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Review | Alan Wake 2

"Don't you sometimes feel like you're in the loop? I know I do. Alan also thought that and look where that got him. The second instalment will make you question both your and his sanity, because nothing is how it seems. Except the quality of the game."

by Foggy, 20-11-2023, Edited by: No one (yet!)

Alan Wake, are you awake after 13 years of waiting? We are.

Do you know that we’re getting old? 13 years ago, Alan Wake was released on Xbox consoles, and finally, the second game in the series is released this year. The good news is – the first game is also available on Xbox 360, Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch. It was remastered probably because they were aiming for the second game. And I’m grateful we got it (on PlayStation 5, Windows, and Xbox Series X/S). The only issue is – it’s only digital (I don’t really care much about that, but I know many of you do).

I finished my run on PS5 using the Performance mode. It’s not so smooth and stable as I thought it’s going to be – it usually runs in 60fps, but there are constant stutters, even after like 15 patches. It’s not really something that will throw you off, but it is something to note. If you prefer the graphics instead (which are top-notch in both modes), you can select that one. There is not much else that you can modify on consoles, but it’s more than enough.

Other than that – I really have nothing bad to say. My experience was smooth, 0 crashes, 0 bugs. It was almost a flawless experience and one I want to talk loudly about.

The mind place. We all have it. Tnat will be your safe place to solve crimes and advance through the spiral of darkness, pure madness and some metal music. Works for me. Oh, and the last picture - it feels like a good weekend, the day after!

2 main characters, 1 darkness. Yes please, give it to me.

The biggest change are the two main characters you play with. Saga is an FBI agent, while Alan is still the writer. In early states of the game, you will learn chunks of their stories and reveal them until the end of the game. If you remember, Alan was stuck in the horror stories which he wrote. They become an alternate reality, which soon takes over the host, makes them wonder what is what, and who is who. Ultimately, the darkness is strong. It can completely take over, consuming the host.

Saga has special powers. She can enter the Mind Place – a place in her mind represented as a room where she can enter thoughts of people and build cases she stumbles upon. It will be a safe heaven for a big chunk of her playthrough. I really love this part of the game. Gathering evidence and solving crimes is simple, yet very satisfying. Sometimes it’s mandatory to progress the story.

Alan is a bit different, and his parts will consist of rewriting scenes in locations to get different outcomes. It’s unique, yet nothing new. I loved both, but I loved the action part of Saga more, she has better weapons, more action and less sneaking around to avoid the shadows. Overall, the story is the game’s strongest point (alongside the music and the atmosphere) and spoiling more in this area would be a slap in the face. You really need to experience the game.

Note that it’s almost mandatory to play the first game, and possibly Control – it’s the same universe and understanding what they talk about can help. Still, if you watch a recap and play Alan Wake 2, you should be good to go.

The characters and side notes/lore are simply wonderful. I love the quality and the quirkines, the Finnish words "perkele" and "satana" in between the lines... The whole universe that Remedy created is such an unique experience

What if Alan wrote the game outside of the game, but inside of the game? You know?

I told you the quality of writing is top notch. I mean it. I love the universe they’ve created. I love the dark tone of the game, the atmosphere, the sound in every scene. The horror elements are much more intense than in the previous game. And the part I love the most – when they shift the story to “movie mode”. This game features movie parts in between the in-game scenes. The actors did a tremendous job recording story with real actors and incorporating that into the game experience. This is like watching a great movie and playing in between. Of course, you will play more than watching, so no worries there. Did you know that the main game’s writer is agent Casey? He is Saga’s partner. And he is an awesome actor!

All the other characters (Thor and Odin from Valhalla, the janitor from Control…) feels unique, funny, and interesting. I can’t remember what the last time was when I read to expand my understanding of the lore. How they “glued” this experience together, making you feel like a true detective, throwing nightmares you run through, surviving the horror that gulps everything around you… I’m beyond words. Some scenes, especially the ones involving the band (Old Gods of Asgard) – they are legendary.

If you feel like following Alan instead of Saga, after the first few chapters you will be able to change main characters in safe rooms. It’s good to do so, to grasp the story easier.

Embrace for the metal impact... One chapter with Alan is what I loved in Control - No spoilers, you need to experience these moments. I am trying to spoil the least I can. The story goes on, and boy it's confusing for both veterans and newcomers of Alan.

Shotguns, a riffle, a gun… And a flashlight!

But how is the action part of the game? Well, better than in the previous one, worse than in Control. I can’t let go of the majestic combat from Control where you tear down walls and throw them in enemy faces. This one play more like survival horror game, something like RE2 remake, but with more bullets. I mean, depending on the difficulty you will face different challenges.

Alan plays a bit different, he needs to use his battery to get rid of the shadows (and they can materialize, which means you need to finish them with bullets), while Saga doesn’t need to use the flashlight boost, but then you need more bullets to defeat enemies. There are more combat parts in Saga’s parts, and couple of boss fights which are cool, but nothing special. I can say that combat is ok, but not more than that. It feels a bit sluggish and slow, and hard using the controller. I spent so many bullets shooting around enemies instead in them. They also shift and move fast, so good luck shooting anyone.

Often, I had to press the reload button 10 times to reload. Healing is slow, it takes some strategy. Dodging works the best. I guess they wanted to give us more realistic combat approach, but I’m not really sure if this is the way. Maybe if there are more majestic boss battles, I would be ok with it, but I think this segment is one of the rare ones that feels a bit mediocre.

There is not much in the upgrades department. It’s plain basic. You can upgrade weapons with 3 upgrades, or some different perks depending on the character you play with. The inventory is also limited until you expand it, and it often feels like you need more space.

The only letdown is the combat, if you ask me. Maybe a bit of backtracking as well, but that is only if you want to collect optional stuff. After Max Payne, I expected more from the combat segment.

The worlds are your nightmares. No, the nightmares are your worlds. Alan, where the hell are we?

If you love the atmosphere, you will love exploring the maps. There are couple of locations with Saga, which gets expanded when you defeat the boss in each. They feel linear, but they are semi-opened and quite large. I loved exploring optional cabins, solving puzzles, and surviving in the forest during the night. With Alan, I loved exploring the single location and sub-locations. The world design is great. It’s filled with secrets and lore. The details are high, and the graphic is awesome. Most of the game I walked to “swallow” the world they built for us to enjoy. I loved every inch of the game. And you can even open doors! Almost all doors can be opened, there is not much you can’t explore. Of course, you can just follow the story and never step outside of the boundaries. That would be a shame if you ask me.

Maybe the backtracking can be improved a bit. You can only drive to a location, but then you need to walk/run towards the previously inaccessible areas. Why not having multiple parking spots on maps, to get closer to where you want to go? I spent so much time looking at the map, half of that time could be spent in a much clever way.

Finding and watching commercials and videos you can discover feels more than a reward. The brothers’ commercials are something else. I remember the one for the beer and drinking alone at home: “Remember, it’s not sad if it’s intentional!”. Funny and great! The manuscripts as well, they can expand the lore and connect the dots together. This is one well-planned game.

The main writer is a badass. Saga is a badass. Alan finally don't stop while running, probably because he can't remember being a slowpoke in the previous game.

But you know what is not plain basic as the combat (which is a weird thing to say, considering this Finns created the legendary Max Payne)? This game! When you combine everything, you get a game worth spending 20-25h in.  The idea of a movie inside a game is something I loved, and the sequel is better than the first game. How is that even possible? Well, buy the game and see for yourself. I did, and I can finally rest after 3 days, I couldn’t let it go.

Alan Wake 2 is everything I hoped for, and more. It’s a more mature and confusing game in every aspect when compared with the first one – but that is a good thing. Just beware that the gameplay sometimes feels clunky and underwhelming considering how good everything else is.

Will there be a third game? I will say yes. And I can’t wait. Another 13 years? Sure, I’m waiting (but not in darkness. Darkness is scary).

"One of rare sequels that outshines the previous game in every aspect. The horror stories in games never felt so unique. This was such a great journey, minus the combat."
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