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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Rondina

Alan Wake 2 Review: A Survival Horror Masterpiece

Alan Wake 2 is a new benchmark in survival horror and one of the best games of this generation.

It’s been 13 long years since we last saw Alan Wake, the troubled writer who fought against the darkness in the small town of Bright Falls. Since then, the game has become a cult classic with fans clamoring for a sequel, hoping to see the continuation of Wake’s story and the resolution of his fate. The wait is finally over and Remedy Entertainment has delivered a horror masterpiece. Remedy, developers behind critically acclaimed titles like Control and Quantum Break, have their best game yet with Alan Wake 2.

"The wait is finally over and Remedy Entertainment has delivered a horror masterpiece."

The game is a superb mix of survival horror and detective elements that completely evolves the Alan Wake formula in new, satisfying ways. If you are looking for big time scares, it creates far more jump scares, adds more story and combat elements than its predecessor. Alan Wake 2 is not only a worthy successor to the original game, but also one of the best games of the year and a new benchmark for the horror genre.

Alan Wake 2 Details

Platform(s): PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox Series X|S

Reviewed On: PlayStation 5

Developer(s): Remedy Entertainment

Publisher (s): Epic Games

Genre: Survival horror

Modes: Single-player

ESRB Rating: Mature 17+ (M) for Blood and Gore and Intense Violence

Alan Wake 2's Story: A Real Page-Turner

The story in Alan Wake 2 is told from the perspective of two characters existing in two separate realities, connected in ways neither of them can understand. The story kicks off with Saga Anderson, an FBI agent who arrives in Bright Falls to investigate a string of ritualistic murders in a small-town community. Her story becomes intertwined with Alan Wake himself, a lost writer trapped in a nightmare beyond our world, writing a dark story to shape the reality around him and escape his prison. The game grips you with mystery and gore in the opening moments, as you witness a brutal and sinister horror story unfold.

"The game grips you with mystery and gore in the opening moments, as you witness a brutal and sinister horror story unfold."

As you progress through the game, you will switch between Anderson and Wake, uncovering clues, solving puzzles, and fighting for your survival against the forces of darkness. The narrative can get heavy at times, but the game has characters go through natural dialogue like interrogation sequences that summarize and add more context to the complex, but enjoyable story. As big horror fan, I would put Alan Wake 2’s story up there with the likes of Stephen King novels, the Twighlight Zone and John Carpenter creations.

"As big horror fan, I would put Alan Wake 2’s story up there with the likes of Stephen King novels, the Twighlight Zone and John Carpenter creations."

Alan Wake 2: Gameplay Evolved

The central gameplay of Alan Wake 2 is a diverse blend of action, exploration, and puzzle-solving. If you’ve played the original, the high-octane firearm and flashlight combo are back, but better than ever. You will use them to fend off “The Taken,” twisted creatures that lurk in the shadows.

There are also breaks in the action to use new detective and narrative skills between characters to move the story forward. As Anderson, you will use your detective skills to examine crime scenes, collect evidence, interrogate suspects, and follow leads. Some my early investigations reminded me of Condemned: Criminal Origins’ forensic crime scene exploration mechanic only expanded and more interesting in Alan Wake 2. You get a hard boiled detective story along with survival horror elements and it all comes together extremely well.

Mind Place and Writer’s Room

Alan Wake 2 has reinvented the traditional map / inventory screen in incredible new ways with what’s called “Mind Place” (Anderson) and “Writer’s Room” (Wake). These type of pause areas bring your characters into a virtual space that exists only in their minds. Here they can walk around, look at maps, collectibles and even map out critical plot points to move along the story. It’s done so well that it helps to keep all the game’s elements from upgrades, story beats and more moving together in a cohesive manner.

"It’s done so well that it helps to keep all the game’s elements from upgrades, story beats and more moving together in a cohesive manner."

As Wake, you will use your writing abilities to manipulate the environment and alter the narrative. In the “Writer’s Room” the multiple plot paths and changes to the story are displayed and kept organized. This Wake-exclusive mechanic is incredibly impressive altering the environment around you with the press of a button.

Making the pieces fit

The puzzles are interesting and challenging, playing on riddles in the environment and requiring you to use your “Words of Power,” as Wake which are special phrases that can affect reality in different ways. You will also use your flashlight and flare gun to light up the darkness and reveal hidden paths. The combat is intense and satisfying, requiring you to balance your ammo and battery resources and use your Charms, special items that can grant you different abilities such as healing or slowing down time.

Deeper immersion with the PlayStation 5 DualSense Controller

One of the most impressive features of Alan Wake 2 is how it utilizes the PS5 DualSense controller to create a more immersive and atmospheric experience. The game makes full use of the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers to convey different sensations and actions. For example, rainy scenes feel like raindrops are gently tapping the controller.

"...rainy scenes feel like raindrops are gently tapping the controller."

Even on different surfaces you are walking on like gravel, dirt and wood planks you can feel the difference; on wood my footsteps felt “hollow”. The triggers also offer different levels of resistance depending on what weapon you are using or what action you are performing. For instance, pulling the trigger halfway will aim your flashlight or flare gun, while pulling it all the way will fire it.

A beautiful nightmare

Alan Wake 2 is one of the most visually stunning games I’ve ever experienced. This is a new benchmark on the PS5 and for Remedy Games as a whole. The game features an incredible level of detail in every aspect, from the creepy wooded areas, urban settings, underground caverns and beyond. The lighting, character models and environments are absolutely superb. Story cutscenes seamlessly transitions between in game and live action sequences with real actors, creating a cinematic feel that blends perfectly with the gameplay. The graphical fidelity is so incredible in certain sequences that when characters go from real-life actors to in-game models it’s difficult to tell the difference.

"The graphical fidelity is so incredible in certain sequences that when characters go from real-life actors to in-game models it’s difficult to tell the difference."

The lighting, textures and overall details are done so well Remedy has shrunk the uncanny valley and it helps keep you locked in the experience with very natural looking characters.

Graphics mode options

Just like many games releasing in 2023, Alan Wake 2 offers graphics modes to choose from. You really can’t go wrong between the two choices which are “Quality mode” favoring visual fidelity or “Performance mode” favoring framerate. I played mostly on Quality mode which runs at 4K resolution with 30fps, and I was blown away by the graphics. The game runs well on Performance mode which runs at 1440p resolution with 60fps, but I preferred the higher resolution and didn’t mind the lower frame rate. I did experience some significant frame rate drops with rainy scenes and many enemies lurking about.

"I did experience some significant frame rate drops with rainy scenes and many enemies lurking about."

It wasn’t a deal breaker and only occurred early in the game, but it’s worth mentioning. Either way you can’t go wrong with the graphics mode, as the game looks and incredible and is pretty stable with both.

Post launch photo mode

There is a free update incoming to add a photo mode, but I was hoping to test it out in my review. The game is so stunning, I am genuinely excited to go back and replay the experience just to tinker around with the photo mode, this is easily one of the best-looking games of 2023.

"...this is easily one of the best-looking games of 2023."

That being said, I would have preferred to have photo mode for my first play through there are some stunning areas I would like to have more capture options with.

Supernatural sound design and voice performances

The sound design of Alan Wake 2 is also top-notch, creating a tense and immersive atmosphere that complements the visuals. The game features a stellar voice cast that delivers excellent performances for both the main and supporting characters. Ilkka Villi and Matthew Porretta return to provide the appearance and the voice of Alan Wake and deliver incredible, engaging performances that put you in the shoes of the character. Saga is portrayed by Melanie Liburd, who nails the role and makes the new character instantly likeable and relatable.

"Saga is portrayed by Melanie Liburd, who nails the role and makes the new character instantly likeable and relatable."

There is another main character who delivers a career performance, but I don’t want to spoil the surprises. The dialogue is well-written and engaging, with witty banter, emotional moments, and clever references to pop culture and other Remedy games. (Lime in the Coconut anyone?) Along with this the game splices in nightmare like flashes at points for “jump scares” and they are intense and got me a few times. Alan Wake 2 is a much scarier experience than the original and better for it.

"Alan Wake 2 is a much scarier experience than the original and better for it."

The game also features a fantastic soundtrack that mixes original compositions and licensed songs from various genres and artists. One of my personal favourites is “Follow You Into The Dark” Featuring RAKEL. The music sets the tone for each scene and adds to the emotion and excitement of the game. The game also features a dynamic sound system that adapts to your actions and surroundings. The sound design of Alan Wake 2 is one of the best I’ve ever heard in a video game, and it makes the game even more suspenseful and thrilling.

Final Thoughts on Alan Wake 2

Alan Wake 2 is a survival horror masterpiece that delivers on every level. It has a gripping story that will keep you hooked until the end, offering a perfect blend of gameplay that will challenge your skills and wits, stunning graphics, and incredible acting. Alan Wake 2 is not only one of the best games of the year, but also one of the best games of the generation.

"Alan Wake 2 is not only one of the best games of the year, but also one of the best games of the generation."

It’s one of the best pieces of horror fiction out there including films, novels, and TV shows. If you are a fan of the Alan Wake series, or survival horror in general, you owe it to yourself to play this game.


Alan Wake 2 PROS

+Gripping story with two heroes on their own compelling journeys

+Perfect blend of gameplay with action, exploration, and puzzle-solving

+Stunning graphics with seamless transitions between in game and live action sequences

+Amazing sound design with stellar acting


Alan Wake 2 CONS

-Some minor bugs and glitches

-Story can get confusing at times

-Frame rate slowdowns with intense action and weather effects

-Some difficulty spikes in combat that could use more balancing


Gameplay: 9.5/10

Graphics: 9.5/10

Sound: 9.5/10

Replayability: 8.5/10


Overall Rating: 37/40 (93%)

A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

 

About the Author - Matthew "Dapper Tux" Rondina Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Along with being the Managing Editor of dappertux.com, he has bylines with Best Buy, Cineplex Entertainment, Mobile Syrup and Walmart. Follow Matthew’s gaming + tech adventures on multiple social platforms with the handle @dapper_tux via "X", Instagram, Threads, TikTok and join in on the fun!

 

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