I’ve been playing games all my life. Even in just the portion of my life that I’ve been running this site, you can see I’ve played many video games spanning many different genres. With that said, I’ve never played anything quite like Alan Wake 2. Fans of the series have waited 13 long years for the follow up to the original, and Remedy Entertainment have not only pulled of the genre shift that Alan Wake 2 brings, they’ve redefined what a game’s sequel can be, built upon the original in interesting ways and have done so while also pushing the industry forward when it comes to graphical fidelity and world design. Alan Wake 2 is a game unlike anything else, it’s clear that the team had a very clear vision of what they was trying to pull off, and in a time where so many games are just copying what’s already worked in other titles, or trying to monetise every system to be a constant revenue stream for a business it’s so refreshing to see a title come out and deliver such a brave and unique ambition. When people have those discussions in future about how video games can be a platform for art, this game is absolutely going to be in the mix.
As mentioned, Alan Wake 2 is a follow up to the events that transpired in the first game. It’s been 13 years since that game released, and in-game 13 years have also passed. It’s also a part of the Remedy Connected Universe (RCU) along with Control. If you’ve played Control and it’s expansions, you would be aware that it seems Remedy’s games going forward are going to seemingly be part of the same world and the links in AW2 continued to catch me off guard and I loved that it continued to make this universe bigger, yet more connected than it already was. For full context of this universe I would definitely recommend playing the first game as well as Control first, or at least just the first game as there are so many callbacks, references and Easter eggs to characters and events from the RCU that it will provide a much more fulfilling experience for those that have been along Alan’s journey so far.
Unlike the first game, one of the biggest change ups with the sequel is that the titular Alan Wake isn’t the only playable character. Pretty much right off the bat, Alan Wake 2 introduces us to our new protagonist Saga Anderson, an FBI agent that has made her way to Bright Falls to investigate the crime scene of a cult driven murder with her partner Alex Casey. The introductory missions introduce the core mechanics that Saga brings to the table, and we get to see how her mind functions and get to experience first hand why being a detective perfectly matches her skill set. Without spoiling any of the game’s plot, things quickly heat up and you begin having to manage multiple investigations at once while the crazy plot of AW2 continues to play out.
And as expected, alongside the storyline of Saga we also have another narrative thread where we play as Alan Wake as he works to be able to escape the Dark Place, the realm he became trapped within at the end of the first game and where he’s spent the last 13 years living. I enjoyed the gameplay change up that came with the dual protagonist shift as each of the playable characters come with their own set of enhanceable skills. But above that, the juxtaposed environments of Saga in the foliage rich small town of Bright Falls and it’s surrounding areas offers a very different feel to the neon lit representation of New York that Alan’s Dark Place offers – keeping the gameplay experience varied and visually interesting constantly as you switch back and forth between the two playable characters. Something you can do at just about any point.
Saga and Alan have their own individual story threads that make up the overall plot of Alan Wake 2 but each are very much distinct and largely focus on very different worlds. I appreciated the ability to jump over and progress some chapters as the other protagonist when reaching a difficult point in the story or just when wanting to experience something fresh when it came to story and gameplay. As mentioned before, you largely have the ability to decide when you would like to flip to the other playable story so you can choose how you would like to play through the game, flip flopping between the characters upon the completion of each chapter, mid chapter or even play through the game solely one one side and then as the other protagonist. Each story has elements that mirror aspects or foreshadow events from the other so it’s really cool to see how things interweave and come together. There is a clear point of no return where the game kicks towards the final act, but until that point you have a lot of freedom around how you want to progress the chapters of Alan Wake 2’s stories.
Both protagonists are able to utilise a supernatural-esque ability that utilises their mind that has some pretty big impacts on the gameplay as well as progressing the story. Alan has access to an area called the Writer’s Room where he is able to piece together parts of his manuscript. Within this area you’re able to witness the Plot Board where you can change up written scenes with new scenes to create a shifted plotline that then has impacts on the physical environments within the Dark Place. This mechanic along with Alan’s ability to collect and shift lights around to also shift the appearance of sections of levels results in some really well executed environmental puzzles.
Saga has a somewhat similar mechanic where she is able to instantly switch into her Mind Place, and I do mean instantly. I was incredibly impressed with these mechanics on a technical level as there is no loading screen here but puts Saga into a completely different environment within the blink of an eye. It’s here where you’re able to visually lay out and connect the collected clues, evidence and character profiles relating to the multiple cases you’ll be juggling throughout the course of the game to be able to progress the individual open cases and thus the game itself. It’s here we get to witness firsthand Saga’s skills of investigation and deduction.
If you’ve played the first game, you’ll learn pretty quick if you hadn’t already via the pre-release marketing that Alan Wake 2 has come with a bit of a genre shift. Where the original did come with some spooky, thriller-like elements, Alan Wake 2 has doubled down on the scares and shifted from being a narrative driven action game to now being survival horror. Taking a lot of inspiration from other recent titles such the Resident Evil Remakes but still being very much its own thing. You’ll be managing your resources, prioritising which gear you think is most useful and which you have the capacity to hold, scarcely choosing when to shoot and when to flee and searching for safe rooms after each nail biting encounter. The combat itself does play out quite similarly to what you’ve experienced in the original, with the typical plan of attack being to weaken the darkness shield that many enemies posses by hitting them with a focussed beam of light from your flashlight before trying to take them out with a weapon or from a distance with some well aimed shots from your firearm. The characters also have a dodge ability that definitely came in handy often, and thankfully it works quicker and more predictably than it did in the first game. And it’s a game where you can quickly find yourself out of ammunition and stuck in a really bad spot so I quickly learned that at times, running away is a really viable option and can be the difference between making it to the next chapter or being quickly overcome.
When Control Ultimate Edition launched on current gen consoles, it quickly became one of the showcases of how raytracing can be implemented on consoles and the team at Remedy were commended for the visual fidelity their engine was able to achieve and for their overall art direction. Alan Wake 2 has pushed this even further. The game is a visual spectacle. The lighting continues to take this game to the next level and really has the environments pop on-screen. I can’t think of another recent game that consistently looks as amazing as this one does, each environment is visually impressive, has been lit incredibly well and highlights the game’s art direction.
Alan Wake 2 as mentioned in the intro is unlike anything I’ve ever played. Not since Death Stranding have I experienced a game be allowed to be weird, and stick to it’s creative vision without the need to be confined into pre-defined and understood game designs or structures we’ve experienced hundreds of times before just to pull in as much cash as possible. Alan Wake 2 cleverly integrates music, as well as live action sequences to enhance the way it tells stories and I loved that it took the risk to do so. The game never plays it safe, is unlike anything you’ve ever played before and it’s all the better for it. The narrative twists, design risks and weirdness combined with its incredibly impressive visuals make this game an absolute must play.
A review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
If you want to see more content like this and never miss one of our frequent gaming and anime giveaways come and Follow Ani-Game on Twitter.