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Alan Wake 2 – Review

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Alan Wake 2 is a game I’ve had at the top of my most anticipated list since its announcement trailer. To provide some background into my experience with Alan Wake 2’s developer, Remedy, I played and enjoyed Control back in 2019 when it first came out but have not finished another single Remedy game. That being said, I feel they could’ve done more with the Federal Bureau of Control, the weirdness, and story. I loved exploring the Old House and playing with the many gameplay systems Remedy created to make Jesse Faden feel like a superhero, but I really came to that experience to be wowed and was disappointed when I wasn’t.

When Alan Wake 2 trailers and gameplay started to come out, it seemed like Remedy agreed and wanted to fully embrace the weirdness and craziness featured in Control, and were willing to go to great lengths to do so. In preparation for this sequel, I started playing Alan Wake Remastered when it was released last year and honestly only got about halfway through. As I decided to put Alan Wake Remastered down, I started to wonder if Remedy games just simply weren’t for me but still held out hope that Alan Wake 2 would be the game to get me back in.

I say all of this background and history to explain that Alan Wake 2 did exactly what I hoped for, went past all my high expectations, and easily stands as Remedy’s greatest game to date. Despite 2023 arguably being one of the greatest years of games ever, Alan Wake 2 stands apart from the rest as the greatest gaming experience I’ve had this year, and easily blows past my high expectations for a game that pushes the medium forward in incredible ways.

It’s not a lake, it’s an ocean?

Alan Wake 2 places us in the feet of two protagonists: the namesake and successful writer Alan Wake, but also the FBI Agent Saga Anderson, who comes to explore the city of Bright Falls and find out the culprits behind the cult of the tree and the gruesome murders they bring. Through this perspective, audiences new to Alan Wake and Remedy in general get to learn about this new universe through a fresh lens as Saga starts to uncover the mystery for herself. Through this mystery, her story feels very akin to similar murder mystery stories such as Se7en or True Detective, and Alan Wake 2 is more than happy to wear those influences directly on their sleeve.


On the other hand, Alan Wake’s section takes place in a twisted and scary version of New York as you explore through the Dark Place. While Saga’s section sticks relatively close to reality in most of its story, Alan Wake’s section is where Remedy shows its creativity in full force. From exploring dark alleyways, crime scenes in hotels and subway tunnels, the Dark Place is brimming full of incredible art design, environmental storytelling, and creepy gameplay.

The Dark Place is also where most of the mix between live-action and CGI gameplay takes place, as Alan participates in late-night talk show episodes or other amazing moments that were always the highlights of those chapters. That said, these live-action moments never feel too long or distracting from the gameplay and always have a surprising amount of intrigue that makes it a blast to watch through before getting to the gameplay.

Writing a horror story

All of this is infinitely better thanks to Alan’s writers’ room and Saga’s mind place, an interactable and walkable menu that lets you look at your map, upgrades, listen to old radio episodes or TV advertisements, and even manipulate the world through Alan’s writing. While this is only available through Alan’s story, Alan can change certain locations by matching them with a specific plot point, changing the entire environment and sometimes creating scary situations as you hear the typewriter click through the transition. Some of my favorite moments throughout this journey were thanks to the writers’ room, and forcing myself to change the scene with no idea what horrifying thing could be on the other side.

While Alan has his Writer’s Room, Saga’s space is her mind place, which allows her to solve puzzles and profile the characters around her, in which she imagines perspectives through their lens. Akin to usual detective work, Saga’s mind place has you connecting clues on a giant board as you cycle through different cases depending on the chapter of the story you are in. Through this room, you can get updates on the cases and story throughout which is sometimes necessary as the story gets complex, jumping between different media, perspectives, and characters. All of this so far goes into this amazing, complex and mind-bending narrative that challenges the medium of games as we know it, but solid and engaging gameplay creates an amazing foundation for the rest of the game.

It’s not a loop, it’s a spiral

Alan Wake 2 is a survival horror game and plays like one, specifically very similar to recent releases like Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4. Unlike those, you use a weapon and a flashlight to burn off the darkness from your enemies before shooting and incapacitating them. All of these effects feel very punchy and satisfying during combat against multiple enemies, as you dodge thrown axes, use your flashlight and eventually shoot at the enemies which usually results in a very brutal gore system akin to Doom Eternal.

Unfortunately, outside of some amazing set-pieces and bosses, this gameplay system is not quite revolutionary. Instead, it offers a highly polished version of what we have seen previously, and honestly, that is all it needs to be for me. The story, set-pieces, and setting carry this game farther than any game I have played this year.

In conclusion, this was a game I knew I would enjoy, but what surprised me the most was how much I enjoyed it. As I set down this journey after about 15 hours, I am excited to jump back in and explore the rest of Remedy’s connected universe to see what easter eggs, moments, and callbacks I missed, but most importantly be able to re-experience what feels like a highlight reel of horror moments taken from some of my favorite horror games. While some aspects of the game aren’t necessarily groundbreaking, and some of the puzzles and situations can feel rather similar to other games, the things Alan Wake 2 does well it does remarkably well and pushes the medium of video games further than any game I played this year.

Game Score: 10/10

Make sure to check out Ronny’s review of The Last Faith and Caitlyn’s review of Netflix’s Fellow Travelers and if you’d like a second opinion, check out our wonderful friends over at The Daily Utah Chronicle’s review by Andre Montoya

 

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About the Contributor
Jaxson Day, Geekwave Platform Director
Jaxson loves all things nerdy, but his favorite thing is easily gaming. He is currently finishing up his Bachelor’s Degree in the Game Design track where he specializes in Producing and 3D modeling. Some of his favorite things outside of gaming include listening to and collecting hip-hop records, watching movies and anime and all things coffee. Some of his favorites include The Legend of Zelda series, The Last of Us, Cowboy Bebop, Princess Mononoke, and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse.