So, The question on everyone’s mind, could Alan Wake II ever meet the high expectations set by Remedy itself, especially after extensive anticipation over the last 13 years. The original Alan Wake had set lofty standards, and Quantum Break was largely ignored due to its heavy reliance on live action scenes. Control, a critical and commercial success, was Remedy’s biggest achievement since Max Payne 2.
However, was it a one-time stroke of luck or a benchmark for Remedy’s future endeavours? The truth is, Control’s excellence was no accident; it resulted from exceptional creative talent, a clear vision, and meticulous effort to create something extraordinary, following Remedy’s distinctive style. When the official announcement for Alan Wake II came, it was evident that Remedy had applied everything they learned from Control, preparing to reveal the true essence of Alan Wake to the world. And without spoiling the rest of this review, they’ve definitely succeeded.
Alan Wake II starts off in the tranquil town of Bright Falls, the familiar backdrop of Deerfest, similar to the original game. Thirteen years after the events of Alan Wake, the story unfolds with Saga Anderson, an adept FBI agent renowned for solving intricate cases, and her partner, the gruff and weathered Alex Casey.
The game promptly clarifies that this Alex Casey isn’t the central character from Wake’s bestselling detective novels bearing the same name; any resemblance is purely coincidental (yeah, right).
In reality, Casey, resembling Remedy Creative Director Sam Lake and voiced by James McCaffrey, Max Payne’s actor, openly despises the crime novels and resents the perceived similarity. If this seems too convenient or overly self-aware, rest assured there’s much more to the story as you progress. Alan Wake II’s narrative doesn’t shy away; it revels in exploring metafiction and how an author inevitably shapes the essence of their work, whether deliberately or not.
Criticism directed at Remedy’s previous works, particularly the original Alan Wake, was that it felt more like a tribute to Twin Peaks and its Lynchian influences than an original effort to navigate similar waters. It seemed hesitant to push boundaries or embrace the eccentric, teetering between quaint and peculiar, resulting in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek vibe without fully committing to its setups.
Alan Wake II doesn’t suffer from this hesitation; if anything, it fully embraces its inspirations and is self-aware enough to recognise the need to intensify its efforts to achieve its vision. In essence, narratively, tonally, and thematically, Alan Wake II delves deep into the realms of weirdness and fear, authentically venturing into these territories rather than merely imitating them.
Alan Wake II reintroduces players to Bright Falls and Cauldron Lake through Saga, allowing them to familiarise themselves with the locales and grasp foundational backstory. The game’s opening is compelling, setting the stage for engaging detective work. Unlike most games that rely on exposition, Alan Wake II actively involves players in collecting and connecting clues through Saga’s Mind Place, a representation of her mental case catalogue. Players can access the Mind Place anytime, viewing the case board where they connect clues with red string and pins, making the process feel interactive and meaningful.
Saga’s “profiling” ability allows her to intuit clues about people she investigates based on conversations and learned information, adding depth to the narrative. Combining the Case Board, Profiling, and Alan’s manuscript pages, players uncover mysteries surrounding Cauldron Lake, ritualistic murders, and supernatural forces, reminiscent of the classic Alan Wake gameplay.
Players alternate between Saga and Alan, experiencing tension and horror in different sections of the game. Alan’s Writer’s Room, set in Bird’s Leg Cabin’s attic, introduces new twists to the gameplay by rewriting the environment based on combinations players choose.
Gameplay in Alan Wake II remains true to its roots but sees significant improvements. Controls are responsive, making movement more realistic and enjoyable. The game’s pacing is expertly crafted, balancing tension and release effectively. While labelled as “survival horror,” the game offers a refreshing take on the genre, utilising common tropes without resorting to cheap tactics.
The illusion of scarcity keeps players on edge, ensuring challenging situations without leaving them resource-deprived. Remedy strikes a delicate balance, providing a thrilling experience similar to TV and film storytelling, where suspense is maintained without unnecessary punishment for players.
And now, my favourite part of each review, especially this review.. Alan Wake II’s visuals. they’re definitely one of the title’s standout features and a key reason for its success. If you’ve played Control, you’re familiar with the immersive mixed media approach the game used to tell its story—live action footage overlaying the game world, videos playing on in-world screens, and more. All these elements return in Alan Wake II, seamlessly integrating with the game’s narrative about a writer and its inspiration from various media forms.
It combines the best aspects of Control’s presentation with Alan Wake’s deep lore and moody atmosphere, creating a brilliant result. This game reveals Remedy’s original aspirations from thirteen years ago, showcasing what they’ve strived to achieve for so long.
Every aspect of the game’s presentation is meticulously polished, purposefully crafted, drawing players further into the plot. Playing Alan Wake II is a rich, detailed experience; every moment is filled with discovery, and nothing feels insignificant.
Remedy’s in-house engine, Northlight, continues to evolve and demonstrates its capabilities. The studio has invested significantly in enhancing the engine’s lighting effects and over visual fidelity. Facial animation systems have been meticulously developed, making character expressions incredibly convincing, a feat many games struggle with.
Graphically, Alan Wake II performs exceptionally well on current gen consoles also, with our review being done in quality mode on an Xbox Series X, offering crisp 4K visuals, impressive HDR implementation and rock-solid 30fps. It’s PC gamers with decent enough graphics cards though who can enable additional graphical features that can really enhance the game’s realism, particularly ray tracing, path tracing, and real-time reflections, bringing the game’s incredible visual quality to the fore.
In a year absolutely packed with fantastic games, Alan Wake II stands as a strong contender for Game of the Year, offering an unmissable experience whether you’ve played the original or not. It fulfils Remedy’s decades-long vision and establishes a new standard for gaming excellence. Even if horror isn’t your preferred genre, lowering the difficulty to “Story” mode is a viable option.
The game is a captivating journey that will definitely stay with you , likely turning anyone into a Remedy fan. This is a rare gem, a game that defines genres and studios. Whether you’re a veteran fan or a newcomer to the Alan Wake universe, it’s a must-play title that will linger in your thoughts long after the credits roll. Alan Wake II stands as Remedy’s magnum opus, a truly fantastic achievement.
REVIEW: Alan Wake II - Messed Up Mind Games
Whether you’re a veteran fan or a newcomer to the Alan Wake universe, it’s a must-play title that will linger in your thoughts long after the credits roll. Alan Wake II stands as Remedy’s magnum opus, a truly fantastic achievement.