If I were asked to describe the genre of Alan Wake 2, the first thing that would come to mind would be “Remedy metagame”. And not only in the sense that the game refers to itself and other media, but also to other Remedy games. And it does it openly, literally throwing references in the player’s face, like Jesse Faden throwing rocks at Hiss.
|Game||Alan Wake 2|
|Platforms||Windows, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S|
|Publisher||Epic Games Publishing|
Welcome to Remedyverse
Alan Wake was the first Remedy game in many years after Max Payne 2. The story of a writer who became famous for crime novels, killed his protagonist in the last one, and didn’t know what to do next is the story of Remedy itself, which, not having the rights to Max Payne, could not form the idea of a new game for a long time. Initially, it was an open-world survival game where players had to defend themselves against hordes of monsters at night and collect resources during the day. But it was very difficult for Remedy to combine the gameplay with a mystical story, so that option did not take root. As a result, we got a linear game divided into episodes.
At the time of the first part’s release, there was no talk of any Remedy world yet, but there were references to both Max Payne and Death Rally, the studio’s first game. The same Alex Casey, the hero of Wake’s novels, is Max Payne, whose voice actor also read excerpts from the Casey novels.
The same, but a little more obvious references are found in Quantum Break, the next game after Alan Wake and its expansion, Remedy. Saga Anderson, the protagonist of Alan Wake 2, and Alex Casey appear here not as an imaginary character but as an FBI agent. However, due to the fact that Microsoft was the publisher of the game, the creation of the full-fledged Remedy world had to be postponed until Control.
Control not only refers to Alan Wake, but explicitly states that everything that happened in Bright Falls, the city where Alan Wake events took place, is part of the same universe. In the expansion, AWE Control explicitly introduces Alan Wake as a participant in the game.
Alan Wake 2 is the culmination of everything Remedy has created before. There are links to all the studio’s works here. Alex Casey is no longer just mentioned, but is one of the key characters in the story. The Federal Bureau of Control is present and also plays a very important role in the story, Ahti washes the floor, and the actor of the main character of Quantum Break works as a sheriff. Is it necessary to understand all this to understand what the game is about? Not necessarily. However, I would still recommend watching a short video with a summary of all the events from the first part.
Return to the Coldron Lake
Alan Wake 2 begins as an ordinary criminal detective story. You, in the person of FBI Special Agent Saga Anderson, along with your partner Alex Casey, are on a call to the small town of Bright Falls. Nearby, on Lake Coldron, a ritualistic murder has taken place that is very similar to the ones you are already investigating. Fortunately, there are witnesses who, after questioning, reveal that the murder is the work of the Cult of the Tree, about which the locals know very little or nothing. You begin to investigate, but very quickly the story turns from a detective story into a mystery horror that is closely connected to the writer Alan Wake, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances on Lake Coldron thirteen years ago.
Alan is right where we left him at the end of the first part. In a dark place, from which he has been trying to escape for thirteen years. Alan wakes up in the studio of Mr. Doerr’s show. They announce his exit, but he doesn’t remember how he got here or anything that happened before. The interview goes strangely, as Mr. Dore asks Alan about his new book, which he hasn’t written. Suddenly, the studio lights go out, Mr. Doer and the audience disappear, and Alan finds himself on the street in a city that looks like New York, but is not. A pay phone rings…
Let there be light
In Alan Wake 2, you take turns playing as two characters – Saga and Alan. Saga’s story is a Twin Peaks-style mystery detective. Your main tasks will be to collect evidence, “interrogate” suspects, and shoot those possessed by darkness. Alan’s story is a detective thriller with a noir setting, in which you need to find a way out of the darkness of Lake Coldron.
In addition to the familiar gameplay from the first part: find a flashlight, point it at the possessed person to destroy the shield of darkness, shoot him in the head, Alan Wake 2 also added a local variation of the memory palace (or Roman room).
For Saga, the space of thought is her office, where she pins the evidence she finds on the board and draws up portraits of the suspects. This process is more like an interrogation because Saga communicates directly with the suspect’s mind. And if the investigation process has reached a dead end, you can always just ask. The plot needs to move, but a superpower of this level is a bit much even for a game like Alan Wake. And then why collect evidence if you can ask directly.
Alan uses the writer’s room as his space of thought, where there is almost nothing but a desk with a typewriter and a whiteboard on which Alan needs to build new scenes. The thing is that in order to get out of the darkness, Alan needs to change the plot – and he does it in real time by rewriting scenes. And sometimes the surroundings change very significantly.
What I found strange is that going into thought space doesn’t pause the game. Of course, the world doesn’t stop while we’re thinking, but it was very interesting to see how subtitles appear in the thought space for dialog you can’t hear.
Another interesting mechanic of Alan Wake 2 is related to the lamp in the form of an angel: by taking and giving light in certain designated places, Alan can change the environment and open new passages for himself. However, it seemed to me that closer to the second half of the game, this mechanic almost stopped being used.
The battles have become more intimate. There are fewer enemies, although closer to the ending, the game starts throwing battles at you. And while playing as Saga, the enemies are at least visible, Alan is attacked by shadows, knocking him down, which in my case even ended in death. Still, you’ll spend most of your time exploring areas and moving through the story.
The dark half
Whether you like the plot depends on how you feel about the detective genre, the numerous references to other works and (sometimes) art house. There’s nothing revolutionary about it – all the familiar tropes and references to other media are not veiled, but it’s not necessary. The Twilight Zone, Twin Peaks, The X-Files – it would take another article to list them all. At some point, the story begins to wrap itself in itself, as if claiming to be something by David Lynch, but just a few minutes later it begins to explain everything on its fingers.
Despite this, Alan Wake 2 respects the player’s time. There are no boring episodes in the game and the plot is structured in such a way that after completing a chapter, you want more, because you wonder what’s next.
But what impressed me the most was how lively and atmospheric the game’s locations are. The world of Alan Wake 2 is small, with only a few small locations in the game, but every meter looks like it was worked on for hours. Add to this the impeccable technical execution and you get one of the most beautiful games of this year. However, in order to see all the beauty, you need a PC with a graphics card of RTX 3070 or higher and RTX 4080 with maximum ray tracing enabled. At the same time, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will have average graphics settings.
Animals in the woods
Many players complained about technical problems and bugs in Alan Wake 2 that even broke their playthroughs. In my case, it was nothing critical, although several times enemies materialized out of thin air right in front of me. Once, near the end of the game, I got stuck and couldn’t move on in the story. I even found a description of the bug on Reddit, but a quick check showed that it was all my stupidity: I hadn’t researched one of the documents.
The moments when I simply didn’t understand what the game wanted from me are the only really serious disadvantage of Alan Wake 2 for me. Of course, it’s all conditional and depends on the player, but there are quite a few moments in the game when it expects you to see that somewhere in a dark alleyway there is a passage that didn’t exist before.
I also often wandered around the territory, to the point where I checked the map every few meters. Control solved this problem very simply – with signs in each corridor. They are here, but they don’t come across very often. Also, most of the game events take place during or after sunset, and it becomes almost impossible to navigate in the Washington forests. That’s why you have to open the map over and over again. However, it is worth noting that it is easier to navigate than Control, as the developers even said.
Alan Wake 2 also has a Ukrainian translation, which has already been at the center of a small scandal. First, the translation was done by Russians. Second, the quality of the translation raised a lot of questions, to put it mildly. The main flaws, such as “UFO covers” and the same inscriptions for quick and manual saving, were corrected in the latest update, but the residue remained. In general, the translation is of acceptable quality, although if you are a good listener of English, you should focus on it. And yes, the fonts don’t look great, especially those used in the thought space. This is a minor detail, but I would have liked something more stylized.
Alan Wake 2 is in many ways similar to something else, but at the same time a unique game with a special Finnish charm, perkele. Sometimes she plays you for a fool and tries to be arrogant, creating a spiral of references and meta-narrative. For some, this approach may seem too pretentious, but it’s worth remembering that this is just a game that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. It’s probably not worth buying Alan Wake 2 just for the gameplay, and you’d be better off looking at Resident Evil 4.
I am interested in how this story will develop further. Control 2 is already in development, but do we need another story about
[redacted]? I think so, but in a slightly different role, because I wouldn’t do it a third time [redacted] [redacted].