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Alan Wake 2

Developer: Remedy Entertainment Publisher: Epic Games
27 October 2023
Alan Wake 2 - cover art
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4.18 / 5.0
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246 Ratings / 1 Reviews
#77 All-time
#5 for 2023
FBI detectives Saga Anderson and Alex Casey are investigating a series of ritualistic murders and related disappearances in the town of Bright Falls, a place where fiction becomes reality. As more supernatural events occur, Saga comes to find she has been cast as the protagonist in a manuscript written by Alan Wake, a famous novelist who has been missing for 13 years.
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Not Perfect, but Probably Still the Most Inspired Game Remedy Have Made Since Max Payne
Going into this, I was a bit unsure of what to expect. I love the Max Payne games for what they are, but everything else Remedy have produced since has left me a bit cold, even if, on paper, their games should appeal to me very strongly. Some of the problems I had with earlier titles have been greatly improved here - the performances are excellent, the writing is much less stilted and purple, and the game design is much more inspired. But, in other ways, it repeats the missteps of their past works.

At its core, Alan Wake II is a recognisable, somewhat Stephen-King-esque occult thriller. It's top-level narrative premise isn't earth-shatteringly deep, or all that different from the original Alan Wake, but the underlying, moment-to-moment execution is where all of the innovation, depth and creativity comes out.

In design terms, this is leaps and bounds above Remedy's past productions. Where older titles too often felt like mainstream third-person shooters with interesting worlds and narratives stretched over the top, this feels much closer to a fully formed, experimental work of fiction, incorporating a diverse range of genre mechanics, styles and mediums to tell its story. Even its action sections are well restrained in the Resident Evil 2 (2019), survival horror mould, with the overall experience of playing the game being surprisingly slow and measured for the most part.

In addition to the above innovation, you've also got the cleverly conceived postmodern narrative structure, tongue-in-cheek plotting that satirises both the tropes of crime fiction and Remedy's own past works, carefully composed lore which builds on what's been established in previous Remedy titles, some outstanding set-pieces and open-world environments, and, above all, an artful and idiosyncratic vision present throughout the whole production.

It's definitely not perfect. Like all Remedy's games since Max Payne, it wears its cinematic influences too openly on its sleeves, to the point that it sometimes feels a bit derivative, like a sub-Twin Peaks experience, mixed with a bit of the X Files and The Twilight Zone. And, like Alan Wake and Control before it, it trys too hard, with too much high-concept narrative convolution and surrealistic excess and not enough restraint and focus. Even with Saga's new case tracking system, which goes a long way towards keeping the plot straight in your head, the overall experience gets a bit messy at times, which lessens the impact. In short, a bit more creative restraint and originality of vision would definitely have elevated it, in my view.

The ending will likely be controversial as well, given that it effectively feels like a cliff-hanger rather than a proper resolution, setting up future Remedy games and (potentially) future DLC. For this reason, I'm not sure I'd necessarily consider the game to be fully complete work in its own right, even if it has a lot of interesting stuff going on within it, which is a shame. The pitfalls of commercial production, I suppose.

Even with all it's problems, though, this is probably the most inspired and creatively unconstrained game Remedy have made since Max Payne, I'd say, and it takes enough admirable risks with its design that I can't help but commend it. It also makes me excited for what Remedy might produce in future.
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Mysteron5 2023-11-03T02:02:40Z
2023-11-03T02:02:40Z
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Title
There's no Remedy for this situation.
First let me say, that at the time of writing, I'm about 15 hours in; haven't finished, but if howlongtobeat is accurate (and gauging from the way the story is going right now) I like only have ~4 hours left, so I feel like I can give an effective review.

But first I wanna talk about what game before.

Alan Wake 1 was boring. I liked it, but it was very repetitive. However, it's always held a place in my mind because of some of the very inventive gameplay concepts it introduced; truly, the flashlight burning away the darkness armor is, frankly, genius, and I think people really don't think about how good of an idea 'mash to reload individual bullets faster' when your game is built around revolver/shotgun/hunting rifle. Narratively it wore it's influences on its sleeves but it did a good job of emulating western horror authors - such as Stephen King, of course - while not really feeling too tied down by those influences and wanting to 'stick to the script', because it was also very much influenced by Twin Peaks and Twilight Zone. It was also quite a good looking game at the time, and the remaster showed just how well its aged in that regard. Overall, not gonna blow anyone away, but it showed the potential Remedy had for us to look forward to.

Then we got Control. I don't think anyone had much expectations for it; Remedy had never really been a particularly popular AAA team, and Quantum Break certainly didn't help, and now we have a game that was pretty mysterious about what it even was, and was releasing exclusively on EGS? Not great signs. But low and behold, its got some of Remedy's best writing to date, and gameplay that is equally as good if not better than Max Paynes. Frankly I think it's incredibly underrated for what it is, because it has an incredibly well realized aesthetic and really chunky but fluid combat. It's easily my favorite game from Remedy.

Then they announced Alan Wake 2 with a really really solid trailer. Took a minute for gameplay to surface, but it's a fluid thirdperson shooter, so at worst I'm expect a rehash of Alan Wake 1, where it's just kind of dull. Wasn't on the edge of my seat but I was absolutely going to check it out.

Then, of course, it gets glowing reviews. In a year where basically every game is getting glowing reviews, mind you, but that's still eyebrow raising for a company who's games seemed to have largely gone under the radar - I had frequently been hard pressed to find people who actually finished either Alan Wake or Control, let alone both - so I was a bit more optimistic. It hit shelves, and of course we got people like duskgolem and other horror personalities talking it up. I admit, I was somewhat optimistic, which is unusual for me.

... but then I played it. And the last time I was this disappointed was probably Hotline Miami 2. Or maybe CP2077.

I don't wanna call the game bad. It's not. It's pretty, it controls well, the gameplay isn't terribly frustrating or broken, the writing isn't grating... but that's the thing, it's kind of just passable in all regards. Nothing at all stands out to me, as someone who's played this whole franchise, and who's played basically every noteworthy horror game under the sun, as something worth my or anyone else's time. There's nothing really innovative here, it's not particularly fun, it doesn't have much in the way of interesting visuals, there's next to no world building that's worth talking about, and the writing as a whole is played incredibly safe for what it's trying to do.

I can break it down bit by bit, but for all intents and purposes, that encapsulates my feelings on the whole thing. I don't know if this will be the end of the franchise, since again, haven't finished it, but it makes me very worried about where a theoretical Control sequel might go.

Anyway, that's my warning to those 'let people enjoy things' types who hate critical analysis, because that's exactly what I'm going to be doing now. Some spoilers to follow, too.

First off; visuals. Looking good in the modern age of games is a complicated process and you can achieve it in many ways. Right out the gate I'll say I could not care less about photorealism. Detailed facial animations? Yeah, ok, I'll bite, but outside of Half-life 2 > L.A. Noire > Until Dawn, we've seen very little real progress on that front and the process we have found are not tenable for most games. Cramming as much debris and foliage and reflections and light shafts in does not make me think the game looks good. It makes it annoying to play if I'm expected to hunt for items and secrets. Especially when one of your most prominent visual motifs is red lights, which often just result in me being completely more or less blind at times rather than looking good. And it's gotten more and more tiring as times gone on and so many games blend together because none of them want to achieve any sense of identity through artistic style. I can only give AW2 so much shit for this, because AW1 was basically doing this before it was the standard, but there has been really no improvements here, between the 2 games. Which is so so frustrating after Control had areas like the Ashtray Maze or Foundation that made it really memorable.

Alans levels are a bit more interesting, but still largely things I've seen a million times before, or visuals that are laughable, like the 'devil' version of the Hotel. Outside of levels you of course have the horror visuals, which are how the game delivers jump scares. They're, fine, I guess. Some shots are neat, but they flash so quickly I can barely ever take in what I'm supposed to be looking at. Which some might say works in the favor of a horror game, but I'll come back to that. The only visuals so far that I found particularly good have been 1 enemy design and 1 location. The enemy is of course the 'miniboss' type that... well, best I can describe it as is multiple taken overlapping with each other and who are half submerged in a nonexistent lake. I'll come back to them as well, but A+ overall here. The other thing is the bunker overlap. It's oppressively, designed, between the floodwater, tight corners, and so much pipework going on that it's clearly 'not right'. Unfortunately, barely anything happens in this 'level' until you get to the part where you have to go from platform to platform to avoid being dragged under the water, which lasts a bit, but after that you just have a pretty lame boss fight and then it's over. So, the 2 actually standout visuals get very little screentime overall, and the rest of the game is basically just nondescript woods or nondescript city alleyways.

Now, I mentioned I'd come back to the jump scare stuff. To be blunt, the game isn't scary. Until that 1 enemy I mentioned, every enemy is just Some Guy, with the exception of the wolves, which also aren't very interesting. AW1 had the same issue, but it leaned WAY more on how the Darkness was taking people over and specific enemies stalked you around areas, repeating their stilted, almost robotic phrases. Not much of that here. And on normal, which as usual was described as 'challenging', there is basically no challenge, which means no tension, which means you have very boring enemy designs with very easy combat. Tie in the fact you spend the majority of gameplay just walking around empty woods looking for collectibles at an agonizingly slow pace, and I really question how anyone could ever find this game scary. The singular time the game 'got' me was when some physics props bugged out and flew into the camera. The jump scares are pretty well telegraphed generally, and there isn't actually that many segments where the game tries to actively build tension, and some of the times it does... there's no payoff? Like, I went into the basement of the old folks home, which was flooded, so I could turn the power on and progress, and the whole time it's very clear the game wants me to be on the edge of my seat so I'm waiting for the pin drop where an enemy pops up, but once I get the fuse, I just walk back to the generator and then leave. Saga made a comment that sounded like something was supposed to have happened but I never saw any enemies or anything else I could consider a threat. I just don't get it.

So then, gameplay. If you've played RE2 Remake you've already played a far superior version of Alan Wake 2. It's to the point that Capcom could probably sue. Same controls, not a huge deal, but identical inventory system down to the visuals, 'escape' items, the addition of a wolf enemy despite it not really fitting, randomized damage, it's all here. The only things that differentiate AW2 is the dodge button and the flashlight mechanic, which I feel is a lot less engaging this time around. In AW1, flares and flashbangs were *rare*, and your flashlight had a bar that drained when you used the boost. You boost as long as you hold it until it runs out, then you reload. Simply. You have to learn how much boost is needed to burn off armor and try to maximize battery life.

In AW2, you get dozens of flares and a large amount of flashbangs all the time, but the way combat is balanced I never once fought more than 3 enemies at a time, so they're far less useful, and with the flashlight, it's cut into 4 segments, where every time you press the boost you use an entire segment no matter what, and while usually an enemy only needs 1 bar, if anything interrupts that for even a split second, which includes the possibility of the stagger caused by the flashlight, you don't burn the armor off and need to use another whole bar. It feels terrible every single time it happens and there is no reason for the change to even exist, frankly. As for the enemies, you have generic enemy with a melee weapon, big guy with melee weapon, dog, guy who dashes around constantly and throws projectiles, and the weird overlapping enemies that actually have some mechanics to them, but overall are still pretty simple mechanically. Most of these enemies can be killed with 1-2 shotgun blasts, or, randomly, they need like 8 to get put down. Very little interesting combat mechanics, minimal enemies in encounters, a plethora of resources despite claiming to be SURVIVAL horror, it just really isn't engaging to me in any way and I don't see any reason to come here for gameplay over just replaying RE4/2make or Dead Space 2. Oh, also? The mechanic where you can mash to reload faster? Yeah that's gone. Saga doesn't even use a revolver. The only weapon addition I've found has been a crossbow, which is fine, but it's reload is often too long to actually use in encounters where its damage would be warranted.

And finally, the part that really confuses me with the public reaction to it, the writing. Right off the bat, we're presented with the fact that Saga is apparently a psychic. She just calls it intuition and no one bats an eye when she pulls information out of her ass. Much further into the game you find out she basically does actually have psychic abilities that lets her read minds, but it's apparently unrelated to proximity to the lake so she just, is a psychic, and no one questions it ever and she never tries to explain away how she knows these things. That immediately killed a lot of the intrigue for me and I spent the rest of the time just trying to guess what the inevitably plot twists will be. It wasn't very far into the game that I realized that the cult we're trying to stop for the majority of the game are actually the good guys, and yet despite having a plethora of evidence towards that Saga STILL hasn't figured it out yet, even after finding notes that detail the ritual they're doing and heavily hinting at its purpose, and how everything they've done is framed around Alan's return and after a point transitions to specifically being about aiding Alan in his goals, which includes helping Saga. So it's a very basic plot twist that gives out way too many hints while taking it's sweet time to hit the actual reveal.

The other big aspect, and the one that bothers me the most, is the comparisons people are drawing to Silent Hill 2, which I believe centers around Alan's relationship with 'Scratch'. Now, this one I am far less certain on, but basically the 2nd Alan's gameplay sections started and he commented about how he 'should be out', I went "Oh, outside Alan isn't really Alan. It's Scratch." Currently, I really don't think this is the case, unless we're seeing a Heavy Rain scenario where the game just lies to use about who the bad guy is, but 15 hours in and I have never once seen Scratch, despite knowing from the first games DLCs and American Nightmare, and of course Alan constantly remarking that he 'looks just like him', we know he does indeed have a physical form, so it's very clear that SOMETHING is up. Then, my current theory is that Scatch is not actually real. His physical form can manifest in the worlds the Dark Place makes, but he doesn't have a form outside, assuming he even exists in any form in the 'real world'. I believe Scratch is meant to be a standin for the 'dark side' of Alan, which isn't a very hard conclusion to come to because it is very literally that, but I then believe that the reason we have an 'inside' Alan still is that that version is the good part of Alan, and his journey through not!New York is meant to be a sort of self redemption arc where he comes to terms with his flaws. This is the point where I can clearly see why people make the SH2 comparison.

The problem is it's all bullshit.

James is a strange person. He barely emotes, he says weird shit, he has little sense of self preservation, he's fuckin WEIRD. And as you go through the game you find a lot of information or have characters call him out that makes you question why he's in Silent Hill, his relationship with marry, his own morals, it's a barrage of conflicting attributes being flung at him and it's up to you to try to find what sticks because James being as strange as he is, it's hard to say what his motives are at any given point, and that's reflected in the various interpretations that can lead to all the different endings.

Alan doesn't have fuckin ANY of that. In the opening of AW1, when he gets into an argument with his wife, and runs outside knowing she won't follow him because her crippling fear of the dark, he's being kind of a dick. But immediately after he dives into the lake to rescue her and then spends the rest of the game putting his life on the line to save her and other people. He is objectively a heroic figure at all points from then on. Alan Wake 2 doesn't add anything new on that front. Wake is focused entirely on making sure Alice is safe and stopping Scratch/The Dark Presence from destroying the world or whatever is it wants to do, and we get parts where it's clear he's doing everything he can and what few 'morally questionable' actions he takes are pretty much necessity at the end of the day, because the alternative is just giving up and letting the darkness win. Saga being mad at him for implicating her family is totally understandable, even in context, but if the game is trying to paint him as manipulative or power hungry, as Alex Casey at one point implies, it could not fall flatter, because we never get anything even remotely fitting that description from him, and in fact have recordings of his past self rambling about how he's tried to stop writing and just stay in the Dark Place forever, but with the Presence fucking with his memory he might forget to not write and end up making things worse. There is no winning here without playing the game and at all points Alan is reluctant to do so and feels bad about having put people in harms way. The ONE particularly villainous moment he has is undercut because it turns out to be entirely fake. If the game ends and this ends up being the result, it'll be an incredibly massive asspull, and a straight up retcon of basically every part prior to this.

Besides that, I mentioned the lack of world building. You have notes for Sagas case, info about the region that has nothing to do with the supernatural goings on, and you have the book version of Casey monologuing during Alans segments, showing the story of his investigations. That's it. The manuscript stuff has been rendered a formality and there just isn't anything else going on. Ahti from Control is here, but other than his cryptic dialogue there is barely anything representative of the Control aspect of the 'universe', with the notable exception of the nursery rhyme puzzles but those are very very minimal in what they're willing to do in terms of spectacle or paranormal intrigue, and the end result feels like a joke.

No ones going to read all this. It's not even really worth the time, even if they're interested. But from a story that had such promise, from a company that showed that they had started to find 'the spice', and who got a fat paycheck from Epic, I expected SO much more. And because of that I feel like I needed to get this out somewhere. Even if I know it'll really only result in a possibility for more hate comments. But honestly that shits funny to me, so at least then I will feel like I got something, anything, out of this game.
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Pinks 2023-11-02T09:11:11Z
2023-11-02T09:11:11Z
60
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Catalog

OscarTheGrouch Alan Wake 2 2024-02-28T05:13:34Z
2024-02-28T05:13:34Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Mirror_D_80z Alan Wake 2 2024-02-27T08:00:42Z
2024-02-27T08:00:42Z
0.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
woke politically correct ESG sweet baby interfierence esg interfierence
FallTraveler Alan Wake 2 2024-02-26T23:35:58Z
2024-02-26T23:35:58Z
9.1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
robert123451 Alan Wake 2 2024-02-26T22:26:43Z
2024-02-26T22:26:43Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
mbrandto Alan Wake 2 2024-02-24T23:00:14Z
2024-02-24T23:00:14Z
5.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
NightOwl1012 Alan Wake 2 2024-02-24T12:24:35Z
2024-02-24T12:24:35Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Ernesto_Udmurt Alan Wake 2 2024-02-24T11:27:00Z
2024-02-24T11:27:00Z
5.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
TotallyAbsolute Alan Wake 2 2024-02-23T23:56:11Z
PS5
2024-02-23T23:56:11Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
orhunbalkaya Alan Wake 2 2024-02-23T07:36:09Z
2024-02-23T07:36:09Z
4.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
sebingberg10 Alan Wake 2 2024-02-21T01:58:34Z
2024-02-21T01:58:34Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
ZachGM Alan Wake 2 2024-02-20T21:37:01Z
2024-02-20T21:37:01Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
enomoto Alan Wake 2 2024-02-19T17:51:53Z
2024-02-19T17:51:53Z
4.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
trapped in a loop. / this is not how the story goes. personal favorite
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  • Previous comments (145) Loading...
  • ... 2024-02-03 16:40:49.708262+00
    The jumpscares in this are unironically Kino. Lots of people got filtered
    reply
    • Previous replies (2) Loading...
    • Randomico 2024-02-04 02:12:06.936679+00
      agree, jumpscares makes perfect sense with the lore of the game, it happens when reality is slowly going batshit crazy or someone is getting possessed
    • AxeWorld 2024-02-09 08:07:36.37537+00
      High IQ post. They're not there to scare you, but to make you feel like there's an intruder. People complain about cynthia's a lot, but the game is so, SO tongue-in-cheek about it, even Saga herself gets fed up with them. If you actually think they're a problem, then perhaps the game's doing its job a bit too well lol.
    • More replies New replies ) Loading...
  • Randomico 2024-02-04 02:07:20.271794+00
    if you hate sam lake please unfollow me
    reply
    • demianX 2024-02-04 15:06:46.644955+00
      how is it possible to hate Sam Lake
    • TheRealJimMorrison 2024-02-28 07:51:54.422811+00
      I'd kiss the man
    • More replies New replies ) Loading...
  • ... 2024-02-04 17:17:09.06762+00
    hide Flagged by users
    Literally bugs, bugs and even more bugs.

    Save file reloads because B/Esc stops working, icons still left on the map, broken cutscenes, weirdly disappearing and reappearing sound, weird daytime changes, enemies that don't react, the whole game looks as if somebody threw sand on your screen without RT etc.

    Remedy is just another scammy ass AAA dev man
    This post was flagged by users for potentially violating community rules. It will be reviewed by a community moderator soon.
    • More replies New replies ) Loading...
  • NickFerrant 2024-02-07 12:41:13.706401+00
    Seeing the game over screen for the first time in this game almost gave me a hear attack.
    reply
    • More replies New replies ) Loading...
  • frikkkkkkk 2024-02-14 02:08:01.36608+00
    its a miracle they managed to pull off the tone and setting of this game as good as they did
    reply
    • More replies New replies ) Loading...
  • TurboThot 2024-02-15 07:06:22.43773+00
    Not quite sure what people are getting out of this. It has some cool aesthetic moments for sure but the gameplay is just not interesting and the writing is not good enough to carry the whole thing into great territory. I'm glad a game of this budget that took this many wild swings got made, I just hope that can happen again in the future with developers whose sensibilities I align with more
    reply
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  • theironictea 2024-02-24 11:24:10.741179+00
    i mean gameplaywise it's not the best, but as a piece of art for me it deserves to be in the top #100, easily
    reply
    • More replies New replies ) Loading...
  • orhunbalkaya 2024-02-26 10:56:17.222688+00
    It's incredible in terms of story. Gameplay-wise I really like how they contextualize nearly every gameplay element in the story however I think they could've explore some of it even more. Hopefully in DLC episodes they will, just like extra episodes in the original.
    reply
    • orhunbalkaya 2024-02-26 10:58:40.836756+00
      Also as a piece of art, it's excellent.
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