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Remedy would never be the type of developer to phone things in, but Alan Wake II is undisputed proof it belongs in the top tier of the games industry. Following the new gameplay trailer revealed during Summer Game Fest, we were treated to a significantly extended hands-off demo at SGF Play Days. This PS5 sequel is the real deal, and its investigative trappings look set to be the star of the show.

That familiar combat loop of shining torches at enemies and blasting them to smithereens when vulnerable is back — Remedy clarifies fights will at least be taken at a slower pace — complete with wider hub areas to explore. Our demo guide mentioned three of them. However, the most striking addition is the Mind Place, a feature accessed at the touch of a button where you can work on the case at the heart of Alan Wake II. New co-protagonist Saga Anderson toured the area — a sort of room you can retreat to whenever you like to investigate clues and develop your understanding of events. This is a seamless transition without any load screens, done on a PS5 devkit.

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Think of the elaborate case boards you see in crime TV shows and you're all the way there. Another point of comparison would be the more recent Sherlock Holmes titles, except Alan Wake II makes it an interactive room rather than a set of menus. By picking up pages and interacting with the real-world environment, this otherworldly room will develop with plot-relevant revelations. Remedy says you can't place these clues in the wrong places, so everyone will follow the same narrative path and be served up equal hints.

As an FBI agent, Saga plays investigator while Alan Wake himself is trapped in the darkness — except for a scene that closed the demo sporting spectacular visuals. Building on the classic loop of Alan Wake, it's where Remedy has gotten ambitious, and it's almost certainly going to pay off. We can't wait to fully unravel the mystery come October.

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Besides that, Remedy is leaning in to everything that sets it apart from industry peers. The live-action elements are back, now combined with jump scares and survival horror elements. The way they're implemented is fascinating, with quick flashes of grey recordings plastered over the top of gameplay. They'll either scare you or creep you out, and how they'll develop in the full game is an exciting thought. And while we wouldn't rule out the possibility yet, our 30 or so-minute gameplay presentation lacked a live-action TV show to follow.

With more methodical action and limited inventory, this will be an experience where every bullet counts. Sandwiched in between heavyweights like Assassin's Creed Mirage and Marvel's Spider-Man 2, there's concern Alan Wake II won't get all the attention it deserves. On the basis of this early-game sequence, it's another Game of the Year contender — perhaps top of the pack if survival horror is your forte.

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