Alan Wake II Review

Dan Webb

I'm willing to go out on a limb here, and say that the original Alan Wake was one of the most captivating and engaging new IPs that has launched in the last fifteen years. The first game was not only uniquely atmospheric, but it was one of the most compelling pieces of narrative design - a rare, one-of-a-kind experience. It demonstrated masterful storytelling - albeit rather convoluted at times - but its take on dark versus light, combined with memorable set pieces, set the world on fire. So, to finally get a sequel is already a win in my books… I guess it helps that the sequel is also just as good, though in very different ways.

Alan Wake 2 sees you step into the shoes of both the titular Alan Wake, and newcomer Saga Anderson, an FBI agent called into Bright Falls, to investigate a ritualistic killing with her partner Alex Casey. Bright Falls, of course, being the original setting of developer Remedy's first foray into the world of the renowned writer. In the same vein as the original, Alan Wake 2, while a very good game mechanically, is all about the narrative, the characters and the wonderfully woven, bizarre world of Bright Falls. 

With he Finnish studio going all in on its Remedy Connected Universe with Control, there was a possibility that it might have pushed things too far with Alan Wake 2, but in fact, it actually helps to actually make sense of the bizarre goings-on at Cauldron Lake and beyond. Alan Wake 2 is still equal parts The X-Files, Twin Peaks, and Outer Limits, but now brought into sharper focus by the far-reaching Remedy Connected Universe. In fact, somehow, Alan Wake 2’s story proves to be a much better narrative - and far less confusing - than the original, which is high praise indeed.

One of the shortcomings of this new approach, however, is that you’re likely to feel lost if you’ve not experienced everything Alan Wake created before you sit down with Alan Wake 2. It’s a follow-up that is probably more of a pure sequel than anything we’ve played in recent years. With locals returning from Alan Wake 1, with characters and references from Control, you'll probably feel a bit lost if you’ve not experienced the rest of the story so far. If you have, then the fan service will undoubtedly delight. Sure, Alan Wake 2 is a sequel, and it’s natural that there are some overlapping elements, but this feels next level.

With two differing perspectives and diametrically opposed narrative threads, Alan Wake 2 might not have as many set pieces as the original, but what it does have are two balancing viewpoints with their own peaks and troughs. At first I wasn’t really a fan of the new semi-open-world setup - compared to the linear experience of the original - but it does start to grow on you. In the end you realise it’s not worse or better, it’s just different. And that’s okay.

While the shift from a linear narrative affects the set piece, it does, however, make up for it with the sheer variety of settings and scenarios. Alan’s fourth chapter, for instance, is one that will forever live on long in our memory, and wouldn’t have worked in the original’s more confined setting. Everyone remembers the Ashtray Maze from Control, right? That chapter is Alan Wake 2’s Ashtray Maze.

On top of that, Saga’s campaign is more traditional Alan Wake survival-horror, while Alan’s time in the Dark Place, with his ability to rewrite scenes and physically alter the world he’s battling through, is frankly genius, and something that Remedy has absolutely nailed.

The semi-open-world format, however, does open up more possibilities gameplay-wise, with meaningful collectibles like Lunch Boxes, Cult Stashes, and bizarre Nursery Rhymes to solve, all of which further your character’s progression and flesh out the world. Exploring in an Alan Wake game is a novel experience, and, again, it definitely won us over in the end.

Whether you’re playing as Saga or Alan, the gameplay remains very much the same. Alan Wake 2 is still a battle between light and dark, with the flashlight remaining a central mechanic. If you were expecting a shake-up there, don’t. Its move towards survival-horror territory does put greater emphasis on resource management, with a brand-spanking new inventory management system too, but it’s still a similar experience. 

It genuinely feels like Remedy saw what Capcom is doing with Resident Evil, and decided it wanted a piece of that. Heck, there are even Break Rooms now, which serve as safe spaces. While you don’t save the game at a typewriter - which would probably have been more fitting for Alan Wake than any other Resident Evil character - you do save the game at Coffee Thermoses. Another subtle nod to Twin Peaks.

One of the big new additions is what’s known as the Mind Place (or the Writer’s Room for Alan), where Saga disappears into her own mind to analyse the case and attempt to make sense of it all. Genuinely, grabbing clues, investigating, and doing proper detective work in the Mind Place, and then filling in the blanks on the Case Board, is probably one of Alan Wake 2's highlights. A fantastic addition that we hope Remedy sticks with moving forward.

Alan Wake 2, however, is by no means perfect. Sure, the cheap jump scares whereby Remedy flashes something on the screen with loud noises become tedious and outstay their welcome very quickly, but our main issues with the game are more technical. On both versions - Xbox and PlayStation - we encountered a smattering of bugs. Bugs that lock you in menus, bugs that lock you out of conversations, audio issues, and black screens galore.

All issues were fixed with a quick reboot, but with Alan Wake 2’s inconsistent autosaves, we did lose a fair bit of time and progress thanks to these. Thankfully, we could count on two hands how many times this happened in our numerous playthroughs (and over 50 hours with the game), but Alan Wake 2 does lack that little bit of polish that you’d associate with an all-time classic. Also, Alan and Saga’s run speed is pitiful, it must be said.

Bugs aside, Alan Wake 2 is a brilliant follow-up to the original, and, in the intervening thirteen years, Remedy has demonstrated that Alan is in safe hands, and brimming with new ideas. The Mind Place and Alan being able to physically rewrite the Dark Place’s environment alone are innovations that should be lauded, especially in a time when innovation is more iterative, rather than embracing truly fresh ideas. With a wonderful narrative, a fantastic cast of characters, and a semi-open-world full of intrigue, Alan Wake 2 is almost certainly one of the best games of 2023, and perhaps this generation so far. It helps that it looks stunning, too.

Alan Wake II

Alan Wake 2 might feel slightly different than the original in terms of composition, but it’s still equally as brilliant. With two vastly different campaigns and perspectives, Remedy’s sequel is a great survival-horror game and a fantastic detective drama, boasting one of the best narratives in recent memory.

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Alan Wake was all about the dialogue and the music, and Alan Wake 2 is no different. It’s atmospheric, it’s uneasy, and when it comes to the licensed music, Remedy has smashed it out the park once again here. Throw in some brilliant characters and performances, and you have something really special here.


From a fidelity standpoint, you can’t fault Alan Wake 2. It’s up there with the best-looking games ever made. It does, however, suffer from bugs and a few frame rate issues every so often, which takes the sheen off of it a bit.


Taking what made the original so successful and adding new layers to it, means that Alan Wake 2 is by definition 'a proper good sequel'. With the Mind Place and Wake able to rewrite realities, Remedy certainly hasn’t rested on its laurels. Alan Wake 2 takes some bold gambles, most of which pay off.


Whether you’re playing as Saga or Alan, each campaign offers something truly unique and engaging. And whichever campaign you’re in, you’ll be on the edge of your seat from start to finish. A truly wonderful experience with pitch perfect pacing, that almost never outstays its welcome.


The trophies boast a decent amount of variety, and do encourage exploration and experimentation. Sure, we’d have liked a bit more creativity in them, but otherwise a great list.

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