Alan Wake's American Nightmare PC Technical Review



Product: Alan Wake's American Nightmare PC
Company: Remedy Entertainment, Ltd.
Author: Sean Ridgeley
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: May 21st, 2012

Graphics options, visuals, & performance

Graphics options

American Nightmare supports all options its cousin did, including Resolution, Fullscreen/Windowed modes, Shadow Quality, Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO) Quality, Draw Distance, FOV and many more. It also throws in Grass Distance and Blur for good measure, for a total of 16 options. A minor complaint: the FOV option is still adjustable by notches instead of via a numerical value which would be more useful, as you can simply use the value you use with all other games (given the option).

As with Alan Wake, the game requires you to have the standard AA set to at least 2x, so unfortunately, if you want to go more the minimalist route and stick with FXAA only, you won't be allowed. This is due to the inherent nature of the game engine.

Visuals

One of the few but significant problems with Alan Wake on PC was its frequently awful textures. If you played the game or id Software's RAGE, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about: big, ugly, blocky textures that scream to be noticed. American Nightmare alleviates the problem somewhat: hair and door textures, for example, are now up to par, but ground and rock textures are still as hideous as ever.

Cutscenes, however, are all 1080p now, whereas Wake suffered from some serious letterboxing and shoddy resolution. Both interestingly and impressively, these scenes often mix real actors with in-game rendering for a truly unique effect. The combination of 1080p with this approach offers a significantly more immersive experience than what was seen in Wake. In terms of effects, American Nightmare is impressive as ever. Whether you're looking at pitch perfect lighting in a diner scene, Wake shining his trusty flashlight on the “Taken” or popping flares near them for breathing room, or various characters in story mode, it's high quality workmanship that brings you more into the world. The occasional garbage texture will rear its head occasionally, but it's nothing to put much of a damper on the experience.

Performance

Framerate is in line with Wake: usually 40-70 with the occasional stutter and drop. It feels a bit smoother and more consistent overall with AA dropped down to 4x from 8x, but otherwise increasing or decreasing any of the other settings has little to no effect. If you're after a constant 60 with complete smoothness for maximum immersion, you'll have a difficult if not impossible time chasing it. Nightmare runs quite well by most standards, mind you -- it's simply that as a mystery-horror title, any drop in smoothness is felt more than it might be in another style of game. Note to those with AMD 3-core rigs that ran into trouble with Wake: that should be fixed with both titles now.