Review: Alan Wake 2


Posted on October 26, 2023 by Henry

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  • 9.5/10
    Total Score - 9.5/10
9.5/10

Summary

Game design is an art and Remedy Entertainment have created something of a masterpiece with Alan Wake 2. The four long years of development have paid off, and the passion and love from the studio truly speaks for itself. From the incredible worldbuilding and interconnected narratives to the elevated survival horror and detective case solving, Alan Wake 2 is a unique experience that you don’t want to miss.

Developer – Remedy Entertainment

Publisher – Epic Games

Platforms – PC, Xbox Series S|X, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)

Review copy given by publisher

It’s been 13 long years since the original Alan Wake released. Where is he now? Well, he’s been trapped, away from our world, writing away at a typewriter, calling for help from his prison. Just in time for spooky season, Remedy Entertainment and Epic Games are finally ready to release the sequel to the 2010 gem with Alan Wake 2. Conveniently set 13 years after the events of the first game, the sequel follows FBI agent Saga Anderson arriving at the cozy town of Bright Falls to investigate a string of murders conducted by the Cult of the Tree.

In what might be the most jarring and visceral prologue of any game I’ve ever played, Alan Wake 2 starts off with you taking control of a nude man who emerges from Cauldron Lake only to be kidnapped and murdered by a mysterious cult. Take notes people because this is how you get a player hooked into a game!

Alan Wake 2 is a very narrative-driven game, and it comes with a very complex and intricate one as a matter of fact. In the real world, we get to see things through the lens of FBI agent Saga Anderson. In the Dark Place, we get to see the horrors through the eyes of our favorite writer Alan Wake. The beginning hours of the game have you only playing as Saga before things shift over to Alan’s perspective. You do end up getting the freedom to switch between both at some point, but I recommend finishing up an entire character’s chapter first before swapping.

As previously stated, gameplay is split between two playable protagonists: Saga Anderson and Alan Wake himself. Every character’s performance is nothing short of phenomenal, and not just the main ones. Director Sam Lake even takes on the role of Saga’s partner Alex Casey, which was a pleasant little surprise. Most of your time spent with both characters can boil down to investigation and combat. Look for clues, examine items, search your surroundings to make deductions and conclusions. Saga and Alan both have their own personal key abilities, with Saga’s being the Mind Place and Alan’s being the Writer’s Room. 

The Mind Place acts very similar to Sherlock’s Mind Palace, a construct of Saga’s mind that allows her to piece together information, profile subjects, and figure out what to do next. This place also acts as a bit of respite from the real world, although going to the Mind Place doesn’t pause the game, so be mindful of your surroundings. Think of it as a home base of sorts, because Saga can watch TV clips she’s collected, listen to recordings, and even upgrade her weapons. The Writer’s Room is Alan’s version of this, with the difference that he can alter reality through his words. After all, he is a writer. Additionally, Alan acquires a magical lamp that can capture light and dispel illusions covering an area, which ultimately makes his sections distinctively different from Saga’s.

Getting stuck or trying out different combinations is expected when it comes to a detective or investigative experience. Saga collects various evidence and clues along her journey whereas Alan gathers new scenes and plot points for his writing board. While there is only one critical path forward, the “wrong” ones help you uncover more of the story.  I always enjoy a good challenge, and Remedy has done a fantastic job here crafting a gameplay loop for a narrative that I couldn’t wait to unfold. That being said, the game isn’t always clear on what the next objective is, and I often found myself wandering around lost before figuring out what to do next.

Then there’s the survival horror aspect to Alan Wake 2. Think of this part as being very similar to the remake of Resident Evil 2, with a third person over the shoulder POV. Expect puzzle solving, scarce ammo supply, and a bit of inventory management as well. Saga is equipped with a trusty FBI pistol, but later gets her hands on a sawed off shotgun and some flashbangs. Alan has his revolver and an arsenal of tools he becomes equipped with as well. The concept of light remains an integral part to combat as the Taken continues to require you to burn the darkness off of them. The flashlight isn’t unlimited either, as focusing them on enemies drains the energy, which you then must find batteries to recharge.

What melds together the gameplay elements so well is the atmosphere and the tension that it creates. Every location and environment in the game feels uniquely eerie to some degree, even when the sun’s out and normal people are out and about. Yes the bustling Oh Deer Diner gave me the creeps as well! This is turned up tenfold when darkness falls, as your only source of illumination is your flashlight or a nearby lamp. The crispness of the audio design feeds into the overall immersion as well, as you can feel the impactfulness of each step you take, or each bullet you fire.

The visuals here look absolutely gorgeous, with each environment encapsulating the game’s foreboding atmosphere. The hauntingly beautiful Pacific Northwest setting and the use of light and darkness between Bright Falls and The Dark Place capture the essence of small-town America. The impeccable attention to detail and the dynamic lighting and weather effects further immerse you into the narrative, taking environmental storytelling to another level. Alan Wake 2 also bakes in live action cutscenes between gameplay segments, bridging the gap between video games and the real world. It’s trippy. It’s meta. I love it.

The soundtrack of the original Alan Wake was nothing short of exceptional, and the same goes for the sequel as well. Remedy Entertainment has partnered up with Finland-based Fried Music studio to come up with brand new original songs from artists around the world. Each chapter in the game ends on a unique song, with the debut track: Follow You Into the Dark, already out on streaming platforms. Featured artists include: Rakel, Jean Castel, Mougleta, Paleface, Roos + Berg, Jaimes, RZY, and Keira. I cannot wait for the rest of them to hit Spotify because there are some genuine bangers in there! Musical composer Petri Alanko returns as well, enhancing the eerie and suspenseful atmosphere, keeping you on edge throughout your journey.

Despite requiring some beefy PC specs, rest assured because Alan Wake 2 performs quite flawlessly on the PlayStation 5. Two modes are offered: Quality targeting 4K resolution and Performance targeting 60FPS. The extra DualSense controller features such as haptic feedback and adaptive triggers greatly enhance the immersion of the overall experience. Load times, on the other hand, aren’t the fastest, and can take upwards of 10-15 seconds from a fresh launch. All the typical PS5 game features are included as well, such as the Activities tracker along with Game Help.

The story doesn’t end here because the team is already working on future content updates for players. New Game Plus mode, titled Final Draft, is already in the works and should be out around a month after launch, which includes a new difficulty mode and alternative narrative scenarios. Furthermore, a photo mode is also coming in a future update. All of the aforementioned updates are, of course, free for all owners of the game. However, players can also expect 2 paid DLC expansions that are coming late spring 2024 and beyond.

Game design is an art and Remedy Entertainment have created something of a masterpiece with Alan Wake 2. The four long years of development have paid off, and the passion and love from the studio truly speaks for itself. From the incredible worldbuilding and interconnected narratives to the elevated survival horror and detective case solving, Alan Wake 2 is a unique experience that you don’t want to miss.

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