Horror games have certainly been more appreciated in today’s time than it was a decade ago, not meaning that horror games were bad back then but did not get the recognition that they deserved. Fortunately, this is not the case in today’s gaming world as horror games provide a quality story-telling experience than most of the AAA games in the recent year. Due to this fact, Remedy Entertainment has stepped again into the horror genre scene by releasing Alan Wake 2, a sequel to the original Alan Wake released back in 2010.
The players who have played the original Alan Wake or Alan Wake Remastered weren’t certainly expecting a sequel to a decade-old psychological horror story but the gameplay of Alan Wake 2 is much more than the old Bob and Weave repetition enhancing the overall experience for the players to once again visit Bright Falls, Washington and its surrounding areas.
The story of Alan Wake 2 continues from the disappearance of Alan Wake in the original game and is set 13 years after the incident at Bright Falls. A murder takes place in the Cauldron Lake near Bright Falls where the game introduces a new protagonist named Saga Anderson, an FBI agent partnered with Alex Casey. You will get to investigate the crime scene and the victim to learn that the victim was an old FBI agent who had been missing for 13 years. Robert Nightingale (victim) gets brutally murdered in a ritualistic manner leaving more questions for Saga Anderson to answer.
Saga Anderson is a strong character who plays a crucial role in the overall story and has a unique psychological skill that allows her to set pieces in a more accurate way to learn the true story behind the cases and as she discovers more about the victim, Nightingale turns into a monster. Soon she learns about the cultists known as the Cult of the Tree who were behind the ritualistic murders that took place in Bright Falls and even before that as all the methods are the same. Saga starts her hunt for Nightingale and learns the method for performing the ritual by finding the Manuscript Pages that Alan Wake wrote.
As Saga deals with Nightingale in The Overlap, missing Alan Wake appears on the beach turning the tides of the story into a darker place. Saga gets to interview Alan to know where he was all these years and how he suddenly ended up on the beach, starting the story of Alan Wake as he is still finding his way out of the dark place. As Alan walks in the streets of New York, he does not remember what new book he wrote and tries to survive the dark place by writing the story at the same time while surviving from it.
The story of both protagonists correlates with each other as they both progress toward the plot for the main story. The game does a great job of explaining the story through dialogues, cutscenes, and both characters’ unique mind skills, keeping you engaged with all the crucial story points.
One of the highest up-lifting points if not the one is the overall gameplay of Alan Wake 2. It is much greater and more extensive than the original game. Unlike the first game where you only get to move, use a flashlight, dodge, and move ahead, Alan Wake 2 offers more in-depth experience in both exploring the world and encountering the enemies. Although the amount of combat is severely lower than in the original game, it does not mean that you wouldn’t get to engage in brutal combat. Yes, the combat in Alan Wake 2 is severely more brutal and challenging due to stronger enemies. It does not only revolve around using the flashlight and shooting but also finding the weak spots of the enemies to kill them quickly and save the overall supplies.
The protagonists’ flashlights don’t have ultimate usage of removing the dark substance as it uses a portion of the flashlight battery requiring you to find more to keep the enemies away. It certainly increases the tension and challenge for reserving the supplies in terms of batteries and ammo, counting the healing if you are playing on Hard difficulty as enemies hit harder.
Exploration in Alan Wake 2 is also one of the selling points as it allows you to extensively experience the beautiful world and cold-blooded areas filled with cultists destined to stop you. The world in Alan Wake 2 has a lot more to offer allowing you to find various collectibles, cult chests, manuscript Fragments, Words of Power, and much more. These collectibles aren’t only for the game achievements but also act as an upgrade system for the overall skills of the characters. For instance, upgrading the weapons for Saga Anderson requires Manuscript Fragments that can only be found in Alex Casey’s Lunch Boxes scattered around all the areas. Similarly, Alan Wake’s abilities are increased by finding the various categories of Words of Power. Each category of Words of Power is used to enhance a certain type of Alan’s ability that can provide benefit to you in the gameplay.
Apart from the regular gunplay and the exploration, Alan Wake 2 newly introduced mind-place mechanics play a crucial role in developing the story. The first time I saw Saga going into her mind and start putting the evidence together to make proper sense, I felt like Matthew McConaughey talking in mind while making sense of the case, just like in True Detective. The ability to switch between the real world and the imagined mind place without a loading screen at any time is absolutely a cherry on top because you have the freedom to interact with various elements in her mind place, whether you are putting evidence on the case board, profiling an individual or listening to a song on the radio to chill.
Alan Wake also has a similar mind place but instead of putting the pieces of solving the case, he puts the elements of writing a story from which he can find his way out of the dark place without releasing it and trapping himself again. You have the freedom to change a part of the world by writing a different story seamlessly and exploring the changed world enhances the exploration.
Visual and Sound
There is no doubt that the visuals of Alan Wake 2 are better than most of the recent games but it fulfills the promise of being a next-gen game. The overall design of the world, characters, animations, facial expressions, hand gestures, and graphical rendering is top-notch. I was immediately impressed by the overall visuals of the game as I made my way down to Cauldron Lake viewing changes in the dirt and the forest around me. Visuals also act as a source for scaring you as several surprising screen terrors will show up uninvitingly.
The sound design for this game is amazing as it keeps the tension in the mind of the player due to the mild horror theme playing throughout as they explore the areas. I never thought of turning down the music volume as it kept me engaged even when I knew I was just walking down a path with nothing in the surrounding.
The voice acting for all of the main characters is nothing less than exceptional work as all the great voice actors did phenomenal work in giving life to the characters. If I talk about personal preference about which character I liked the most then my answer would be Alex Casey without any doubt. Visualized as Sam Lake, the director of Remedy Entertainment recognized by most people as Max Payne 1 character and voiced by James McCaffrey. James McCaffrey’s voice acting for Alex Casey’s character is exceptional as he does not forget to do his infamous taunts now and then in the dialogues which I loved as it gave me a nostalgia for Max Payne 1.
I played Alan Wake 2 on XBOX Series X with graphics set on Quality for the first 2 chapters and then on Performance for the rest of the game, it did not feel any kind of dips as the game kept on running smoothly without any crashes. However, there are some concerns about having a bad performance on PC especially, with old gen graphics cards. We can say that Remedy could have done some optimization for the game to let more of the audience enjoy the game but seeing the overall world and visuals, it truly deserves the title of a next-gen game.
Verdict – 10/10
Alan Wake 2 is an exceptional horror survival game that came out this year and I highly recommend any player who enjoys a good horror game and even story-driven game to give it a go as they would not be let down by this game. It is truly an immersive experience due to its amazing technique of story-telling, exploration, encountering enemies, and solving mysteries.
Alan Wake 2 is now available on PC, PlayStation 5, and XBOX Series X|S.