I’ve been a huge fan of Alan Wake ever since picking up the collector’s edition of the original. While the special book-themed box has become a bit aged due to Father Time, my longing for a new entry in the series to continue Alan’s journey never has. Heck, I begged for a remaster and sequel in a video I did for GameStop for Control Ultimate Edition. After the previous Summer Games Fest reveal, I’ve been patiently waiting for a chance to see what Sam Lake and the wonderful team at Remedy has been cooking. To my delight, after our hands off demo, the thirteen years I’ve waited have been well worth it.
To inform those who may have missed the recent trailers, Alan Wake 2 is more than just Alan Wake. This was very present in our demo, as we only saw footage featuring FBI agent Saga Anderson. That being said, none of it felt off, with Saga being an incredible addition in what was presented. She, like Jessie Faden, both seem to be characters looking for how they fit, even if they think they know what they want.
Watching the section open up in our demo felt very much like I was watching Alan Wake, but in next-gen fidelity. The atmosphere Remedy has created is amazing, with that now familiar ambience that has you wanting to look over your shoulder at every turn. These are set by environment, sound, and lighting. In one area we’re looking over a soaked campground murder scene, and in another the rain is falling along with the dark shadows of the trees seemingly reaching out to grab you. The audio is also truly stellar, and is probably going to be one you want to listen to with headphones on in order to immerse yourself in the world. If that wasn’t enough, the returning flashlight looks as good as ever, breaking down the darkness around you and leading you forward, both in combat and direction.
Speaking of combat, this is another thing that feels largely familiar. As was seen in the PlayStation showcase trailer, you’ll be yet again burning off the darkness bringing these corpses to life again before gunning them down. We saw the trusty pistol in the demo, joined shortly by the shotgun. Both handle extremely well in third-person shooter fashion, with a crisp motion I don’t remember in the first one. Perhaps Control has aided in this, but in any case it’s welcome in the sequel. The audio design is top-notch as well, with visceral cracks that impact the experience. You know you’ve hit someone too, with wounds remaining from your gunfire.
Where things start to expand in Alan Wake 2 is the way you discover the story. We don’t know much about Saga, but she has a connection to all of this in a way we’ve yet to have disclosed. The mystery that is afoot involved ritualistic killings near Cauldron Lake, and if you remember anything about the original game Alan did everything in his power to stop “The Darkness” from escaping it. Somehow, someway, it’s finding a foothold again in our reality, and it’s up to Alan and Saga to reel things in.
In the demo, Saga starts all of this by discovering a new page Alan has written to involve her in this new narrative. Beyond just walking a linear path, you’ll have to figure things out by exploring and interacting with the environment to find clues. Once you have these, you dive into the “mind place”. This loads instantly, with a next-gen-like jump into a room that acts as a sort of menu where you’ll put together the case, profile characters to make new determinations, as well as access to your weapon upgrades – a new thing for the series.
This is where Alan Wake 2 really differs from the first game, in putting together the overall puzzle to solve your case and gain new insight on the story. With clues in hand, you’ll be pinning them to a wall and using the old string trick to connect different aspects of the case together to draw conclusions. Maybe it’ll be something like “Where did Nightingale go?”, and you put the clue about finding footprints into position, connecting the two. Each discovery opens up new tasks to complete, then rinse and repeat until you have the whole picture. It’s something the Sherlock Holmes series uses expertly, and I’m excited to see it utilized in Alan Wake 2. I did hear that Alan will have his own version of the mind place, so it’ll be intriguing to see where everything leads and if there are any differences between his and Saga’s mind – after all, Alan’s brain might be a little broken after the first game.
To finish off, let’s talk about the move to survival horror. I’m not much of a horror guy, yet nothing we saw here led me to believe it’s too “over the top”. The fright is there, with moments that make you want to turn and run, and there are some jumpscares, but it’s well crafted. This isn’t Sam Lake just chucking the most creepy things possibly into a game – it’s intentional and that makes it good. We haven’t seen nearly enough to think it won’t get a little more scary, but at least so far it doesn’t fall far from the Alan Wake tree.
I still have a lot of questions, like how Alan’s side of this adventure plays out, but I’ll take this taste with pleasure. Alan Wake 2 has been a long time coming, and so far everything is many steps beyond what the original did. It’s beautiful, it’s engaging, and it’s coming soon. It’s taken me thirteen years to get here, and Alan Wake 2 looks to be an incredible follow up that surpasses everything I’ve dreamed of.
Alan Wake 2 releases on October 17th on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series consoles, and PC via the Epic Games Store.
David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.