| Played on a CLX Gaming PC using a RTX4090 + PS5 Quality Mode |
When I played Alan Wake on the Xbox 360 13 years ago, it set me on a journey where supernatural met psychological thriller where light sources were the key to disseminate shadowy threats. Remedy set a benchmark in physics and storytelling at the time, that was realized even more after replaying the PS5 remaster version in preparation for Alan Wake II.
I was not prepared.
Remedy once again set the bar with Alan Wake II as one of the scariest horror games I’ve ever played, coupled with one of the best-looking games to ever grace the screen, thanks to the Northlight engine. Every engaging moment left me yearning for me, anticipating, consistently amazed at the level of work put into project. AW2’s performance in its morose dialogue approach combined with genuinely well-timed jump scare, dark undertone and clever twist pushed me to the end of the game, and boy was it a ride.
Read Between the Lines
The game marks the triumphant return of Alan Wake, ensnared in the twisted realm known as The Dark Place since 2010. In a masterstroke of storytelling, I traversed the narrative from two vantage points: Saga Anderson, an FBI agent embroiled in a supernatural murder case rooted in the mysterious Cult of the Tree, and the eponymous Alan Wake, trapped in the Dark Place manipulated by an inscrutable malevolence that turns his words into harrowing reality. The plot unfurls in a parallel set drop, immersing players in the entwined fates of Saga and Alan. It’s punctuated with intriguing twists, each expertly foreshadowed, weaving a tapestry of suspense and revelation. AW2 does a tremendous job in utilization of full circle moments. For example, the tension regarding Alan’s creation that was realized back in the first game, Alex Casey, culminates in a dark alleyway encounter, epitomizing the cyclical nature of his struggle that catapulted Alan here in the first place.
The chance to pure horror was an excellent choice; the game deftly employs jump scares and meticulously crafted set pieces, while subtle, haunting sounds permeate the campaign, intensifying the overall atmosphere of dread. Bright Falls, the eerie backdrop to this nightmarish tale, has been meticulously realized, grounding the visual aesthetic in a palpable sense of reality. This transition from psychological thriller to desperate horror represents a welcome evolution, enriching the narrative experience. The game’s layered plot finds harmonious companionship in its exploration and puzzles, imbuing the world with an air of stoic surrealism.
Returning characters, such as the enigmatic Rose and the retired rockers Tor and Odin, deepen the narrative’s texture, revealing hidden depths and interconnections. Saga Anderson emerges as a compelling addition, providing a fresh perspective and setting the tone for the entire plot. Meanwhile, Alex Casey steps into the limelight, exuding a Max Payne-like persona that infuses the plot with a particular intensity that appears just out of place to fit into the overarching theme. Remedy’s signature use of FMV videos punctuates the surreal moments, blending live action with gameplay. All of which culminates in an open ending that leaves the world of Alan Wake on the precipice of thrilling potential.
Resident of the Last Evil
Remedy’s focused commitment to a grounded gameplay approach elevates the overall experience, showcasing significant evolution from its predecessor and drawing inspiration from industry giants like The Last of Us Part 2 and Resident Evil 4 Remake. The game’s mechanics, environmental interactions, and character progression contribute to a finely tuned gameplay experience that kept me engaged. The ingenious use of paranormal environmental puzzle-solving where lights play a pivotal role, shifting the environment to reveal new paths and even altering the entire scene to fit a new plot element, thereby unveiling more puzzles to solve is amazing. Pacing in Alan Wake 2 is nothing short of exceptional, deftly balancing moments of intense action with moments of quiet exploration and backtracking.
The ability to seamlessly switch between controlling Alan Wake and Saga Anderson adds a delightful layer of gameplay diversity. Both characters offer distinct gameplay approaches; Alan’s journey is marked by his ability to rewrite scenes in the “Plot Board,” a visually impressive mechanic that serves the plot, making it an integral part of the game’s mechanics and storytelling. Saga’s gameplay loop, centered around investigating crime scenes and solving puzzles by piecing together evidence case by case, is a stroke of brilliance. It not only enhances the gameplay but also aligns perfectly with the overarching plot. This detective-style element adds to the experience in ways I did not anticipate. Both Saga and Alan have their own unique progression systems. To expand Saga’s inventory or improve her weapons, players must embark on a hunt for Cult Stashes, solve riddles to unlock them, and hope to find valuable items within. For weapon upgrades, players need to discover hidden trinkets scattered throughout the game world, follow trails that lead to Alex Casey’s lunchbox, which contains a manuscript fragment used for weapon enhancement. All these mechanics serve to support the plot element where Alan Wake rewrites the horror story in the parallel reality of the Dark Place. Alan’s progression is a bit different and plays homage to AW1; you would need to use your flashlight to find neon-clues that would lead to swirling Words of Power that can be used to improve Alan’s overall physical ability alongside his proficiency with weapons.
This is all complimented by the ability to enter Alan Wake’s Writing Room and Saga Anderson’s Mind Space through their thoughts. This unique concept not only enriches the game world but also contributes to the storytelling–“pausing the game” to access these spaces doesn’t halt the physical characters; yeah, there were moments where I would go to these spaces and moments later was getting my noggin’ beat by teleporting Taken.
Alan Wake 2 stands as a stunning testament to the prowess of the Northlight Engine, delivering an unparalleled level of graphical fidelity that sets a new standard in gaming. The game’s impressive visual are immediately evident, with every corner of The Dark Place’s New York City packed with immense level of decals relating to graffiti, liter on the street and Bright Falls’ Cauldron Lake Forest dense foliage and insane level of overall design. Playing on my CLX Gaming PC equipped with an RTX 4090, I pushed the graphical settings to their limits, opting for a locked 60fps at 4K resolution, all while knowing that the DLSS 3.5 could have easily taken it even further– headroom allowed for a stable playthrough that elevates the breathtaking visual experience.
PBR is at its best here, creating a tangible sense of realism hardly seen in gaming today. The attention to detail, particularly in character models, is staggering. Micro details is at its peak, breathing life into every character and enhancing the immersion of the narrative. The environmental work is equally impressive, offering a varied and richly textured backdrop that drew me in. Lighting and shadows take center stage of course, not only serving as visual enhancements but also playing a crucial role in advancing the plot. The dynamic interplay of light and shadow adds depth and atmosphere, heightening the sense of foreboding and tension. On the PlayStation 5, even without the benefits of RTX technology, the game leverages ambient occlusion, shadows, and lighting to achieve a level of visual fidelity that is nothing short of remarkable. The introduction of path tracing, serves to further refine and clean the visual experience, mitigating artifacts seen on consoles. It’s not mandatory to play at its peak, but it is highly recommended. Console versions due suffer from some remnants of dithering and shimmering artifacts. This is a minor blemish on an otherwise impeccable visual presentation.
REVIEW SCORE: 10/10
Alan Wake 2 is very much the game we eagerly anticipated after 13 long years–the build-up since Control only amplified the experience and Remedy delivered in spades. I am eager for more and can’t wait to see what else they have up their sleeves.