Alan Wake 2 Review – Back To Reality

The experimental nature of Remedy has made it a household name. It mixes live-action footage into its video games, plays with player expectations, rewards those devoted to the developer’s history and gameography, and in the case of Alan Wake II, eagerly performs big-budget lunacy for our entertainment and sometimes confusion. The highs of Alan Wake’s follow-up adventure are tall, but there are frequent lows that drag the whole experience into The Dark Place. There were also a few bugs which forced me to restart the game frequently and reinstall it. But even in the moments I was most frustrated, I still admire Remedy’s commitment to creating a unique experience and embracing its weirdness.

Alan Wake II is set in the time that has passed since the first game. Alan Wake has been in limbo, stuck for the past 13 years. He is trying to bring himself to reality. In a zoomed out perspective, the two Alan Wake video games feature a man escaping an evil entity. When you look closer, though, it’s a story about what art is, how to be creative, whether memory or reality are reliable, parenting, friendship, and murder. Alan Wake II’s story, sometimes clumsily, navigates all these topics with morose voiceover, beautiful visuals, impressive performances, and bizarre set pieces that will undoubtedly become the game’s primary talking point for the rest of its legacy. Alan Wake II is at its best in this area. Alan Wake II is unique in the way that it tells its story. Although I’d have preferred more interactivity, both during dialogue and monologues within conversations, I stayed consistently interested.

The exception to this is new playable protagonist Saga’s investigative techniques. Saga’s special detective powers led to a lot of disappointing reveals, even though I liked playing her more than Alan. Saga is able to know impossible case details by sitting alone in her room, thinking. I am happy to buy into the conceit that she has special powers, but from the player’s perspective, watching Saga just know things for no reason is deeply unsatisfying. It’s also a bit like painting with numbers when Saga uses interactive tools to create evidence on the wall. Overall, however, Saga’s story and the mystery surrounding her family is the more interesting one, and I followed her threads when given the choice.

Alan lacks Saga’s investigative abilities, but playing his portions, which take place in the abstract Dark Place, have their own issues. The Dark Place is meant to make Alan feel lost and confused, which works from a storytelling perspective. But when a location (and troublesome map) is already difficult to navigate and then filled with doors that change exits depending on the lighting, things get opaque in a way that isn’t consistently fun.


Combat is still a source of excitement, even if you are frustrated or lost. It feels much more definitive to light up an enemy with a torch and then fill them with bullets than it did in 2010. However, pulling off the perfect flashlight-shotgun combination still feels amazing. It was so good, I wanted more. Few situations require you to fight an enemy. Dodging and avoiding is the best way to avoid combat. When you’re watching calories, combat feels like an amazing dessert. You want to partake, but you really shouldn’t. The last confrontation is filled with enemies and plenty of ammo. It’s a nice homage.

Alan Wake 2 also plays into a frustrating video game trope that is more prevalent than in any other game of recent times, in which everything feels unreachable in an unpleasant way. As you approach this electronic entrance, power is cut off. You need to find A, B and C in order to restore electricity. The same thing happens over and over again. On a theoretical level, the barriers are logical, as the story will be written in real time. But on a practical basis, they feel antagonistic.

I have been eagerly waiting for Alan’s return since the original game ended with a cliffhanger and 2012’s American Nightmare did little to move the story forward. Saga has a great story and I’m happy with it. The game was easy to navigate, but I had trouble avoiding the combat. While I wanted to watch the next cutscene I found that gameplay fell far short and had more bugs in it than Taken’s enemies. Remedy and Alan Wake fans who have been waiting to find out what comes next will be pleased with the sequel. But getting there is not easy.


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