After nearly 20 hours of gameplay, I already miss playing this Remedy Entertainment game. To preface this review for Alan Wake 2, I never played the original Alan Wake, but as soon as I watched the sequel’s trailers, I knew I wanted a piece of it.
I’m glad I did because it has already climbed up my ladder of top 2023 games — let alone my top horror games of all time.
There really never came a slow point to this roller coaster of a game, each Chapter had its rightful purpose in the game’s entirety. This is a great survival horror experience sprinkled with interesting detective and puzzle work. Alan Wake 2 confused me, gripped me, and shook me at every turn, all in a good way.
An incredible start
What I really appreciate Alan Wake 2 for, for people like me who never played the original, is starting off with slower yet enticing pacing. Throughout the game, you’ll play sections where you’re either Saga or Alan. Saga was perfect to start off with, because she was the lens I saw Bright Falls first in. There wasn’t any combat during the first introductory Chapter of the game, and not many scares.
The game took its time showing me the ropes of how Saga’s detective work happened, which all worked in the Mind Place. Seamlessly, you could jump into this Mind Place and put things together on your case board. Sometimes, the answer was obvious. But other times, I had to stop and think about where to put my cards and how to connect them.
By the end of Saga’s first section, I was ready to jump back in for another session. I’m already a fan of survival horror, and Alan Wake 2 nailed the vibe. It reminded me a lot of how the Resident Evil remakes play, but it still walked its own path and was unique enough. As it slowly started to introduce me to the combat elements, I thought I knew everything, until it threw me into Alan’s shoes. They both play pretty differently, but very similar at the same time, so I never felt thrown off-pace after getting to play Alan.
A mix of combat and puzzles
I believe Alan Wake 2’s main gameplay pillars are the combat between you and the Taken (your enemies), and the puzzles you come across. While some of the puzzles were easy to figure out, I was pretty stumped on others, leading me to feel proud of myself upon completion. There never came a point where I was sick of the puzzles, either.
Other than that, the combat is akin to other survival horror games, as I mentioned. Third-person, over-the-shoulder shooting with a few weapons to unlock, your handy flashlight, and helpful med packs. Although, the way Alan Wake 2 differs from most games is how the flashlight works.
You can’t just shoot the enemies, you have to shine your light at them, stagger them, and then shoot the weak spot you uncovered. You’d have to keep finding batteries to refill your Flashlight Boost ability. Anytime my pockets felt too empty, I could always search and find some batteries at some point. Luckily, Alan Wake 2 isn’t constantly scarce of resources, which I’m grateful for, especially during boss fights.
More terrifying than you think
Although I knew I was getting into a survival horror game, I didn’t realize until further into the game just how scary Alan Wake 2 could be. There are many video games that try to spook you with cheap jump scares. Yes, this game has jump scares, but they’re not even close to cheap.
During certain sections of the game, the game would get you with terrifying pop-up jump scares that you’ll never expect. They’ll typically be horrific black-and-white photos of the enemy you were facing off against during that section, denoting the Dark Place’s influence creeping in.
I haven’t been so affected by jump scares in a pretty long time. Alan Wake 2 will keep you on your toes with these creepy visual scares, while also making you constantly uncertain when they’ll appear. This is coupled with the excellent audio design that strengthens the scary vibe of this game. You’ll hear a random noise down a hallway that probably doesn’t mean anything, but what if it does? Was that floorboard creaking real, or just a fake-out?
Stunning graphical fidelity
I’m so grateful to be living in a time where I get to experience the beauty of Unreal Engine 5. This is a pretty new engine, and now more games are finally releasing using it. The system requirements for Alan Wake 2 are pretty hefty, but luckily, my newer PC can handle it. Man, does this game look gorgeous. Probably one of the sharpest-looking games I’ve ever played, thanks to this new version of Unreal Engine.
Sometimes, as Saga, I would just stop and stare at the forest scenery. One of the central places is Cauldron Lake, a beautiful forest area by the lake with incredibly tall mountains in the distance. The lighting as the sun was setting and the sun flaring as I looked into the distance was breathtaking.
Alan’s section in New York was beautiful in its own way, too. The city was quite dark but had brightly glowing neon signs. The subway station was littered with, well, litter, but also cluttered graffiti that made the city feel so lived in, despite the fact that it was completely void of any humans but Alan. Since my PC had the proper specs, I never noticed any frame rate issues or other glitches. Only random minor issues that I could easily fix.
Live-action vs. in-engine
What I find so enticing artistically about Alan Wake 2 is how it meshes together live-action and in-engine scenes. I know that Remedy has done similar things in the past, but Alan Wake 2 seems to be the culmination of what Remedy always aspired to do with the inclusion of live-action scenes.
Alan will sometimes transport himself into a television and the game will suddenly go from in-engine gameplay to a live-action scene. You’re never really confused by why you’re suddenly seeing Alan in a live-action talk show studio. Although it doesn’t fully make sense of why it does what it does and how it serves the plot, you can still appreciate it and understand what it’s going for.
I can only describe Alan Wake 2 as being highly artistic and clever. Any type of artist can play this game and appreciate how it represents art in different ways. From the writing, to the visuals, and even the acting, this is Remedy’s art house film turned into a game that’s digestible by gamer audiences.
A confusing yet gripping story
While you play as Saga and try to put together this murder case, things start to feel like they could come together. I could figure out certain things, and as other things didn’t make sense, later on they were explained a little more. But playing as Alan was a whole other story, quite literally. His narrative plays out the way he writes, which makes perfect sense.
It’s heavily convoluted in certain parts of the game, making you wonder how you got here, what was happening, and what some of his writing even meant. That’s the point, of course. As a writer myself, I respect Alan for being a writer who doesn’t exactly say what he means. His style is very unique, and sometimes frustrating as Saga when I’m trying to understand what he means when reading the manuscripts.
By the time I finished the game, nearly everything made sense, and what seemed like confusing plot points turned into smart twists. When there’s a confusing thread, down the line the thread unties and makes sense of itself eventually. Even when I had my own theories, many of the twists flew right at me and surprised me. This is a very intelligently written game, and it makes me want to explore other Remedy games.
Remedy at its finest
Overall, Alan Wake 2 is Remedy’s finest creation, and I hope more people come to realize this is a must-play. It’s an incredible game with stellar visuals, a compelling tale, and entertaining combat and puzzle moments. Remedy nailed the survival horror genre, but also made an entirely unique game with features I’ve yet to see in any game prior to this.