Long-time fans of Remedy games have waited a painfully long thirteen years to see how Alan has been doing inside The Dark Place. Having missed out on Alan Wake originally back on the Xbox 360 and being too scared to play Max Payne due to being very young at the time – The screams of a mother and young child are still burnt into my mind, I stumbled across Quantum Break in 2019 thanks to Xbox Game Pass which ended up being a very good experience.
I always knew about Alan Wake but for some reason never decided to give it a second look, until the remaster of course. This cemented my love for Remedy Games and drove me to dive head-first into Control and its ultimate edition for two completions, back-to-back and I’ve been eagerly awaiting anything Remedy since.
Fast-forward to Halloween 2023 and we’ve got the release of the long-anticipated Alan Wake 2, which has shifted focus to survival horror. Thankfully for me, I have not had to wait 13 years, but I can only imagine for Alan Wake fans, it was worth it.
Alan Wake 2 was developed by Remedy Games and published by Epic Games for Xbox, PlayStation, and The Epic Games Store and released (after roughly a week’s delay to avoid clashing with Spider-Man 2) on the 27th of October 2023.
This review will be **Spoiler-FREE** and I’m going to approach it in three parts. Saga, Alan, and then an overall conclusion.
Alan Wake 2 takes a dual-protagonist approach, introducing Saga Anderson alongside Alan Wake
Starting out as Saga Anderson, you travel to Cauldron Lake to investigate a ritualistic murder, one among a string of them, and for the first couple of hours, you won’t see much action whatsoever. This introduction serves as a means to get the player up to speed with what’s been happening around Bright Falls and Alan Wake in particular. You’ll be learning a little more about Saga and getting to grips with her Mind Place, where you can examine open cases and organize any clues you find.
This isn’t as malleable as one might hope, however, as every clue you find does ultimately have its place where it belongs within an investigation, meaning you can’t just start throwing stuff at the wall and start drastically changing the story. You can also upgrade weapons, profile suspects, and watch or listen to radio shows or television commercials you have found around Bright Falls.
The Mind Place also keeps track of the lunchboxes and nursery rhymes that you will stumble across. These are, of course, the collectibles scattered throughout Saga’s campaign but the Mind Place does an excellent job at blurring the line between in-game evidence and collectibles thanks to the way the game keeps track of them and makes them feel like more than ‘just another collectible towards an achievement.’
During this opening investigation and plenty of back-and-fourth between Saga and her partner Alex Casey (not that Alex Casey) you will piece enough together about the past events of the first Alan Wake game but you won’t be fully clued in as Remedy’s connected universe simply isn’t that straightforward, but you’ll be armed with enough knowledge to follow along.
(If Alan Wake 2 looks like your kind of game, and you are planning on playing it but want to get the absolute most of out it, I’d recommend playing Alan Wake 1 and all of its DLC as well as Control and all of its DLC. Failing that, at least get through Alan Wake 1’s main story. You can thank me later)
While a brief ‘what happened last time’ recap wouldn’t necessarily have been the worst way to get new players up to speed, I like to think they’ve been very creative here and it makes it so much more engaging. Learning on the job, if you will! So, while you will benefit from playing previous games, Remedy hasn’t made it a requirement.
Alan Wake 2 is the most visually impressive game I have ever played. (Xbox Series X)
Saga’s addition is a refreshing one in Alan Wake 2. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was skeptical when I learned about her originally.
How would this change what I want from an Alan Wake sequel?
What if they lose focus on him? Do I want to play as someone who isn’t Alan?
Thankfully, in typical Remedy fashion, they mixed it up and knocked it out of the park. While I enjoyed Wake’s self-narration during the events of the first game, Saga helps to continue delivering the story with a fresh approach, and a different perspective. It’s always good to get a second set of eyes on something. She’s a very fleshed-out character and for me, quite likable without feeling like she’s been forced into Alan Wake’s story.
Considering the game allows you to choose which campaign you want to dive into and play as much or as little of, I found myself wanting to juggle my time between both, equally. Completing a part with Alan and then switching to Saga was my approach, helped by the fact that both campaigns were kept similar but fresh enough that you didn’t feel like you were retracing old steps. That and, the more I played the more interested I became in Saga, too. Remedy nailed the dual-protagonist approach for me, without a doubt.
Saga will be able to travel between Bright Falls, Cauldron Lake, and Watery. All of the collectibles (lunchboxes, nursery rhymes) are within Saga’s campaign and scattered across all three areas and you are free to travel between them, whenever and as often as you’d like. However, certain story beats change access to certain areas, so you’ll be wise to be very thorough with your exploration. Speaking of exploration, this is where I’d argue that Remedy’s Northlight engine is one of the best in the business. You are going to be left absolutely floored in amazement more than once. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a diner, outside in the rain, or walking through the woods at night, this game looks phenomenal.
Whether it’s Oh Deer Diner’s huge neon sign reflecting in a puddle in the streets of Bright Falls or the moonlight bursting through and bouncing off the foliage when traversing Cauldron Lake, this game doesn’t let up in the visuals department. It’s the most visually impressive game I have ever set my eyes on and while visuals aren’t the be-all and end-all of video games, they certainly help. I emptied my Xbox captures before starting Alan Wake 2 and I had to empty them again before I’d finished it. I can’t overstate how ridiculously gorgeous this game looks.
Saga will have many different weapons at her disposal. Flares work wonders when you’re surrounded
Alan’s campaign felt more on the weird and supernatural side (I’ll get into that later) but that doesn’t mean Saga’s story was lacking in tension or atmosphere. In fact, her campaign was absolutely dripping in it. I had many moments where I had to pause the game and take a moment. You’ll mostly come up against the same enemies, The Taken, but that doesn’t mean they become any easier to deal with. The last time a game filled me with this sense of dread was Resident Evil 7.
I’ve never felt more on edge walking up a dimly lit street or traversing a cabin in the woods. Most of The Taken are similar, although you will come up against possessed wolves and these super-fast Taken. On their own, they are a formidable opponent but when these guys come as part of a group, this is where fear settled in for me. Having to keep an eye on two slower-moving enemies marching toward me from different angles made it really hard to pinpoint these faster Taken, as they rush like a gust of wind out of sight before lobbing hatchets as you, most of the time having to rely on audio cues to know when to dodge. The combat for me was a highlight and a real step up from the original Alan Wake. The crossbow is a very useful weapon that needs some thought put into it, as it has a hefty, but very cool reload animation, making it reminiscent of a stressful, real-life situation.
I can go on and on about Saga if I’m being honest, but I’d love to avoid spoilers and let you experience this for yourself. She’s a welcomed addition and I absolutely loved her side of the story. Good build-up, great pacing, and plenty of tension!
Saga fighting one of The Taken
Alan’s campaign is filled with just as much dread, after all, he is actually in The Dark Place. A weird and nightmarish cityscape keeps you on your toes as you try to figure out which ghostly figures are hostile and which ones are there just you whisper ‘WAKE’ at you loudly as you stroll past. This kept me on edge constantly and had me towing that fine line between using up all my batteries for my flashlight and just walking past them and hoping you don’t see the shine of a hostile crowbar.
A lot of Alan’s journey is nerve-wracking, especially when The Dark Presence is throwing everything it has at you. Alan’s campaign introduces a fair amount of live-action work, a lot more than your normal video game would include, might I add. This isn’t a bad thing, quite the opposite, in fact. It comes paired with an amazing custom soundtrack and doesn’t overshadow the rest of the game. The things Remedy does within Alan Wake 2 blending the live-action, the music, and the gameplay into one blows my mind, is all I’ll say. It’s something you must experience for yourself.
Alan has his own version of Saga’s Mind Place, The Writer’s Room, where he can change his surroundings and morph them into something else entirely allowing him to pass through previously inaccessible areas. These are confined to pre-determined areas and so, are similar to Saga’s Mind Place in the sense that you can’t go around manipulating every single aspect of the game. It’s incredible watching a live-action silhouette of Alan himself appear on-screen and start tapping away at his typewriter before a final burst of light reveals a new scene to investigate. A lot of it is reminiscent of Jesse’s interactions from Control, which I adore. Small things like this while playing make it feel rewarding to be a Remedy Games fan. You might even see some familiar faces around The Dark Place.
Areas can change depending on the draft in The Writing Room
The pacing of Alan’s campaign is spot on. There’s a good mix between figuring out your next move and being chased down by the dark presence. There are moments where live-action takes over and you can sit back and relax. When you’re not enjoying the entire cast of Alan Wake 2 having a get-together, you’ll be on edge stumbling around the cityscape trying to find another light source to manipulate to navigate yourself closer to escaping the dark place. In the moment it’s awesome being able to change the environment around you in the blink of an eye. One minute it’s a dark, dingy street and before you know it, a police car is going crazy and there’s a group of Taken surrounding you.
There’s a lot of environmental manipulation playing as Alan and I’m here for it. It feels like a massive leap since the original and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. Great visuals go hand-in-hand with this as once again I was left in amazement at some of the locales playing as Alan. Compared to Saga’s campaign, I felt like it was on the lighter side with combat but ramped up in weirdness and horror and I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, the combat is great and the guns feel like they pack a punch. It’s a rewarding feeling popping a Taken with your last shotgun bullet and watching their feet leave the floor, I must say. The guns feel like they have a nice weight to them.
Alan’s campaign is very unique and feels like a very fresh take on survival horror. The usual tropes are present here in the form of jump scares but they don’t feel cheap and overused at all. Their approach to jump scares would probably feel cheap if this wasn’t Alan Wake, but it is. That might make more sense when you play it for yourself. It definitely felt like the campaign where the team decided to let loose their creativity, that’s for sure. I felt very satisfied by the time I’d wrapped up Alan’s story, which of course leaves us on yet another cliffhanger. Whether this is for the upcoming DLC to tie up loose ends or for a potential Alan Wake 3 remains to be seen. Ultimately, I felt like I had a lot of my questions answered but wanted to ask twenty more.
Live-action Alan Wake (Actor: Ilkka Villi)
End Of Chapter (Final Thoughts)
In the end, I finished up Alan Wake 2 with a nice 100% completion, clocking in at roughly 33 hours of playtime. If you are someone who sprints from objective to objective and doesn’t value exploration much, you’ll probably blast through this in just over ten hours, but you’d be doing yourself a massive disservice. I suppose that’s easy for me to say as someone who lives for horror games and is a Remedy fan, so of course I’ll be checking every nook and cranny. Performance was almost perfect for me playing on Xbox Series X but I did annoyingly run into one bug during the middle of Saga’s campaign. Thankfully Alan Wake 2’s director did reach out to me on X (formerly known as Twitter) to tell me it was a known bug, and they already have a fix on the way, and managed to talk me through it, so didn’t end up giving me too much grief.
My two main complaints lay within the game’s lack of photo mode and new game plus mode at launch. They are in the works and on the way but for me, when you have an experience like Alan Wake 2 it’s nice to have the option to roll straight back into the story once you’ve finished, it really helps negate that empty feeling you get when something you cherish has finished. As for the photo mode, all you have to do is follow me on X (formerly known as Twitter) to see why I enjoy a good photo mode. Hopefully, these modes don’t take too long to be rolled out and it would be great if they came together, as it’d make a great excuse for a replay and to properly showcase Bright Falls in all of its glory.
Saga Anderson in Bright Falls
I don’t really have any bad words for this game. When you wait so long for something (my two-year wait is nothing in comparison to other people’s thirteen years) you think of all the things you’d like to see them do, where they’ll take the story, and if you’re like me you might start to worry that it might never live up to the hype. Obviously, Remedy has exceeded all my expectations and was let loose with a distinct creative vision.
The way they tell stories simply amazes (and confuses) me and their use of live-action within their gameplay is sublime. They took a whole new focus on survival horror with Alan Wake 2 and I would argue they might have even pulled off Resident Evil better than Resident Evil could. You might scoff at the thought but if Remedy decides to continue playing within the horror genre, then we might need to make some more room at the table.
They’ve mixed in a custom soundtrack with Finnish band, (Old Gods of Asgard) Poets of the Fall. Used live-action scenes within their gameplay and mixed them seamlessly to create some amazing set pieces, outdoing their work in Control’s Ashtray Maze which I didn’t think was possible. Not to mention the great end-of-chapter songs they’ve created. The characters are fleshed out and incredibly voice-acted and the way the game builds up and maintains pace is brilliant.
Remedy has covered every angle and I can’t even sugar-coat it, it’s as perfect as perfect can be. It feels like Remedy reward the player for being a fan of their work and it’s brilliant. 2023 has been a ridiculous year for game releases and in a year where we got a remake of Dead Space, one of my all-time favorite games, Alan Wake 2 takes the crown and cements itself as my 2023 Game Of The Year. My excitement for the Max Payne Remake and Control 2 has only grown exponentially. The future of Remedy’s connected universe looks incredible.
- Voice Acting
- Live Action
- No Photo Mode At Launch
- No New Game+ Mode At Launch
- The Wait.