All right folks, hands up: who’s ever been excited about that hip new video game, only to find their PC’s so old and decrepit that simply trying to turn the camera risks smothering your monitor screen with remnants of your leftover lunch? It’s something we’ve probably all experienced over the years as PC games get ever more demanding, but for me, that game was Alan Wake, Remedy’s spooky third-person shooter from the bygone era of 2010, and I’d do it all again to play the newly-announced Alan Wake Remastered, too. Would you?
Heck, back then I wasn’t even trying to play Alan Wake at the time, either. While the PC version didn’t come out until 2012, I first came to Alan Wake a year later in 2013, according to my Steam achievements, and man alive, my PC just wasn’t up to snuff. I remember just about getting through the first section easily enough, where Alan’s chilling out in his mountain cabin trying to write his new crime novel but then discovers his wife’s gone walkabout. But as soon as Mr Wake got plopped into those tall, ominous forests… Woof, it was literally like I was looking at some kind of torch-based slideshow.
I’d been lulled into a false sense of security. At that point, I’d just built my very first gaming PC, you see, and having largely grown up playing games on Nintendo consoles and nothing else, I’d set about filling in the gaps of my gaming education. It was a good year, looking back. 2013 was the year I first played Bioshock, Metro 2033, Psychonauts, Trine 2 and Amnesia: The Dark Descent all in very quick succession (with Portal 2, World Of Goo and Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery all preceding them in the latter stages of 2012), and I’d picked up Alan Wake in a recent Steam sale for what seemed like pocket change. The PC I had at work had been able to play most of these games without trouble in the months leading up to Wake-gate (the perks of being a baby tech journalist), and I’d naively assumed Alan Wake would run just as smoothly.
How wrong I was.
I know now that Remedy’s games are often pretty monstrous on the performance front. Just look at Control, whose initial PC requirements were heftier than one its sentient fridges. Remedy did later revise Control’s recommended PC spec, thankfully, but it still takes quite a toll on the old ray tracing front for those with the latest and greatest graphics cards.
Of course, Alan Wake obviously came out long before ray tracing was even a twinkle in Nvidia’s eye, and it doesn’t sound like the new remaster will have it either (although, golly, can you imagine what those dark, torch-lit forests would look like if it did?). Even so, Remedy’s third-person shooter was truly a beast on PC, and I still remember feeling sad and disappointed that I’d have to wait a while before I could play it properly.
If it had been a lesser game, I might have just forgotten about it and moved on to something else, relegating it to the bottom of my burgeoning Steam library in favour of something a bit less demanding. Admittedly, our Alec (RPS in peace) wasn’t that enamoured with it in his original Alan Wake review, but as a budding PC gamer whose eyes and ears were eager to absorb anything that wasn’t a plumber in overalls or green-tuniced elf man, that brief window of a playable frame rate let Alan Wake sink its claws into me good and proper. I loved its eerie setting and was intrigued by its light and dark system, and I also just really wanted to know what happened to Alan’s wife, okay? I knew I needed to play this, and it wasn’t long before the inevitable graphics card upgrade search began to get me on my way.
I’m glad I did, because I loved the rest of Alan Wake, and I’m excited to play it again. Indeed, until Dorfromantik came along and completely rewrote my rarest achievement showcase widget on Steam, I always felt a surge of pride whenever I saw my Gunless Wonder achievement sitting there on my Steam profile. That’s awarded to players who make it to Cauldron Lake without firing a single shot in the “On the Road to Cauldron Lake” chapter – a feat just 2.6% of players have achieved in the last decade or so – and man, I can still remember the thrill of trying to complete that challenge on my first playthrough. It is my single, most defining memory of Alan Wake as a whole, too, because that is one long stretch of game to go through without engaging in any of the action. It was tense and stressful, but also immensely satisfying to pull off.
I’ll fully admit that Alan Wake is neither the coolest or sexiest game to say, “This is the one I upgraded my PC for,” but gosh darnit if I don’t also love it a bit more for that very reason. Maybe I’m wrong and thousands of you upgraded your PCs for Alan Wake back in the day as well (and if so, should we form some sort of Alan Wake upgraders support club?). Fortunately, I think my current PC is in a much better shape to run the upcoming remaster without having to revamp my GPU all over again – and with today’s best graphics cards still being such a pig to get hold of, it’s probably just as well. Even if it wasn’t, though, I think part of me would still be tempted to do a little cheeky upgrade for it, just for old times sake. For all its flaws, Alan Wake is now forever bonded with my PC building history book, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.