Alan Wake (PlayStation 5)

  • Gameplay
  • Story
  • Audio
  • Visuals
  • Entertainment

Also available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, and Windows

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Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 01/18/2022 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night

Alan Wake has been sitting on my 360 shelf for years, but for some reason, I’ve never gotten around to playing it.  When the remaster came out on PS5, I figured that was the ideal way to get into the game.  I always thought it looked like a cool sort of Twilight Zone horror game, and I honestly didn’t realize how right about that I was.

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You play as the titular Alan Wake, a thriller writer who’s hit a two-year writer’s block and has gone with his wife to take a relaxing vacation to Bright Falls, Washington.  Alan is generally a pretty bright guy, for some reason, he doesn’t think there’s anything odd about a woman in a black dress with a black funeral veil standing in a dark corner by the bathrooms in a diner, so then spoopy things ensue.  His wife vanishes, the feds try to kill him, and a geriatric Viking Metallica has to help him.  It sounds dumb, and a lot of it is, but it’s the best kind of dumb – out there enough to be funny but unobtrusive enough not to interfere with an otherwise serious and well-written story.

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Since I never played Alan Wake on 360, I can’t compare the two from first-hand experience, but having seen video of the original release, it’s clear that this remaster has gotten a well-deserved fresh coat of paint with more detailed textures and a much higher resolution, and the frame rate has been improved and stabilized dramatically.  That said, some of the mechanics still show that this is still, at its core, just a spruced-up 360 game.  The movement and dodging mechanics, especially, don’t feel new or fluid at all.  Alan Wake moves like a chunky tank with no speed or real agility at all – a little like Leon from Resident Evil 4 but without the sex appeal.  The dodge is also frustrating by which I mean it sometimes just doesn’t work.  Maybe there’s some secret to the mechanic that I missed, but I’d be moving around shooting at enemies, and I’d try to dodge an attack coming from the side, and half the time, he’d just stand there.  Even when the dodge does sometimes work, the enemies routinely stun-lock you into a three to five-hit combo that will take you from full health to 10% health before you can even move.  As fun as the combat could be at times, it’s also definitely the weakest part of the game.

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All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Alan Wake, but it’s far from perfect even with the remaster.  The movement feels bumbling and clunky, the combat is fun at range but a pain up close, and the story, while a great blend of Stephen King, Twilight Zone, and Lovecraft, feels pretty mid-tier as far as horror game narratives go.  Still, while it may not be a jaw-dropping masterpiece, it’s a solid thriller-horror game, and I definitely recommend it.  Heck, even if you’ve got a 360 copy lying around and don’t want to buy the remaster, play that.  It’s not gonna look as nice or run as smoothly, but the game itself should be pretty much the same, and it’s definitely worth experiencing for fans of all things spoopy.

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