Alan Wake 2 Review – Arthouse Action
After 13 years since the release of the mystical action game Alan Wake, Remedy Entertainment has finally given us a sequel. In this review, we share our impressions of the sequel.
- Developer: Remedy Entertainment
- Publisher: Epic Games
- Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
- Release date: October 27, 2023
Alan Wake 2 takes place 13 years after the events of the previous part. Contrary to the title of the game, at the beginning, we take on the role of Saga Anderson, an FBI agent who, together with her partner Alex Casey, arrived in the town of Bright Falls to investigate a series of mysterious murders – clearly ritualistic, apparently committed by local cultists.
It soon becomes clear, however, that the matter is much more complicated than it seems, and the story quickly takes a supernatural turn. The dead rise and attack people, Saga is recognized in the town, although she appeared there for the first time in her life, and is reminded of events that never happened, and a writer who mysteriously disappeared thirteen years ago appears on the shore of the lake out of nowhere.
Alan Wake 2 contains two campaigns: one for Saga, and the second for Alan. At first, the game’s script seems complex and confusing, requiring immersion in the plot of the first part, as well as familiarity with Control, another Remedy game with which Alan Wake 2 has many points of intersection.
The developers are in no hurry to reveal their cards, and the action sometimes becomes very surreal, more reminiscent of Twin Peaks than True Detective. The gameplay here is mixed with cinematic presentation, flirtations with the multiverse can confuse so much that you get tired of counting the layers of meta-narrative and just start to go with the flow, hoping that the game itself will explain everything later. And she explains – don’t worry about missing the plot thread, you’ll catch it again soon. In the end, heroes also do not always understand what is happening around them.
Meanwhile, exploring the game world is damn interesting. Bright Falls and its surroundings, a nightmare version of New York and other locations look impressive, full of details and interesting places. Saga, with a professional, tenacious eye, notices all the oddities, snatches evidence and facts from the environment, and if necessary, plunges into the “paintings of the mind” and builds conclusions on a huge board of investigations. This is an interesting mini-game in which you need to match the questions that the Saga poses with objects, characters, and events that can provide answers to them. It is impossible to make a mistake and come to the wrong conclusion here, but nevertheless, being in the “mind palace” adds authenticity to the game.
Alan, in turn, using his writing talent, literally changes reality. Thanks to the magic lamp, he can create and delete entire pieces of locations, which helps, for example, open a blocked passage. And the storylines, combined with the typewriter, rearrange the entire environment around him, allowing him to form a new state of the world.
For example, a story about a failed detective can be rewritten into a plot about the activities of a cult, and then a tunnel with bloody traces will turn into a meeting place for fanatics – with an altar and lit candles.
The problem is that exploring the world can last for hours without interruption by firefights and other activities. In this regard, Alan Wake 2 is terribly unbalanced, which is why the game may be negatively perceived by gamers who came to it for the battles. In the first two hours of the campaign, exactly one battle takes place here, and although wandering along forest paths and studying a body recently found in the vicinity is extremely interesting, from an action title you want to get, in fact, action.
Considering how cinematic the game is, this is understandable. Remedy as a whole has always been very active in trying to combine film and video games, dividing the first Alan Wake into episodes (as well as the second part), inserting half-hour episodes of TV shows into Quantum Break, and so on. And this is very cool, but we should not forget that this is, first of all, a game, and the fact that sometimes you have to put the gamepad down for a long time, indifferently watching the events on the screen, is somewhat frustrating.
Meanwhile, when it comes to combat, Alan Wake 2 is great. As in the first part, here the heroes fight with the possessed – opponents shrouded in darkness who are invulnerable to bullets until they fall under a strong beam of light. Accordingly, you must first knock out the darkness from them with a flashlight, and only after that put a few bullets into their body. Clots of darkness, aggressive animals , and bosses are added to the ordinary fighters. The enemies behave intelligently and can cause a lot of trouble: some try to flank the hero, others throw hatchets from a distance, others try to get closer and suddenly attack, and so on.
Saga and Alan have firearms at their disposal – a pistol, revolver, shotgun, and so on, they can dodge attacks and stun opponents with sweeping blows. Much attention is paid to flares and other lighting devices that can make a great contribution to the fight against darkness. In addition, you need to monitor the charge level of the flashlight, and if necessary, retreat to a life-saving street lamp or run into a brightly lit house, which serves as a safe refuge and a place to save progress.
Enemies in Alan Wake 2 appear infrequently but pose a significant threat – of course if you play on difficulty above average. The game gives out just enough ammunition and first aid kits to be enough to deal with the enemy but does not allow you to feel an excess of resources. To get more loot, you need to carefully explore the map, and look into secluded corners and optional branches – but there is always a risk that you will find not a pack of cartridges, but another possessed one. A limited inventory with cells in the spirit of the Resident Evil games forces you to give priority to more necessary resources, sending the extra ones to the box in the shelter.
The title also contains a sparse leveling system: Saga finds lunchboxes with scraps of notes that allow him to improve weapons, and Alan discovers words that are used to enhance his skills. Meanwhile, this system is so optional that one could do without it altogether.
Despite these few shortcomings, Alan Wake 2 is great. And much of the game’s brilliance comes from its visual component. This is truly one of the most beautiful projects of our time, and with maximum graphics settings, it looks simply breathtaking.
However, not everyone will be able to see this beauty: the title is quite demanding on PC resources, which will definitely disappoint owners of video cards without support for mesh shaders, when used, fps drops to uncomfortable values. However, on an average system by modern standards with an RTX 3070, you can squeeze out a stable 60 frames per second from the game at 1440p resolution with an average graphics preset, or 30 frames per second with active RTX effects. And if you remember that Remedy Entertainment’s previous games were made on the same Northlight engine as Alan Wake 2, it becomes clear that you shouldn’t have expected anything else from the title. Meanwhile, the shooter also feels good on consoles, although it gives less freedom in graphics and performance settings compared to PC.
And we can’t help but mention the soundtrack, which is simply wonderful. There’s a lot of music in the sequel, from tracks that play in between story chapters, forcing you to wait before starting the next episode, to compositions that can be heard directly inside the game events: you’ll definitely want to stop and listen to the janitor Ahti singing in a small bar in the middle town of Wateree, and you’ll definitely be pleased to meet the “Old Gods of Asgard”, the aged musicians Odin and Thor, who seem to have more in common with the Saga than meets the eye. The music here is inseparable from the narrative, and Alan Wake 2 becomes one of those examples where you want to download the soundtrack separately and listen to it outside the game.
To sum it up, was it worth waiting 13 years to play Alan Wake 2? Definitely yes, it was worth it. This is an extremely original project, the creators of which go beyond boundaries and are not afraid to experiment. It’s not a very good shooter, and the uneven pacing of the story may frustrate gamers craving action, but the totality of the experience, from hints of Control 2 to sudden jump scares and a tranquil view of the sunset near Lake Cauldron, the project provides an amazing experience like no other.
The game was completed on PC. Review code provided by Epic Games and Remedy Entertainment