Alan Wake 2 review: a modern survival horror masterpiece

I’m hard-pressed to remember a game with as shockingly effective an opening as Alan Wake 2

Remedy Entertainment has done it again with the highly anticipated sequel, Alan Wake 2. The game not only builds upon the success of its predecessor but also takes interactive storytelling to new levels. The dark and twisted world of Alan Wake has been expanded upon in ways that will leave players astounded. This is certainly not the original sequel that was initially planned back in 2010. Alan Wake 2 has surpassed all expectations and showcases the growth of Remedy Entertainment over the years, especially after the success of their previous titles, Quantum Break and Control.

A Twisted Tale Unfolds

Set 13 in-game years after the events of the first game, Alan Wake 2 introduces players to a new protagonist, Saga Anderson, an FBI profiler. Saga arrives in the eerie town of Bright Falls, Washington, to investigate a series of mysterious disappearances and murders that may be connected to a deranged cult. As she delves into the investigation, Saga and her partner, Alex Casey, realize that the trail leads back to Alan Wake, who vanished over a decade ago. This sets off a chain of events that threaten their lives and the very fabric of reality itself.

A Blend of Horror Inspirations

Similar to its predecessor, Alan Wake 2 draws inspiration from various notable works, including Stephen King’s horror stories, the dramatic twists of Lost, and the surreal humor of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. However, the sequel takes a unique turn with its emphasis on survival horror systems and cosmic-horror elements. Fans of True Detective, Twin Peaks: The Return, and John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness will feel right at home in this slow-burn detective thriller that descends into nightmarish chaos.

A New Gameplay Experience

Remedy Entertainment has refined the gameplay mechanics and level design in Alan Wake 2 to create a more immersive and open-ended experience. Players will navigate larger, more intricately designed environments that require exploration and backtracking, similar to The Evil Within 2. Combat has also undergone significant changes, focusing on smaller groups of formidable enemies that require strategic thinking to defeat. Light sources remain crucial for dispelling darkness, but players will need to scavenge for supplies and manage inventory using a grid-based system reminiscent of Resident Evil 4.

Alan Wake 2 Screenshot

Two Perspectives, One Nightmare

A notable innovation in Alan Wake 2 is the ability to switch between Saga and Alan during their intertwined storylines. Each character offers a distinct gameplay experience and perspective. Saga’s journey involves uncovering the secrets behind the cult and the supernatural Cauldron Lake, while Alan fights to escape the nightmarish Dark Place, where reality can be altered through “plot elements” scattered throughout the world. The seamless transitions between these two halves create a truly immersive and mind-bending experience.

The Mind Place: A Nexus of Possibilities

The Mind Place serves as a pivotal element in Alan Wake 2, providing players with a 3D interactive space to examine clues, upgrades, and other revelations. As Saga, players can collect clues and assemble them into evidence maps, unlocking new quests and investigations. Profiling suspects becomes a unique experience, resembling Will Graham’s empathic episodes in Hannibal. For Alan, the Mind Place manifests as a writers room, where he can rearrange plot elements and discover new pathways through the nightmarish version of New York City. The Mind Place adds depth and complexity to the gameplay and storytelling, ensuring that players are constantly engaged.

A Standalone Experience

While familiarity with the original Alan Wake and Control certainly enhances the overall experience, Alan Wake 2 is designed to be enjoyed by both newcomers and long-standing fans. The game delves into themes of alternate dimensions, metafiction, and recursive retcons, creating a captivating and chilling narrative that keeps players on the edge of their seats. With over 28 years of experience, Remedy Entertainment has truly crafted a modern horror masterpiece.