Alan Wake

I have been having a blast playing Alan Wake Remastered. Alan Wake was a fantastic game when it originally released back in 2010, and the core game is very much unaltered in the new remastered edition. As a result, the newly released version is also quite fantastic all these years later. The updated visuals and improved framerate go a long way in shoring up some of the leaks in this creaky old game. But there’s one issue that couldn’t be patched away, and it might be the game’s biggest issue: Alan Wake as a character is a boorish jerk.

There are a number of instances during the opening chapter where Alan is just flat-out rude to his wife Alice, downright dismissive of her good intentions and emotional shortcomings. I mean, sure, Alice does sort of broadside Alan by bringing him specifically to Bright Falls to meet with some doctor to discuss his writer’s block, and Alice also smuggled in a typewriter for Alan to use even though his main goal for going on this trip was to get away from writing. But even so, that doesn’t excuse his rudeness towards her; after all, she’s simply trying to help as best she can.

He yells at her — like, flat out yells at her — and then storms out of the cabin once Alice reveals her sneaky ruse. At this moment, Alan resembles a petulant child more than a slightly aggravated adult. And it is because he leaves her alone in the dark while cooling off, seemingly close enough to possibly become physically abusive if given the right impetus, that Alice falls prey to the darkness that Alan himself created, thus kicking off the entire adventure. There are a couple of instances that make me wonder if Alan really loves Alice nearly as much  as he professes to.

Alan Wake

And his insufferable rudeness isn’t just limited to his wife. When he first meets Rose, the excitable diner waitress, he is practically disgusted by her run-of-the-mill fan gushing.

Dude, Alan, buddy… You chose this profession, one where success comes with a side dish of fame, and this is just one of the many people that buy your books and allow you the comfortable lifestyle that you enjoy while simultaneously griping about. You really can’t just be courteous or grateful without trash talking her in your head? You couldn’t just ditch the seething undertone for a minute?

Having a prick as your main character is a fine line to walk, and I think Remedy manages to walk it adeptly — at least enough so as to not turn me off from playing and enjoying Alan Wake as a whole. And who knows? Maybe it was always intended for the player to be at odds with Alan. Maybe we’re supposed to feel put off by his aggressive demeanor, or his attitude towards his wife and other ancillary characters. Maybe we’re supposed to roll our eyes when he gets frustrated and needs to lash out. If that’s the case, then mission accomplished.

But if we are meant to identify and sympathize with Alan at every step along his journey, then the developers — at least in my opinion — were way off the mark. Because at the end of the day, as much as I enjoy his voice overs that accompany each manuscript — something of a holdover from the classic Max Payne games — it is ultimately Barry Wheeler who steals the show and presents a character with a true arc and palpable, measurable growth.

Maybe the sequel should just be Barry Wheeler.

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