2 hours depending on if you’re rushing through them or looking for all the collectables, with a requirement to complete both of them fast and without dying in order to grab a few tricky trophies. Thankfully, for trophy hunters out there, the developers have kept the DLC trophies as ‘DLC’ and not made them a requirement for the platinum.

These two chapters were initially created as a bridge to tie the first game with the planned sequel. However, seeing as the sequel never made any progress (although Epic Games are clearly funding it now), these two short additional experiences create more questions and confusion rather than bringing the main narrative to a conclusive finale.

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Alan Wake Remastered 4

I love the atmosphere!

Spooky?
The atmosphere within Alan Wake Remastered is incredible, it perfectly immerses you within the world and makes you fear the unknown dangers which could be hiding around every corner and within every bush. You hear random noises as you wander around in the dimly-lit woodlands, a short warning before the ghostly figures manifest all around you with weapons raised and no mercy in their life-less eyes. Do you stand and fight, fire a valuable flare, duck and dodge the melee attacks, or make a run for the nearest light source?

The game brilliantly builds tension and suspense, not only whilst walking around in darkness, but also when you find yourself in seemingly safe and well-lit locations – it likes to catch you when you let your guard down. The further into the game you get, the more you’ll uncover about the truth behind the cabin and lake within Bright Falls, why these spirits exist, and how you’re linked to the events that are taking place.

It’s not only the ghosts you have to worry about, vehicles can be possessed as they drive towards you or try to bulldoze you down, and even inanimate objects, such as gates and barrels, often get flung in your general direction as they aim to ‘boop’ your head into next week! Personally, I hated these IFOs (Identified Flying Objects), as my reflexes aren’t what they used to be, so Alan just stood there and took it like a man – i.e. died very quickly whenever the combat became a deadly game of Dodgeball…

Alan Wake Remastered 5+1

Each chapter has an Activity Card.

PS5 impressions
I had a flawless experience playing Alan Wake Remastered at 60fps in 4K (1440p with temporal upscaling to 2160p). I never felt any drop in the framerate other than the cutscenes, which felt like they were running at 30fps and a lower resolution. Sure, the assets and textures within the cinematics have all been upgraded over the original PC release (which is what this remaster is based upon), but it’s a shame they aren’t as smooth as the actual gameplay.

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Pretty much every cutscene appears to be a pre-rendered or cinematic in-engine event, rather than real-time animations. That’s probably why it’s limited to 30fps and why the lighting and atmospheric effects look very different, making the switch between cutscene and gameplay quite obvious at times.

Alan Wake Remastered makes use of the Activity cards, giving you one for each chapter as you progress within the story – this lets you jump straight into the one you wish to play from the dashboard but you don’t save any time as you still have to sit through the game’s title cards! Sadly, despite having a lot of collectables, such as 100 thermoses, over 100 manuscript pages, alarm clocks, and radio broadcasts (to name a few), the trophies for these don’t use the tally ability, meaning you have to look in the statistics page to see how many you have left to find.

I believe the game also utilises the DualSense controller, but mine has been with Sony for over a month. I’m having to remote in with my PS4 Pro so I can use my DS4 to play PS5 games (come on Sony, give us native DS4 support). As such, I’ll update this review on Friday once I have my replacement controller and have had time to test it out fully with the game.

Alan Wake Remastered 6

Unlock the soundtrack as you play.

Additional Features?
Just like the original PC release, as you progress within the game you unlock the full soundtrack – including some licensed songs (which is why the game was pulled form digital storefronts a few years back, before returning). You can also watch all the cinematics you’ve seen, read all the manuscripts you’ve found, and listen to all the radio broadcasts you’ve interacted with, all from the main menu.

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Another returning feature is one the PC version had but the Xbox 360 didn’t – QR codes. Originally, scanning these three codes took you to the Facebook page, a gif, and a hidden message. Now, scanning the new codes takes you to unlisted YouTube videos which deliver new context.

A new feature is the directors commentary. The Remaster has both the original commentary track as well as a newly recorded commentary by Sam Lake throughout the game. It does warn you, but you’re best only activating this once you’ve played the game as it does talk about spoilers that could ruin various surprises.

I have an issue with the commentary, one which I’ve raised with the PR – there’s no subtitles. Not only that, it often plays over the vocals within the game and there’s no separate volume slider, so it’s hard to hear what’s being said. Personally, I feel there should be subtitles and the option to increase the commentary volume, otherwise it’s not accessible for people with hearing disabilities and technically everyone in general (when the game’s vocals are playing).

Alan Wake Remastered 7

The camera prefers sitting on the left…

Issues
Whilst I’m touching on issues, there’s also one which impacts us y-axis invert gamers. The option works fine on foot, but as soon as you enter a vehicle, the invert is disabled. Once you leave the car, invert kicks in again. It’s clearly a bug, which I’ve reported.

Another strange design choice is the way the camera follows Alan as you move about. I don’t know if this is present within the original Xbox 360 or PC version (if it is, then fair enough), but it’s very annoying and frustrating. Basically, just like any good third-person game with shooting mechanics, you can push in the thumb stick and alternate which shoulder the camera hovers over. However, it has a mind of it’s own!

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I like having the camera over the right shoulder, so Alan appears to the left, but after you’ve walked around a little, the camera seems to move itself over your left shoulder. I know you only have to push in the stick to change it back, but it does it constantly and I don’t know if it’s a bug or intentional – there’s no option in the menu to disable the game swapping what side the camera sits on.

Another annoying aspect is the auto-equip function. Whenever you pick up a weapon, Alan will automatically swap to that – even if you don’t tell him to. I lost count how many times I thought I was about to shoot my revolver but then ended up wasting a flare because I’d picked up a gun from a cache and not realised. I imagine this is a mechanic from the original game but it’s a shame it wasn’t updated or gave us a toggle to disable this ‘feature’.

Alan Wake Remastered 8

Even rooms full of effects didn’t make the game buckle!

Technical
Remedy did something which hardly any developers or publishers do, they published a long FAQ page which clearly advised what the technical aspects were for each platform. So, here they are:

Platform / Render Resolution / Output Resolution / target frame-rate
PlayStation 4 – 1080p / 1080p / 30fps
PlayStation 4 Pro (Performance Mode) – 1080p / 1080p / 60fps
PlayStation 4 Pro (Quality Mode) – 1296p / 2160p (4K) / 30fps / 4 x MSAA
Xbox One – 900p / 900p / 30fps
Xbox One X (Performance Mode) – 1080p / 1080p / 60fps
Xbox One X (Quality Mode) – 1440p / 2160p (4K) / 30fps / 4 x MSAA
PlayStation 5 – 1440p / 2160p (4K) / 60fps / 4X MSAA
Xbox Series X – 1440p / 2160p (4K) / 60fps / 4 X MSAA
Xbox Series S – 1080p / 1080p / 60fps
PC – 4K / unlimited

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So, for example, on the PS5 Alan Wake Remastered runs at 1440p which has been upscaled to 2160p at 60fps. I’ve completed the game and both DLCs on the PS5 and didn’t experience any crashes, noticeable frame drops, or visual defects, and I’ve played a few hours on the base PS4 (which is 1080p/30fps). Personally, even thought the PS4 is only 30fps, gameplay still felt smooth and very playable with no obvious dips in performance, the cutscenes also seemed to feel more consistent as they ran at the same framerate, rather than dropping from 60 to 30fps (like on the PS5).

Also, Alan Wake Remastered has one of the biggest differences in install size which I’ve seen on the PlayStation 5 so far. The PS5 version is just over 29GB yet the PS4 version is almost 59GB! That’s a whopping 30GB difference for a game running with a lower resolution and quality. Not to mention, loading is fast on both platforms but is hardly noticeable on the PS5 thanks to the internal SSD.

PS5 (left) vs original PC version (right)

PS5
PC

More interesting technical details
The FAQs answered a few other questions which I think people will want answering; such as…

Cross-buy – Buying the game on the PSN store, the Xbox Store, or picking up the physical PS4/Xbox One edition will give you both the last and current-gen versions. On PlayStation, this means you have two platinum trophies, one for PS4 and one for PS5. 

Save transfer – You CAN import your PS4 game onto the PS5. There’s no export option, you simply have the PS4 save on your PS5 and the game ‘should’ ask if you wish to import it once you boot up the PS5 version – just like Ghost of Tsushima and Jedi Fallen Order

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Languages – The game supports English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Latin-American Spanish voice acting, but there’s no selection in the menu – it’s pre-determined by what you set your console system settings to. However, if you have a foreign language, you have the option to enable English voices, so I don’t know why there’s no simple language selection option – it’s the same with the subtitles as well.

Visual enhancementsAlan Wake Remastered has had an overhaul in the cutscenes as well as the gameplay. Models have been updated, lipsync adjusted, lighting and effects improved, and the geometry and layout of items have also been adjusted in certain areas.

Nightmare Mode – just like the original version, you have to complete the game on Easy or Normal first, then you’ll unlock Nightmare Mode. If you’re going for the platinum then this means you’ll need to complete the whole game at least twice.

Alan Wake Remastered 10

Personal Opinion
Do I feel this Remaster is worth picking up… yes, without a doubt. First of all, it has a reasonable price tag, at only £24.99, which is great considering there have been remasters for £50 recently on other platforms. The game itself also looks great, it’s not a direct port of the PC version and it’s not a simple increase in resolution and framerate, a lot of care and attention has gone into recreating the textures, adding in new geometry and items, and giving every aspect a touch-up.

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To those worried about any content being cut or altered, the developers have confirmed that the game is 100% the same as it was when it released 11 years ago, they’ve not changed anything other than bringing the visuals up to date with modern standards – well, there’s no Raytracing or HDR, but that’s because Remedy are clearly working on their new game and d3t Ltd didn’t have the time and resources to implement and optimise these whilst maintaining a solid 60fps.

As a n00b to the series, I loved the story, gameplay, and atmosphere. It also made the AWE DLC in Control make a little more sense! I can see why the game has a cult following and why people have been asking for a sequel for so long, it wasn’t as scary as I initially thought it would be, it was more exciting, thrilling, suspenseful, and intriguing.

Fans will love the visual and performance overhaul, new comers will love experiencing the story for the first time.

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Alan Wake Remastered looks and feels like a 2021 game, despite technically being 11 years old with a new coat of paint. The gameplay is solid and still holds up today, the story is interesting and keeps you hooked, and the modern visual upgrades enhance the already thick and creepy atmosphere. I’m annoyed I overlooked this game upon its initial launch, but I’m also glad that I got to experience it at its very best on the PlayStation 5 – highly recommend for both existing fans and those who have never played it before. 

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Alan Wake Remastered

£24.99
9

Final Score

9.0/10

The Good:

  • - Very atmospheric and creepy
  • - Great story with solid gameplay, dialogue, music, and voice acting
  • - Visually, d3t Ltd have done a great job giving the whole game a detailed overhaul
  • - Contains the main game and both DLC expansions for a decent price
  • - Grants access to both the last and current-gen versions, with a massive 30GB saving on the PS5

The Bad:

  • - There are a few teething issues, such as the non-inverted driving, but I'm sure these will be fixed soon
  • - The ending is a little confusing and open-ended, so I hope we finally get the sequel everyone wants
  • - Some trophies are a bit excessive and tricky, but I guess it's just mimicking the original list
  • - I wish the cutscenes were 60fps on the PS5
  • - I hate flying barrels!
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