Sitting down to write this review makes us feel a little like Alan Wake himself, tapping away at his typewriter in the Writer’s Room. We’re not quite sure where the page will take us, even though we have so much swirling around in our mind. That’s the effect of Alan Wake 2; a rip-roaring horror experience from Remedy Entertainment that innovates in just about every way possible. It's the sequel fans of the series have been waiting over a decade for — but it’s also so much more.
We’re reintroduced to Bright Falls, the quaint lakeside town from the first game, in brutal, bloody fashion. A ritualistic murder has brought FBI Agent Saga Anderson and her partner to Bright Falls to investigate. The opening hours feel like a classic murder mystery, hitting all the hallmarks of the genre with stunning finesse. But it really doesn’t take long for Remedy to do what Remedy does best: get weird.
This will start from the very get for some, as Saga’s partner Alex Casey doesn’t just share the name of Alan Wake’s most popular detective character, but also the likeness of Creative Director Sam Lake. It’s the first strand in a web of the meta-mystery that the developer is spinning, that only gets weirder and more impressive the deeper you get into its 15-20 hour campaign.
To say that we were enthralled is putting it lightly. While the 2010 original certainly has a pseudo-cult following, reignited with the Control/Alan Wake DLC back in 2020, Alan Wake 2 is on another level. Hell, it’s on a different planet. Gone is the stilted narration for intriguing and purposeful dialogue — the alternating camera perspective is now swapped out for a Resident Evil-like third-person one — and while the original was never really a looker, Alan Wake 2 graphically trumps most games on PS5 with ease.
One of our favourite improvements, though, lies in the dual protagonists. At a certain point in the game you are able to choose between missions as Alan or Saga. You can rinse through the Alan story before getting into Saga’s, or vice versa. We personally opted to alternate between the two after each Chapter, which resulted in flawless pacing. Each protagonist has their own mission style, with Saga going down the more traditional horror route, and Alan opting for labyrinthine mazes of the mind. Much to our surprise, however, both connected campaigns maintain the same level of entertainment. There's never a dull moment or a “not another one of these” segments, which were regular occurrences in the original game.
Yet despite all of these changes, Alan Wake 2 stays true to the series with a novelistic flair to its storytelling. There are twists and turns aplenty, amplified by the returning episodic structure, weird side characters both new and old, and creeping doubts that’ll leave you questioning what’s real. And that’s all wrapped up in an palpable atmosphere that’ll leave you practically smelling the damp forest pine of its setting.
We couldn't get enough of the story, which becomes all the more ambitious the further it goes on. And as the third entry in the Remedy connected universe, fans of Control as well as Alan Wake will be thrilled to see the two interweave — and in more meaningful ways than we ever expected. There are moments of this story that left us with fullbody chills, and some particularly creepy levels that we’ll not soon forget.
All of this is aided by a streamlined gameplay experience. You’re still tasked with dousing an enemy in light before blasting their brains out, but it's now much snappier. Ditching the rechargeable batteries from the original and giving each one a set number of light charges means you're a lot more battery conscious as you delve deep into darkened areas. The new perspective certainly makes you feel like you're in the trenches, so to speak, but with your expanding weaponry and a degree of tactics, combat maintains that perfect vulnerable badass balance. The only minor disappointment is that the enemy variety has remained pretty similar to our first outing in Bright Falls. There's never that spine-tingling feeling like when you first encounter a Licker in Resident Evil 2, although we'd argue that you're comparing two different types of horror at that point
If we really had to bring up some kind of complaint about the game, it would be the puzzles. Quite often you’ll be finding keys and codes to unlock gates and stashes. On the surface they're fairly inoffensive, but more than once we found ourselves traipsing through levels confused as to where to go and what to do. Without any objective markers, some of the mandatory puzzles can be frustratingly tedious, although the minimal HUD also amplifies the immersion.
Speaking of immersion, we’ve got to talk about visuals and the masterful presentation that Remedy has conjured up here. Whether you’re exploring the dense forests surrounding Cauldron Lake, or the nightmarish rendition of New York in The Dark Place, the detail and visual flare that Remedy has achieved is nothing short of astounding. The game bounces back and forth between in-game cinematics and gameplay, and even full live action material — sometimes at the same time. The lighting in particular will leave you begging for a photo mode (something Remedy has confirmed is coming post-launch). It’s hard to think of a game with unwavering direction quite like this.
What impresses even more, though, is how much of a technical feat Alan Wake 2 is. While graphics are nice, the non-existent loading times will really make you perk up. Whether it’s switching to Saga’s case-cracking Mind Place, or entirely changing the look of a level in an instant by rewriting its narrative, you’re constantly reminded why this release ditched last-gen. While it’s not as flashy as Spider-Man 2’s fast travel transition, the instant switching of levels continues to impress all the way to the very end.
DualSense haptics also does a good job of highlighting those changes with thuds and rumbles tying into the sound effects and level switches. It's not the best haptic functionality we’ve ever felt, but it weaves into the experience in a way that amplifies it, rather than pulling your attention away from it.
Like a mystery once thought solved, Alan Wake 2 reopens the case for what’s possible in its genre. It’s a delight to relive classic horror titles through modern remakes, but what Remedy has cooked up here is something special — a gust of fresh air aiming to revitalise video game horror. There’s expansive lore and a twisting story that might not be for everyone, but the developer packs so many exciting and unique ideas into this ambitious sequel that you can’t help but play along with a nervous smile on your face. With stunning visuals, pitch-perfect tone and atmosphere, brilliant pacing, and a fascinating mystery to sink your teeth into, there are no twists or turns about it: Alan Wake 2 is an all-timer.