Alan Wake 2 – Game Review

Alan Wake 2 Review

Believe it or not, I used to be a massive coward when it came to anything horror related. One of the things that helped me get out of my shell and become the horror junkie that I am today was Alan Wake (or to be more exact, watching ‘let’s plays’ of it in high school). Despite being afraid of it, and barely being able to sleep every time I watched it, I was enthralled by the story and characters and kept watching, even years later when I finally played it, while I didn’t find it nearly as scary, I still happily call it one of my favourite games. So, as you can imagine, I got super excited during the 2021 Game Awards when they announced a sequel; hell, if Final Fantasy XVI wasn’t coming out it would probably have been my most anticipated game of the year. Alan Wake II was developed by Remedy Entertainment and released on 27th October 2023 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and Windows.


Alan Wake II takes place 13 years after Alan Wake. You take on the role of FBI agent Saga Anderson, who’s come to the small town of Bright Falls to investigate a series of ritualistic murders committed by The Cult of the Tree, alongside her partner Alex Casey. Not long after arriving a number of mysterious events start to occur within the town, manuscripts depicting horrific events being played out are being discovered, the corpse of the latest murder victim coming to life and attacking Saga, and a darkness possessing the town members, making them hostile and violent. Saga has now been dragged into a horror story that’s changing reality and taking away everything precious to her. Meanwhile, the writer Alan Wake remains trapped in the Dark Place and is desperately writing one horrific tale after another in an attempt to escape his prison and stop the evil Mr. Scratch from getting out. However, the Dark Presence still hunts for Wake, and has no intention of letting its prey escape so easily. I really like the story, it brings back not only elements from Alan Wake but also a number of other Remedy games, most notably Control. The characters are likeable, the plot gets very tense at times and the mystery surrounding it really draws you in and makes you want to know how it all ends.


To put it simply, this is one of the best-looking games I’ve ever played. The character models are all traced from real life actors and match their likeness perfectly. The environments are the standout however, whether trudging through the dark forests of Bright Falls, or exploring the city of New York in the Dark Place, your surroundings look immaculate with every corner oozing with detail, from the use of lighting enhancing the scene and the use of darkness obscuring and intensifying the setting, to the hostile design stricken throughout every room and corridor, even the shadows clinging to the Taken has been made to look more eerie and sinister. This is especially apparent in the Dark Place, where the atmosphere is truly ominous and where you never feel safe because of it. One thing that Remedy likes to do in their games is use FMV (Full-Motion Video) and they seem to be getting more ambitious with their use of it in each game, and Alan Wake II is no exception to this. The FMV footage mostly happens when showing footage on a TV, in brief flashes or in the Dark Place for a “shift of perspective”. It is used brilliantly well and never outstays its welcome enough to ruin the charm, I especially love it in the Dark Place as it makes the game more surreal and in a lot of ways creepier.

The voice acting is fantastic, some of the cast from the last game return, most notably Matthew Porreta as Alan Wake, who is just as good, with all the new ensembles being equally as excellent, like David Harewood as Warlin Door and Melanie Liburd as Saga Anderson – who was just nominated for best performance at The Game Awards. The soundtrack to this game is really good, every chapter ends with a song and there wasn’t a single one that I didn’t enjoy, I especially loved the original songs by Poets of the Fall, who were responsible for the music by the in-game band, Old Gods of Asgard (anyone who played the We Sing chapter knows exactly how good they are).

Swapping Between Realities

As mentioned before, in Alan Wake II you play as two characters, the titular Alan Wake and newcomer Saga Anderson, and will be swapping between both of them throughout the game. What I like is that you can actually swap between characters whenever you want. In some break rooms you’ll find a janitor’s bucket, by using these you can switch to a different character and play as them for a bit. I really like this; it makes it so that you don’t get bored of playing one character and also avoids any issues with the story structure as it’s up to the player to decide how they want to experience it.

This is where this review is going to get a bit more complicated for me, as while the combat essentially works the same with both characters, there are a number of elements that makes playing as both characters very unique. So instead of my usual structure, I’m going to be labelling which parts refer to which characters, partly to prevent  confusion, partly just to make it easier for me.

Bright Falls and the Dark Place

Saga:- The entirety of Saga’s story takes place in Bright Falls, meaning that her levels will consist of exploring multiple locations based within the town. Every location consists of somewhat open areas with straightforward and obviously telegraphed paths connecting each area to each other. It’s tough to get lost in these sections, as you’re told where to go beforehand and your end goal is clearly shown on an area map, which is easily found. The paths are actually quite linear, there are a couple of branching paths that will take you to a small building or to a block in the road, but there’s mostly just one path forward. Some levels will have you exploring buildings, usually quite small with only one floor and maybe a basement. You won’t find yourself wandering these for too long as most of them will involve you entering the building, looking for and then finding a McGuffin, and then leaving; not that that’s a bad thing, the buildings serve their purpose and the game shows very early on how dangerous they can be. Each of these buildings feel very claustrophobic, as the space feels much more limited than when you are trudging through the dark forest (well, obviously).

Alan:- Alan’s levels are similar, and yet very different. For starters, you only have one open outdoor area, that being a small square in the dark version of New York, which mostly just serves as a jumble of mazes that lead you to the location, you’ll be exploring this chapter. Unlike Saga, most of Alan’s locations are larger buildings and city locations, each with several rooms and key locations that are required to explore and change to continue through the story. These sections are giant mazes, with pathways and doors blocked off until you either find the key or the right scenario to unlock. These levels are definitely my favourite, as they’re the ones that make me feel the most on edge, they are incredibly claustrophobic at times and even though there’s not as much combat as there is in Saga’s sections, I cannot help but feel nervous at every corner.

Fighting the Darkness

Combat is for the most part the same as in Alan Wake though it does have a few differences. For starters, you still have the same range of weapons as the last game, with Alan using the same kind as he did last time, most notably his trusty revolver and shotgun. Saga does get a slightly larger weapon pool, though surprisingly there are no repeats between characters, yes, they both have pistols and shotguns, but each weapon isn’t exactly the same, making it feel like each character is in some way different. You won’t just get each new weapon though; you will be required to hunt each of them down and then complete a small puzzle to unlock the case that they are trapped in. You want that crossbow, you’ve gotta work for it buddy.

Of course, your key weapon to defeat your foes of darkness is your trusty torch. Just like before, enemies will be coated in a shroud of darkness, protecting them from your bullets, shining your torch on the enemies first will expunge the darkness and make the Taken susceptible to damage. This time around, your torch works quite differently, and in my opinion better than it did before. For starters, before you could focus your light to erase the darkness faster though it will drain your torch’s batteries, but it wasn’t required as just directing the light onto a Taken was enough to weaken them. This time around, merely shining the light won’t be enough, in Alan Wake II you HAVE to focus the light to eliminate your opponents’ darkness. Your battery drains differently from before as well, now instead of your light being focused in one long stream which lasts as long as you hold the button and have batteries, your light is now focused on charges, so you get a small burst of light at a time instead of a constant stream of it. These changes might be an annoyance to some players, but for me it is much preferred. In Alan Wake I never felt like I was at threat of running out of batteries, which greatly lessened the tension, in this game however, there wasn’t a moment where I didn’t feel at risk of running out of batteries, making the game even more frightening for me, and made me really think before firing at an enemy.

Along with the torch, you have a small assortment of light-based weapons at your disposal. Of course, one of the most useful are the Flares, which can be used to emit light around you, blocking enemies from all sides and making them retreat briefly, they last longer if you’re holding them, but you can drop it quickly if you want to take a couple of shots at them. They now have another purpose outside of room control, sometimes an enemy will make a grappling attack that requires you to mash a button to escape, if you have a flare available, you can use it to force the enemy off you and damage their darkness a bit. Of course, there are also flashbangs, which seems to have gotten nerfed in between games, before they just killed enemies in one hit, now they just shed the Taken of their darkness, I get why, but it’s still a bit disappointing.

One big difference, you now have an inventory box. Before you did have limited inventory, but it was more just for how many guns and ammo you could carry, now your inventory accommodates for everything, guns, ammo, healing items, batteries, etc. You can increase your inventory via different means depending on the character, but it is now much easier to run out of space and be much more limited on supplies. Once again, I think this benefits the game greatly, the more limited inventory makes the game much more tense and tries to get you to be more careful and more aware of each bullet or battery used.

Alan:- There is one thing that Alan’s story has that Saga’s doesn’t, the shadows. In the Dark Place, your enemies are shadowy silhouettes, obscuring their features until you shed them of their darkness. What makes these so different? Not all of them are hostile, and there are a lot of them. The only way to tell if one can hurt you is either shine your light on them, or risk it and run into them. I cannot stress how much I love this, not only are the shadows very creepy – saying things to you whenever they’re near, indicating the potential danger – it increases the risk of you wasting batteries on what is ultimately not a threat, as well as the chances of you getting careless or more daring only to end up getting hurt. It’s done super well and is what always makes me excited to play Alan’s sections.

All In Your Head

Saga:- Of course, Saga is an FBI agent, so there’s no doubt that she’s going to do a number of deductions in her investigation, and the place she does that is within, what she calls, her Mind Place. Taking the form of a small cabin, this is where she puts together evidence and comes to conclusions on the cases she encounters throughout the game. As you play the game, you’ll be examining crime scenes and talking to town residents that will lead you to clues for your current case, you can take this evidence to the Case Board where it is then documented and stringed together with other evidence or questions, aiding cases, helping to move forward in the story and getting some clarity on what is unfolding in the horror story. As well as that you also come here to profile certain individuals that you encounter throughout the game. Questioning them on their motivations, suspicious behaviour and on whether or not they’re hiding something. I do really like this; it makes it actually feel like Saga is here on an investigation and is a unique method of storytelling that I’ve not seen in any other game.

Alan:- Alan also has a room set up in his mind, though you don’t do quite as much as you do in Saga’s. Alan’s mind place is a Writers Room, modelled after the same room in Cauldron Lake Cabin in the first game. In the story, Alan must rewrite the horror story that Scratch is laying out, to do this he must travel to the scenes of a murder site, and from there find a way out of the Dark Place. Throughout the levels Alan will encounter visions of his own fictional character, Alex Casey, investigating a murder in the same location that he’s in, these visions will at times inspire Alan with a story idea. From Key Locations within the level, Alan can enter the Writers Room and use these ideas to influence and change the area he’s in to match the story. Doing this will lead to new pathways opening up and more dangers to prevent your progress. Once again, another really unique idea executed really well, it’s a mechanic that has very simple, yet tremendous results.

Upgrades and Stashes

Saga:- Yes, even the upgrades work differently. Saga actually has multiple ways to upgrade herself and keep herself well equipped. Saga’s upgrades are to do with her skills with weapons, there are some pretty basic ones like increasing your reload speed with the shotgun or increasing your magazine size with the pistol, but there are some more unique ones like auto-fire with some weapons or having the crossbow fire two bolts at once. To unlock these upgrades, you’ll need to find Alex Casey lunch boxes containing scraps of manuscripts; what upgrades you’re able to get depends on how many manuscripts scraps you can use to buy. My one problem with this is that a lot of the upgrades cost quite a bit, I admit I didn’t find a lot of lunch boxes in my playthrough, but even then, I was only able to afford one upgrade. Aside from them, Saga can find a number of item stashes left behind by the Cult of the Tree, each of these contain a number of supplies to help you fight off the Taken. These will be locked by a padlock which will require you to search the area for clues on what the code is. These puzzles are cleverly done and require a decent amount of thought to solve.

Alan:- If you don’t really like Saga’s upgrade system, you’ll be happy to know that Alan’s is much more easily done. Throughout the world you’ll see arrows made from paint that are invisible unless revealed by a light, these will lead you to some Words of Power, you just need to look at them for long enough to be able to upgrade. Just like Saga, some of your upgrades are pretty simple, like healing more from painkillers, or increasing your inventory space, while there are some more extravagant ones like the chance of regaining a bullet after shooting one. I prefer this to Saga’s, yes, the upgrades aren’t quite as unique, but they are much simpler to get, almost guaranteeing that you’ll upgrade at least a few times without even looking for them.

This is a game that I’ve been waiting for, for 13 years now, and I can happily say that it was worth the wait. Alan Wake is one of my favourite games and this one exceeded it in every way, everything they could have improved has been and has led to an incredible experience that has unnerved me more than any horror game has in a good while. This is easily Remedy’s most ambitious game, and it truly proves how special of a company they are. Whether you’re a fan of the first game or not, I cannot recommend Alan Wake II enough. This is an easy game of the year contender for me, and that just makes me really happy to say.


Elliot Chapman
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant

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