It’s been a very long wait for this. In fact, it’s been so long that few ever expected it to happen at all. Even if the original game did end in a way that suggested a sequel could be possible.
Yet here we are. 2023 is coming to an end, and we finally have the sequel to Remedy Entertainment’s 2010 action horror game, Alan Wake. Finally, it’s Alan Wake 2, and it is bloody good. Once again, Remedy Entertainment developed the game, with Epic Games handling the publishing side of things.
Rarely do we, as gamers, get a sequel that nails the three Bs of what sequels should be. Bigger, Bolder, Better, and Remedy could probably have gotten away with doing a lot less here. Yet, they have done seemingly everything possible to create something that tops the original in almost every department. Alan Wake fans could only dream of a sequel with this much creative vision behind it, yet it is reality now, a very dark reality.
In one of the biggest surprises of all, Alan Wake 2 changes up the core gameplay style of the series. Whereas the first game (and the short American Nightmare companion game) was an action-adventure game with horror elements, this sequel is horror focused completely. In fact, it falls under the bracket of survival horror, and it nails both aspects.
This is one of the most tense, frightening, and challenging game experiences in some time. It’s not just the gameplay that delivers on this though, it’s the story and characters too.
Set 13 years after the events of the first game, and the town of Bright Falls has struggled to escape the shadow of Alan Wake’s brief time there. Now, a series of ritualistic cult style murders have begun to occur, and the FBI has dispatched two agents to investigate. One, Alex Casey (sharing the name of Alan’s character from his best-selling book series), and the other, Saga Anderson.
She is one of two playable characters, and as Saga, players must uncover the truth about the cult murders and how it links to the missing Alan Wake. The other playable character is Wake himself, trapped within the dark place, searching for a way out.
Across the game, players can jump between characters, completing their chapters at their own pace. Eventually though, both Saga and Alan’s stories connect, revealing that they will have to work together to stop the darkness once and for all.
How and why? This is not a story you want spoiled for you as it has an immense amount of twists and turns that will satisfy everyone who wanted to understand what ‘it’s not a lake, it’s an ocean’ meant at the end of the first game. Alan Wake 2’s narrative, how the two sides are told, and how imaginative both worlds are, might be finest thing about the game. Where, like all good stories, the full picture isn’t revealed until the final few pages.
No matter which character players choose to focus on, they will find a rich and rewarding experience and gameplay that differs in exciting ways. Both are controlled by from the third-person experience, and both must deal with the ‘taken’ by using light and various firearms. Although, be warned, Alan Wake 2 is a lot tougher and a lot less generous when it comes to giving you life-saving tools to use.
Saga’s side is about exploration and puzzle solving, with areas of Bright Falls ‘open-world’ to some extent. Saga can also access the ‘mind place’, an area inside her own head where she can piece together the evidence of her investigation, profile characters for clues, and view collectibles. Whereas Alan’s is more linear but plays out like a Noir detective experience, with him able to change parts of the environment depending on inspiration for the next chapter of his story.
Both aspects are inspired and really freshen up gameplay. Although it is Wake’s side of things that has some of the most memorable moments. Anyone who has played through the chapter ‘Initiation 4 – We Sing’, will know exactly what is meant by the word memorable. Simply the most absurd, smile-inducing, and creative thing seen in Alan Wake to date.
Yet, it is part of an overall picture that keeps the player hooked from beginning to end. A picture that is realised by excellent writing, wonderful voice acting and motion capture, incredible acting for the live-action segments, and so much more. Alan Wake 2 seamlessly blends game, music, and movie styles, with some of the best visuals seen in a horror game in some time.
It is a masterpiece, and you simply must applaud the amount of effort that has gone into making it the best it could possibly be. It is a near-perfect survival horror experience that should earn it a 10/10 score. However, after much debate and even a conversation with another of the GBHBL staff, Alan Wake 2 gets a 9/10.
Why? It’s because this reviewer suffered a few too many bugs to be acceptable in a full-priced game. Bugs that many others have suffered. Such as a loss of sound, audio sync issues, and soft locking. The latter occurring several times during a boss battle. In addition, one serious bug resulted in an earlier save having to be loaded because an ‘echo’ would not work in the hotel section of Wake’s story.
While all of these issues could be easily solved by restarting the game, there’s no denying that does affect immersion. Especially when it happens several times in a row.
These will be patched and players who come to the game at a later date will likely find no issues. Is that what game companies want going forward though? For no-one to buy day 1 because it has issues and a patch a few weeks later will make the experience better? It’s becoming common place now and it is disappointing to see Alan Wake 2 also fall foul. Even if its issues seem extremely minor.
Which they are, but they exists none the less as of the time this review being written. So, near-perfect only.
All that being said, Alan Wake 2 is a must play game. Not just for those who are fans of the series, but for those who demand compelling stories, deep and expressive content, true survival horror, and one of the best looking/sounding experiences in modern times. Let’s just hope we don’t have wait over a decade for Alan Wake 3.
It’s not a loop, it’s a spiral.
Alan Wake 2 (Xbox Series X)
The Final Score - 9/10