Before I start this review, I want to tell a story from my youth. Before 2010, I was a Nintendo-only child and was raised during the peak of Nintendo during the mid-2000s, but as I got older, I wanted to branch out and play games that all the other kids were playing, primarily Call of Duty. I had it for the Wii, but it wasn’t that good, so in 2010 my parents got me the Xbox 360 bundle for that Christmas along with a used copy of The Simpsons Game. In the bundle I got a disc copy of Forza Motorsports 3 and a digital code for a game I’d never heard of until I was staring at the pamphlet; Alan Wake. I played Forza and The Simpsons until the download was complete, and played Alan Wake and I didn’t know what to make of it, I could describe it as a horror game but I was more tense than scared while playing it, and I beat it and went on to play Black Ops 1 but Alan Wake still lingered in the back of my mind for years to come, I like to pinpoint this was the moment where games can tell rich engaging stories, as before my 360 the best games I had were designed to perfection with good stories like Mario Galaxy and Smash Brothers.
So, I say all of this to say I have a bit of a personal bias towards Alan Wake and how it developed my appreciation of gaming as an art form. But with that said I can say with a straight face that Alan Wake 2 is one of the best games I have played in the last few years. Its approach to world design and gameplay structure, and how it tells its story are things I only dreamed of doing myself as a filmmaker, this is without a doubt Remedy’s magnum opus, and I hope that this game gets the attention that it rightfully deserves.
Alan Wake 2 tells the continuing story of horror writer Alan Wake, a fictionized version of a Stephen King type of writer, being stuck in a horror realm called The Dark Place. After being trapped there for 13 years, he finally escapes with the help of FBI agent Saga Anderson who appears to have a connection to The Dark Place and comes to the area investigating a murder cult. The story is rooted in that Twin Peaks-esque style, a small northwestern town that has supernatural elements occur in, along with an outside force coming in and trying to make sense of the off-putting nature. If Alan Wake 1 was Twin Peaks Seasons 1 & 2, Alan Wake 2 is Twin Peaks Season 3 even has those transitions that appear to be scratches in film stock, which somehow ends up being one of the most terrifying images I’ve seen in a game.
The game goes all in on the horror feel that the first game hinted at, playing more like a classic Resident Evil, but without all the jank that comes with the genre. You do have set save points throughout the game, but you do get checkpoints every now and then. You start with a limited amount of ammo, which adds to the tension. Along with environmental puzzles especially while playing as Alan Wake. While being stuck in The Dark Place, he tries to write himself out of the hellscape, so you can pick up plot elements and change certain aspects of the environment on the fly. It’s a great tech showcase to show how fast the loading times can be while loading an all-new environment can be. Saga’s puzzle are more set in the detective genre mold, but it’s not that deep just involves gathering info and playing trial and error with your case board to move on.
Now earlier I did say that this is Remedy’s best game to date, and that’s because it takes all the elements of their past works and pushes it to the limit and then some in Alan Wake 2. It takes the surreal elements and trippy nature from Control; it takes those live-action cutscenes that everyone hated from Quantum Break and turns them into some of the game’s high points. It also takes every element that was used in Alan Wake 1 and improves on nearly every factor. This is a game that will be talked about for a while, from both what players’ different experiences were, and also select moments that will be talked about as all-time moments in gaming as an art form. One moment that I will not spoil caught me off guard and is now in my top ten moments of all time in gaming.
So should you try Alan Wake 2, yes you should as soon as you can. Because this is a game that had a lot that could go wrong, being from a game that was seen as okay from the mid-point of the 360’s lifetime, and coming out in a packed month with must-played titles. But I think it is not only better than those other titles, it’s probably my favorite game of the year, and with the year ending soon I doubt that will be changing any time soon.
Score: 10 out of 10
Reviewed on PC