Some experiences are deeply profound, etching memories that will last a lifetime. They evoke emotions that forge a connection to that particular moment in time. Throughout my life, Remedy has been responsible for many uplifting experiences. However, I could never have foreseen the emotions that awaited me when playing Alan Wake 2. [Reading time required: 5-10 minutes].
The Next Big Thing.
As a passionate fan of the Max Payne games, I couldn’t wait for Remedy’s next big thing. It would take the studio seven years before Alan Wake was finally released in stores, as the development turned out to be more extensive than anticipated. Alan Wake garnered critical acclaim, but its success in the market wasn’t enough to warrant a sequel. Remedy was upfront about their desire to continue the troubled writer’s journey but stated the time just wasn’t right to do so. Sam Lake would convey this news to the fans in a video announcement shortly after Remedy revealed it was working on Quantum Break. While that game teased the writer’s imminent return in an Easter Egg, it would take another seven years until he eventually would. Alan Wake 2 confirmed.
That statement soon became an urban legend, with the general audience growing increasingly skeptical, especially when Control followed Quantum Break. That sentiment changed after the AWE downloadable content. Nonetheless, the lessons learned from these two games, coupled with the technical advancements in game development, would form the foundation for the sequel’s direction – a horror survival game. Is the decade-long wait the best thing to happen to Alan Wake 2? To be frank, it is. The game has been out for over a week now, and both critics and fans appear to be in unanimous agreement: Alan Wake 2 stands as a formidable contender for this year’s Game of the Year awards. I couldn’t agree more. Alan Wake 2 is bold, refreshing, frightening, and extraordinarily beautiful. The whole experience evoked emotions of excitement, dread, and accomplishment.
Every Nook and Cranny.
Remedy was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the game a few days before its official release. Determined to give it my full, undivided attention, I canceled all appointments for the remainder of the week. I had no intention to rush through it. Instead, I wanted to explore every nook and cranny, read all the in-game documents, and diligently search for Easter eggs and clues. I owed it to the game and to Remedy.
My experience with Alan Wake 2 was generally smooth. I played most of the game in performance mode, delivering (what felt like) a consistent 60 frames per second. There were occasional bugs that led to a few confusing situations (such as markers reappearing on the map) – and one currently prevents me from unlocking the platinum trophy. However, given the speed at which Remedy released updates, I’m confident it will resolve these soon.
Alan Wake 2 kicks off strong. The long-missing FBI Agent, Robert Nightingale, washed up on the shore of Cauldron Lake. Upon venturing into the woods, he quickly becomes entangled with the enigmatic Cult of the Tree. Abducted and strapped on a table, a cultist cruelly removes his heart, after which the game’s title card flashes on the screen: “ALAN. WAKE II.” Let there be no doubt about it. The player is then introduced to Saga Anderson, a highly regarded FBI profiler, sent to investigate a string of ritualistic killings in Bright Falls. With her, her longtime partner Alex Casey. Who coincidentally shares his name with the protagonist of Alan’s famous crime novels. From this point forward, players slowly descend into a multifaceted and intricate narrative that could be challenging to grasp, especially for those new to the franchise. Luckily, Saga has access to the “Mind Place”. An area of thought in her head where she can retreat and analyze the case. It’s here where you can take the time to learn about characters, connections, and backstory. Because Saga is new to Bright Falls, her thoughts and explanations of events help new players ease into the game’s world, although the pace is quick.
“Alan Wake 2 embodies the quintessential Remedy gaming experience. It radiates a distinctive sense of self, infused with quirky humor and countless epic moments that serve as examples of what defines a Remedy game.”
Exploring Bright Falls feels like coming home. The town appears just as you remember it from years past, yet the game’s exceptional graphics and lighting effects are undeniably breathtaking. So does The Dark Place, a fictional rendition of New York. Its shadowy, neo-soaked streets exude an eerie yet remarkably stylish ambiance. For thirteen long years, Alan Wake has been trapped within this nightmarish realm, desperately trying to write his way out. His appearance has changed. His long hair and beard serve as symbols of this ordeal. Alan appears caught in a perpetual loop, with each endeavor gradually altering the outcome. At various points in the game – so-called overlaps – Saga and Alan’s adventures intertwine, influencing each other’s moves forward. Adding another dimension to an already complex, layered narrative.
Whether you’re playing as Saga or Alan, the game’s combat has undergone considerate refinements compared to the original. The game’s pacing is slower, aligning more effectively with the horror genre. Enemies still need to be cleared of darkness before they become vulnerable to attacks. The game has a variety of enemies this time, demanding that players adapt their strategies. While there is an array of weapons at your disposal, the constrained inventory space compels you to plan your moves more carefully. Since I’m not particularly fond of challenging games, I opted for the easiest difficulty. In this setting, no challenges with resource management were apparent.
At one point, Alan is granted a magical lamp by a familiar face. The game explains the reasoning behind its existence, but it enables Alan to manipulate the environment. It draws in elements from alternate realities. A previously locked door can now open, and a once inaccessible area becomes explorable. The rapidity with which these environmental shifts occur is astonishing. Alan can pull off something similar when he changes his writing. When the player stumbles upon new ideas for Alan to write about, the environment changes. These changes are required for Alan to venture forward.
The quintessential Remedy gaming experience.
Alan Wake 2 embodies the quintessential Remedy gaming experience. It radiates a distinctive sense of self, infused with quirky humor and countless epic moments that serve as examples of what defines a Remedy game. Sam Lake takes on various roles within the game, including a portrayal of himself, and it feels remarkably appropriate, like an homage to its creator.
Additionally, the game seamlessly incorporates clear nods to Max Payne and Quantum Break, while those games are not part of the Remedy Connected Universe. Unraveling all the connections this game has to other Remedy titles is a challenging task, and quite honestly, part of the enjoyment lies in discovering them as you play.
Oh, let’s not even begin to talk about the “We Sing.” level. It’s a musical sequence that brings to mind the Ashtray Maze in Control. Alan Wake and Sam perform comical dance moves while the player navigates a labyrinthine structure. The absurdity and discomfort intentionally disrupt the game’s pacing, offering a much-needed break from the otherwise tension-filled experience. Lastly, the game includes a 30-minute movie titled “Nightless Night” with Lake in the leading role. It’s a peculiar, nonsensical addition, and I adored it.
Not a loop, but a spiral.
The game’s conclusion is exceptional and ranks as one of the best showdowns I’ve ever encountered in a video game. While it certainly draws inspiration from popular media like Stranger Things or The Truman Show, it’s the unique combination of these elements that sets it apart. However, the actual ending left me with numerous unanswered questions, which I presume might find resolution in the upcoming downloadable content. Nevertheless, this didn’t diminish the excitement. It still felt like the culmination of everything over the past 13 years had led to this moment. Alan Wake 2 stands as a game of the decade because of it, as a game of the year, and perhaps one of the most cherished in my gaming history.
A monumental thanks to JustSimy for contributing the screenshot for this article, and special gratitude to Remedy for their unwavering support and early access to the game!