Alan Wake, an action-adventure game that set new standards for the genre back in 2010, developed a cult following over the years but as it usually goes with such games, it was hard to follow up such a great story for a long time. While the game got new leases of life with some DLC content after its launch, die-hard fans have wanted a full-fledged sequel for over a decade now. With the accolades that were received by the game’s developer Remedy Entertainment for its critically acclaimed game ‘Control’, gamers around the world wondered when they would be able to get their hands on Alan Wake’s sequel (especially because Control had direct references to Alan Wake in a particular sequence). So finally, we are in 2023 and Alan Wake 2 has been released and without giving too much away, I can straight up tell you that the game has everything that made the original a classic, and so much more. Before you jump into my detailed review, I would like to share the disclaimer that the game’s review code was provided to me by the publisher for PlayStation 5. Alan Wake 2 releases worldwide on October 27th and the game will be made available for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows.
Just like the original, Alan Wake 2 is a psychological thriller that has a twisted story and supernatural elements that add the necessary drama to keep you on the edge of your seat. The game’s story runs in a television-like episodic format and grips you in a similar way that the original Alan Wake did. The game starts with you assuming the role of Saga Anderson, an accomplished FBI agent, and puts you in the middle of an investigation about ritualistic murders in Bright Falls that eventually leads you to find Alan Wake, a lost writer who has been missing for 13 years.
The game has two single-player stories in which you assume the roles of Anderson and Wake, respectively. While the beginning of the character stories and the end are strictly to be played in a definitive order and via Saga and Wake, respectively, the middle part of these single-player stories with a third-person perspective can be played in whichever order you prefer. This freedom of choice is a great addition and lets you feel like you’re in ‘control’ (get it?). The storytelling elements in the game vary drastically and keep you engaged at all times. As we are talking about a story that has supernatural elements and alternate dimensions, there are surprises at every corner and I can bet you won’t be able to guess plot twists at any point, which is always a great compliment for a story. While most parts of the game have a serious undertone, there is one particular sequence (I would refrain from pointing out to avoid spoilers) that you would not believe is from an Alan Wake game as it is simply bizarre. Thankfully, Remedy didn’t overdo things in this direction and kept it minimal to offer a unique experience without letting go of the game’s distinct art style in general.
The game features several investigation sequences when you’re playing the role of Anderson, which adds a layer of analytical mystery on top of the Alan Wake plot. The game mixes real-life footage along with gameplay, which makes it feel meta and you will constantly feel that the characters are trying to break the fourth wall. As sharing more about the story would mean spoiling some aspects of what makes it great, I’ll stop right here to let you enjoy this treat for yourself.
Alan Wake 2 draws you in with an atmospheric feel, which is largely due to its great graphics (I’ll talk about this in detail later) but also because of how the environments in the game become its pivotal character. Whether it is the forest, Cauldron Lake, or In Between with Mr Door talk show studio set, the game captures your attention with its richly detailed environments and makes you feel like you’re right there.
The investigation parts feature you going back and forth between the pieces of evidence and “Mind Place” where you get access to your case board to put together all the right pieces to move ahead in the story. Along with the case board, you also get access to the maps in this place, and although these maps ease up the navigation, I would encourage you to use these less if you want to fully enjoy the immersive feel of this game at its finest and try to remember the locations in your head. Mind Place also lets you upgrade your weapons and as Saga Anderson, you can get ‘charms’ from side missions to tweak crucial abilities. For Alan to get ‘Words of Power’ upgrades, you will have to search for yellow arrows in the environment that lead to a circular graphic and then shine a flashlight on these.
The game features three difficulty levels – Story, Normal, and Hard. In the Story difficulty level, the entire focus is on exploration and mystery-solving and the enemies deal significantly lower damage than other difficulty levels. In Normal difficulty, you have to be resourceful and make sure you don’t waste your resources as it could make it challenging to deal with certain scenarios. At the Hard difficulty level, you have to ensure you have enough weapons/resources and use them extremely efficiently as your weapons cause less damage than other difficulty levels.
Graphics and voice acting
The original Alan Wake was one of the best-looking games of its generation and I’d even say that it has withstood the test of the time with its remastered version, which was released in 2021. That’s why expectations were really high from Remedy this time around. I’m glad to share that the sequel is one of the best-looking games on PS5 that I’ve played till now and thanks to the Northlight Engine, the game looks incredible. Whether it is the particle effects, facial animations, or the highly detailed environments, the game carries forward the torch from its predecessor in a really effective manner. Even something as basic as hair physics, particularly noticeable while playing as Saga, has received proper attention from the developer and it makes for a great visual treat.
As far as graphics options go, you get to switch between ‘Quality’ and ‘Performance’ options here. I personally preferred the latter option as the game still looks great. While I didn’t face frame drops often, there were rare occasions where it was noticeable, but, not to a point where it became a major issue.
In certain sequences, I felt like the game was visually inspired by The Last of Us Part II, which is not a bad source to be inspired by, but on certain other occasions, it elevated itself to a whole new level and stood out from any other game that I’ve played recently. As this is a single-player story game, graphics play a crucial role and in this case, Remedy Entertainment has hit the ball out of the park with this one. More than a game, this feels like a big-budget thriller movie in action.
Voice acting deserves a special mention here. Every character actor, be it small or big, has done a fantastic job and the dialogue writing is exceptional too. Considering the format of this game, characters and dialogue can make or break the whole story but here, thankfully these aspects enrich the story significantly.
Alan Wake 2 is a gripping game and one of the finest that Remedy Entertainment has made to date. The developer has utilised all its learnings from Control and offered an experience here that is equivalent to a high-budget Hollywood blockbuster. Everything from graphics to voice acting in this game is top-notch and I can safely say that this is a worthy sequel to a cult-favourite. With Halloween just around the corner, the timing of this release couldn’t have been better. While Spider-Man 2 would be hogging all the limelight and sales this month, make sure to not overlook this amazing game.
Editor’s rating – 8.5/10
- Gripping storyline
- Impressive characters and voice acting
- Great graphics
- Storytelling elements
- Investigation parts can feel slow at times
- Occasional frame drops (rare but still there)