Alan Wake 2 Review

by Gamingstry
Alan Wake 2

Release Date : October 27, 2023
Developer(s) : Remedy Entertainment
Publisher(s) : Epic Games Publishing
Platforms : PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC

No one expected it, not even the biggest fans of the first episode, but now it’s official: Alan Wake 2 is here. The success of Alan Wake is the result of both the dedication of Remedy, a talented studio, and its ability to create a rich, interconnected universe.

Yes, in a way, Control’s success is the best thing that ever happened to the writer, who found himself plunged, unwillingly, into a much larger story than he had first imagined, with the addition of the DLC “AWE”. Over three years later, and thirteen after the release of the first game, Alan Wake is back with a new adventure, a direct sequel to the original, introducing plenty of surprises and horrors.

The good news is that not only is the game designed for release exclusively on next-gen consoles and PCs, promising an experience worthy of today’s technologies, but good old Sam Lake is taking the helm. A well-known figure in the industry, not satisfied with having participated in the development of several iconic productions, he has also lent his face to Max Payne’s first adventure. Here, he’s not only behind the camera, but he’s also playing a part in the story, alongside Saga Anderson, a new protagonist bringing her expertise as an FBI agent between two passages in the Dark Place with Alan.

Before diving into the horror, here’s a little head’s up that you might find useful: No, Alan Wake 2 is not for newcomers! This means that it is intended for players who have already completed the first game, and who have already made it through Control and its AWE DLC. Those who haven’t completed these adventures beforehand are strongly advised to avoid this survival horror. On one hand, they risk missing out on a considerable number of references, contributing greatly to the depth of the storyline of this game which is heavily focused on its narrative. On the other hand, newcomers might not be able to properly comprehend the story, which makes no concessions at all. You’ve been warned.

The adventure begins on a beach, in the middle of the night, with a middle-aged man, paunchy and completely naked, struggling to remove the wet sand clinging to his skin. Groping his way through this spooky natural space, he is spotlighted by two enigmatic figures, who quickly return to hiding in the shadows, clearly terrified by his appearance. After a few minutes’ walking, he is caught by a masked group, apparently with evil intentions, who tie him to a table and kill him with a violent knife wound in the chest, before ripping out his heart with their bare hands. And that’s the end of Alan Wake 2’s opening scene, which is both disturbing and brutal.

We quickly discover that thirteen years have passed since Wake’s disappearance. But also that what we’ve just seen took place in Bright Falls, the same location where the events of the first episode took place, right on the outskirts of Cauldron Lake, a place charged with an aura of evil, having already had its part to play in our writer’s adventures. Here, we meet Saga Anderson and her partner, Alex Casey, played by Sam Lake. We understand that the investigation has been taken over by the FBI, who have sent two skilled agents to the scene, to find out whether, as the initial report would have it, the area is facing an epidemic of ritual murders, committed by a cult that nobody seems to know anything about.

The good news, for the player at least, is that this case is about to take a surprising and unexpected turn. But what about our beloved Alan Wake? Well, those who have already completed the first game and its DLC, as well as AWE, know that he is no longer exactly in our reality, having voluntarily surrendered to a nightmare created by the Dark Presence, a mysterious antagonist, in order to save Bright Falls, but above all to bring his wife back to life. If you’ve never played the game before, this is probably where you begin to understand why we don’t recommend this sequel to newcomers.

Without getting into the details of the storyline, which includes several clever twists and turns, it’s worth mentioning that Alan Wake 2 makes some surprising choices. Nothing we could have imagined before getting our hands on this sequel actually happens. Instead, we’re faced with a strange, mystical adventure, full of good ideas. Ideas that are perfectly exploited by the divine staging. Remedy’s title is so rich, the narrative is well mastered from start to finish, the characters are well written, and there are plenty of winks that never fall into regrettable fan service.

Alan Wake 2 is definitely a new-generation game, as we saw in the previews published before its release. Technically, it’s breathtaking, running smoothly in general, even if it does have a few weaknesses on occasion, particularly bugs that break immersion a little. Some of these are more problematic than others, and can completely block your progress. We’re sure that a few patches will solve these problems, but at launch, the experience will be less pleasant.

Having said that, Alan Wake 2 is a real lesson in direction and storytelling. The dialogues are well written, and the visual and story ideas are absolutely brilliant. What’s more, its progression is intelligent and permissive, giving players the choice of playing as Alan or Saga in their different adventures. Again, a clever idea that allows players to forge their own story at their own pace. However, no matter how you approach events, the pace will remain slow – some would even say sluggish. This may not suit those who have experienced the momentum of the first game, and Control.

The first thing to understand is that, behind its big-budget Survival Horror image, Alan Wake 2 hides a hybrid narrative experience that never hesitates to slow down the action. Or even putting the action on hold altogether. While there is a classic combat system, inherited from Resident Evil 4, enhanced by Remedy’s expertise in Quantum Break and Control, it represents a very minor part of the experience. Where the original Alan Wake often raised the tension by adding more enemies, this sequel does so by adding oppressive staging.

As a result, the title may disappoint. It’s not the sequel some had imagined, and it doesn’t live up to current expectations. When a game of this caliber is released, we know that action will play a key role, because developers and publishers are always afraid that we’ll drop the controller and fall asleep. But Alan Wake 2 couldn’t care less. It’s there to tell a story, to take its time. This isn’t to say it doesn’t have its moments, far from it. It’s just that these occur less frequently than in the original game, and that pace is clearly not the priority.

This means that most of the experience can be summed up as an investigation. With Saga in command, you poke around in the real world, in large, beautiful areas, looking for clues to advance the plot. After long investigations, we finally encounter a little more action. But then we fall back into the same pattern, or at least, when the game doesn’t decide to break its own codes. In Alan’s case, the structure is more or less the same, although with its own mechanics, allowing for small environmental puzzles that work wonders and look particularly good on screen.

Alan Wake 2 isn’t necessarily better than its predecessor, it’s different. Which means it may not appeal to all die-hard fans. Now, when it comes to quality, this sequel significantly outperforms all the horrific experiences we’ve been treated to this year, even the excellent Dead Space Remake. Remedy’s game has a wealth of content that is pleasing to the eye, yet always surprising on every level. We mentioned the visuals above, but don’t get it wrong: the technical aspects are not just a gift, the title is a real artistic gem with many excellent ideas.

Alan Wake 2 could be described as a really bad trip, as the experience takes us through absolutely pointless phases at a strange, haunting pace, all while incorporating enough horror to satisfy those who came for a thrill. Because it’s easy to scare yourself in this game. Alan Wake 2 is sometimes chilling, sometimes ridiculous; sometimes totally disturbing, and sometimes hilarious. It blows hot and cold, without compromising the quality of its writing, and the result is memorable. Although its length perhaps doesn’t work in its favor. It would have been a good idea to condense the story a little more.

But apart from that, the game is full of good ideas. The freedom to choose the direction of progress, for example. Intelligent puzzles that never take the player by the hand, especially on Saga’s side in the real world. The already rich lore, which blends brilliantly with Control to create a new entity so impressively coherent that you’d almost think the studio had already imagined it before releasing the first Alan Wake. A side content that’s not so easy to discover or understand, but that proves rewarding to explore. Or the moonlit sequences, which you may remember for the rest of your life.

Of course, the title is not flawless. We mentioned earlier the various bugs that complicated our session, and made us fear the worst on two or three occasions, but that’s not all. We could also mention the fights, which lacked a bit of dynamism, unlike in the original game. The difficulty is not always well balanced, with a few frustrating moments. In addition, checkpoints are often misplaced, particularly during certain key battles. Poor inventory management and tedious navigation in the shoebox, which serves as storage, like the Resident Evil trunk.

However, the most controversial aspect of the game is undoubtedly the Mind Place mechanic, which can be found in different forms with both Saga and Alan. Whereas Alan’s interactions are light and brief, but Saga’s are hard and make you wonder what the point of this feature is in the first place. It’s slow, not necessarily helping the plot or the investigation in certain sequences that would be perfectly sufficient on their own, and it feels like it’s there simply to slow you down a bit. Sure, some excellent ideas are emerging from the Mind Place, but are they enough to make us forget the frustration we sometimes feel when we interact with it?

Alan Wake 2 is a gem of technology, direction, and storytelling, supported by amazing visuals, excellent voice acting, and original mechanics. It certainly doesn’t resemble the latest triple-A horror games, with a slow pace and reduced action. But even if it’s true that Remedy’s title isn’t for everyone, it would be a crime to ignore it if you liked the first episode, or if the studio’s work usually appeals to you. This is a major work full of wonderful elements that can leave many players amazed.

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