I can’t believe we got here, Alan Wake 2 has been like a pipedream for me.
I was there day one with the Xbox 360 original. I had the limited edition that was shaped like a book and I would regularly boot it up just to sing ‘In Dreams’ in my living room. Good times.
There’s never guarantees for these things. Look at Half Life, for example. And Beyond Good and Evil. Over the years, I waited and waited on some resolutions to the cliffhanger it left behind. The DLC only went so far and American Nightmare helped tide me over for a little while.
Like most, I eventually gave up on the dream and moved my heart and mind onto other things. But thank Thor Remedy and Sam Lake didn’t. Thank goodness they maintained the desire to continue the story. It took some magic and wizardry to get here. We needed to basically create a Remedy Gaming Universe to do it, but we have Alan Wake 2.
And it’s fucking glorious. 2010 year old me was impressed by what was achieved back then. The storytelling was unlike anything else at the time. The use of fog and lighting to build tension and horror. The way characters interacted with each other.
So you feel like with Alan Wake 2, Remedy would need to wow us all over again. Take storytelling to places its never been. Craft something that holds up to the legacy of the original in order to have been worth this excruciating wait. And somehow, considering the quality of games we’ve had these past thirteen years and especially with what’s released in 2023, they’ve built and achieved it.
Alan Wake 2 is art. That’s not hyperbole or some throwaway line, but fact. The way the game blends live action with gameplay provides more acting possibilities for its cast than is conventional, but it also creates memorable, powerful effects that just burn and etch themselves into your brain.
It creates a horror atmosphere that moves the genre forward, much like Silent Hill did on PS1 and the original Alan Wake did for Xbox. The sudden flashes, use of lighting, the skin-crawling sound effects, and once again, the use of lighting and effects. Even the disturbing creatures you come up against.
And it all ties into this meta-narrative that is focused around art and storytelling, building into the game through moments, scenes, and even mechanics to ensure you’re kept in your seat but always on the edge of it.
Alan Wake 2 is a direct continuation of the original game/s, but it’s also self contained and can played without knowledge of the original. Alan Wake 2 maintains core elements from the original game but is also deeply connected to other Remedy titles. In fact, you could argue there are closer links to Control than anything else.
With Alan Wake 2, you really do begin to see Remedy’s over-arching vision. It’s been present in games like Quantum Break and really started to come into its own with Control. But now the Pandora’s Box has been blown wide open.
The ideas at play here help you join more dots, give you a closer connection to the cast, open your mind to things you’ve seen in other games, wanting to replay them, but also making you incredibly excited for what could be next. You’re also going to end up having more questions than answers, but that just comes with the territory, right?
In order to achieve this balance, you’ve probably seen by now that the story is split – half through the eyes of Alan Wake and half through Saga Anderson, a brand new character to the series. You’ll have immediate questions about both characters, both protagonists who you’re unsure about for different reasons, but by having Saga in here, you’ll gain context about Alan’s past. And by having Alan here, you’ll get a continuation.
Both characters play slightly differently as well. As Saga, you’ll constantly enter a Mind Palace, which is basically a safe space in her mind, filled with items and objects that anchor her reality, but also provide her space to solve mysteries. There’s areas to profile people you meet, questioning them in a sort of ethereal back and forth, and opportunities to read back Alan’s Manuscript pages which are basically writing the story as you play. But the core of Saga’s mind palace is the case board.
Here you can tackle multiple files, pull out photographs and evidence you collect in the world and piece it together to make deductions which can further your quest, unlock dialogue options, direct your next path forward and even reveal key details about the people you meet.
Like the Cult of the Tree who you encounter right at the beginning. Throughout the game you’ll be learning more about them from random stashes they leave behind in the world, clues you find on dead bodies, things characters said to you in profiling.
For me, Remedy have built the perfect foundations for a detective mystery I simply must play in this lifetime. Alan Wake 2 is a great game for this, but I kept imagining how good a Sherlock Holmes style game could play out in this way or maybe some other new Remedy character to throw into this widely connected and convoluted universe.
But beyond that, concepts from Alan Wake are further developed, such as the use of torchlight to weaken enemies, then blasting them with a double-action shotgun. There’s the Clicker which alternates certain scenes that Alan can rewrite on the fly in order to look at things from different perspectives, opening up new entrances and areas. But it goes even further still.
Alan Wake 2 just feels alive in every conceivable way. The combat encounters as you’re swarmed by taken, having to shove them off you or sticking a flare in their face to push them away. The flashes which make you question what’s right and wrong. Even the character models themselves are more expressive than you’re used to from games like Final Fantasy XVI. Shawn Ashmore’s grimaces can tell you so much more about what he’s thinking and feeling.
And then there’s one or two sections here which have that typical Remedy staple of quality about them. Moments you’ll remember, cherish and reflect on in years to come when other games just fade and slip out of memory.
This game just looks incredible. The detail just continued to astound me. Even when I was looking out over the water to see the sunrise or when I was traipsing through the foliage of the forest. It’s one of the most beautiful games this generation while at the same time being one of the murkiest and depraved. It’s quite something.
And even the sound effects just set you on edge constantly. Headphones on, walking around at night, you’re never quite sure where is safe to look or what to do. Your fingers hover over the trigger buttons all the time and you just wonder if this is the scrape that finally puts you down.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s parts of Alan Wake 2 that are a bit of a slog. It’s not always a perfect game and some sections feel too bloated or too long. Some things get a bit repetitive and you can quite often get lost off the beaten path or unsure where you’re supposed to be going. But once you find your way again, those worries do dissipate as you find yourself right back at the heart of the mystery.
It’s been a long time since a game kept me guessing throughout. Kept me thinking once the credits rolled and really got me to care about and remember the characters. Saga and Casey are fantastic additions to the cast. Ashmore’s character is very interesting indeed, as is the engimatic Mr Door, and there’s even a few other faces that you’ll recognise, carving their identity out further.
Alan Wake 2 is a must-play and yet again reaffirms that Remedy are true masters of the craft. That they are true story-tellers at heart, and their desire to iterate, reinvent themselves, take risks, and create something on such an ambitious scale is what sets them apart from every other developer in the world right now.
Can I say Alan Wake 2 has been worth the wait? After thirteen years, probably not. That’s a large portion of my life gone and a lot has happened since those two games released. But is it an absolutely astonishing piece of art, a compelling video game and one of the best releases in 2023 – arguably the best year for video games ever? Undoubtedly.
Alan Wake 2 is Remedy’s true masterpiece. A lifetime of waiting resulting in something that now moves the medium forward, revels in bone-chilling tension and carefully crafted story-telling with long term scope and clearly connected vision. Its visuals are jaw-dropping, the aesthetic and effects mind-blowing, sound editing is eerie and unsettling, and clever mechanical expansions that fit and resonate in this world. Some repetition, aimlessness and bloating does slow this one down just a little bit but never enough to pull you out of the game. There’s always ways to mix it up by changing protagonist or searching for collectibles, and you’re never too far away from a story beat that sends your head spinning. One of 2023’s best!
+ Some of the best visuals on PS5 with brilliant mix of live action and gameplay
+ Acting is excellent and there’s a superb cast of characters
+ Sound editing and musical score genuinely thrills and gets under the skin at the same time
+ Really smart, clever mechanics that keep you invested
+ Saga’s Case Board and Alan’s Scene Rewrites are some of my favourite mechanics in any recent game
+ Connections to the Remedy Verse are stronger than ever and it’s really starting to take shape
– Some backtracking, repetition and bloating in some scenarios can be a bit tedious
– Not always clear where to go
Alan Wake 2 is out now on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation
Code Kindly Provided by Remedy for review purposes
Played on PS5