After more than a decade since the original, we are graced with Alan Wake 2 – the sequel to the incredible Alan Wake from 13 years earlier. Alan Wake 2 takes everything that made the first Alan Wake game amazing and fleshes it out even further whilst adding plenty of complexity and new features along the way. The question is: was it worth the wait? Find out in our Alan Wake 2 review.
Running around naked
It took me a while to get into Alan Wake 2 at first. This isn’t because it was boring or tedious – not at all. It was because the story quite literally began with me controlling a large naked man who emerged from a body of water into the woods. There was no introduction, no prelude, nothing. There was no guidance as to where to go nor what to do. After a few moments of running naked in the rain through the dark woods, you see others heading towards you. Based on the way that they are moving, how they are dressed and what they are saying, it’s clear to see that their intentions are bad. Very bad.
Without giving too much away, once this first part of the game has played out, you then assume control of FBI agent Saga Anderson. With this new character, you set out to find out what exactly happened to the first character – the naked man from before. By finding a series of tidbits along the way, Saga is able to quite literally piece clues together on the case board in her Mind Place.
13 years later
Along the way, Saga uncovers manuscript pages from an unknown source. They appear to denote the future, describing it almost verbatim before it happens. Further investigation reveals that the pages were written by missing author Alan Wake, who disappeared 13 years earlier.
After spending some time as FBI agent Saga Anderson, you then assume control of the titular character Alan Wake himself. You then assist Alan in navigating his way through the Dark Place to learn more about what happened 13 years ago and also what is happening right now.
As such, when you get to this point things begin to get clearer. Until then, there are several loose ends that you simply have no way of learning more about until you progress. Is this a bad thing? Certainly not. It just means that you have to really concentrate on what is happening around you at all times, and some of us may find that harder than others. However, the way in which the narrative is broken into separate branches this way makes for a truly wonderful story which draws you in deeper as you progress. I also found that the story managed to hold my attention throughout the entire campaign. My mind didn’t wander at any point because there was always something interesting and/or important to do and this is what helped me maintain my focus.
Few would ever consider Alan Wake 2 to be a puzzle game, but they can be forgiven for thinking that. You see, most of what you must do in Alan Wake 2 is to solve puzzles. Quite literally, in some cases. For example, the use of light in order to literally illuminate otherwise invisible paths is implemented masterfully and feels completely natural, despite being utterly bizarre! Light plays an immense role in how you progress through Alan Wake 2 and it is a resource that you must utilize successfully to avoid getting stuck.
The Mind Place
Saga’s and Alan Wake’s Mind Places are a great way to implement additional features to aid in figuring out what is going on. It allows you to manage the information that you gather in a clear and ordered fashion. Better yet, when you enter your Mind Place, you are in a room in your character’s mind with different areas of the room pertaining to a different aspect of your discoveries. You have sections for your case board, profiling, weapon upgrades, adverts, radio and a map section too. What makes characters’ Mind Places even more immersive is that your character does not become invulnerable when entering their Mind Place. They can still be attacked, receive damage and even die whilst in their Mind Place. As such, this is essentially how daydreaming works.
As you get lost in thought when focusing on a certain topic at random, you still exist in the real world and this is true for your characters in Alan Wake 2 also. Once again, in an attempt to spoil as little as possible, I will briefly mention Alan Wake’s ability to write things into existence. I won’t say how this is implemented, but let me assure you that it’s nothing short of amazing! Additional, more run-of-the-mill mechanics include stealth, resource management and crafting and, as with everything else, these have been implemented expertly.
Come into the light
Combat feels natural and the cover system is both unique and brilliant. You can seek refuge from enemies using a light source. Once standing beneath a light source, enemies can no longer see you and you also recover a small amount of health should you need it. It is at this point that I thought “what’s to stop me simply shooting all of my enemies to death from the safety of the light?” Oh boy. The moment you attack an enemy from within your safe haven, the light bulb happens to malfunction and takes a good amount of time to re illuminate.
Meanwhile, I found myself desperately trying to blast enemies’ shields of Darkness away with my torch before firing frantically at them. Despite seeming basic, the combat system is really quite unique as it requires you to think on your feet and won’t reward you for button-bashing as that simply won’t work and you will perish. Alan Wake 2 is a single-player game with no option for multiplayer. It is clear to see that Alan Wake 2 works incredibly well as a single-player game. It simply wouldn’t make any sense to include multiple players in a single session and there are no clear benefits to be had from doing so, either.
The story in Alan Wake 2 is linear, meaning that there wouldn’t be much to gain from a story perspective. However, there are several side quests and collectables to find and the Dark Place is so damned cool that it would certainly be worth another look!
The worlds that you get to explore in Alan Wake 2 are incredibly memorable and utterly unique. The Dark Place, for example, is one of the best game settings that I have ever played in and one that I will never forget. There are secret messages hidden in plain sight. And there are truly terrifying parts of the city that genuinely make you feel uncomfortable. There are also shadows that take on human form and which try to attack you as you pass them by. You can choose to battle them or cleverly dodge them as you pass by. Despite being faint apparitions, the shadows are all clearly enemies who you instinctively try to avoid.
The other element that makes the Dark Place so memorable is the spectacular audio. As you navigate the emptiness, all around you is bustling with chilling whispers and mumbled barks of “ALAN WAKE!” There is also a cacophony of other creepy and eerie sounds that are ever-present.
The way in which enemies manifest is both fascinating and unique. They have swirls of Darkness around them, known as their Darkness shield. When these Darkness shields are burnt away using torchlight, they expose a glowing red area called a Source Point. Destroying said Source Points causes devastating damage to the enemies.
The visuals outside of the Dark Place are equally impressive and the level of detail is truly exquisite. There has clearly been a lot of work and effort applied to making character models and environmental elements as realistic as possible and it shows.
Alan Wake 2 is nothing short of a masterpiece. Fans of survival horror, puzzle-solving and exploring stunning environments will have an absolute blast with this game. Despite being linear, the story is one of the best that I have ever experienced and was so much fun to play through. With stellar voice acting, jaw-dropping visuals and a story that you will think about long after the credits have rolled, Alan Wake 2 is an absolute must-play!
- Stellar voice acting.
- Exceptional visuals.
- The Dark Place is one of the most phenomenal settings that I have ever seen.
- Masterful storytelling – one of the best that I have ever experienced.
- Unique and deeply intelligent systems around how time is perceived in-game.
- The use of real-life actors in cutscenes is a nice touch.
- Uncovering clues is invigorating.
- Light is not only a vital survival tool but also an incredibly flexible in-game resource.
- Truly chilling enemies.
- Slow to start.
Alan Wake 2 is currently available through Boosteroid and GeForce Now. This review was made by Mus from PapaBear Gaming. You can check out his channel right here. You can follow him on Twitter by going here. That was it for our Alan Wake 2 review.