How Alan Wake 2 Can Redefine The Survival Horror Genre

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Story Highlights

  • Alan Wake 2 is not only building upon its predecessor, but it’s also aiming to be the biggest new-gen survival horror title, literally and figuratively.
  • According to creative director Sam Lake, the 13 years taken for the sequel to come out allowed the use of state-of-the-art software during production.
  • The game will also reportedly lay the groundwork for an extended “Remedy-verse”, meaning fans can expect sequels to other Remedy games as well.

Thirteen years have passed since we last saw Alan Wake in the Dark Place, leaving fans of the 2010 action/psychological thriller eager for his return. This title, celebrated for its captivating storytelling that skillfully blended elements reminiscent of Stephen King and the surreal ambiance of Twin Peaks, earned itself quite the cult following.

Ever since then, Remedy Entertainment has gone on to become one of the major players in the gaming industry, which you and I have probably already played other titles from, such as 2019’s Control. Now, they’re back with a bang and venturing into the world of survival horror with the highly anticipated sequel, Alan Wake 2.

With Alan Wake 2, Remedy is expanding its horizons once again, promising an evolution that far surpasses the original and delivers a superior survival horror experience. I can proudly say that after thirteen years, the writer’s block-ridden writer battling the literal army of darkness is back, and you can expect a thrilling return to the shadows.

Alan Wake 2

Stepping Up The Game

Remedy introduced the original Alan Wake back in 2010, a departure from their previous crime/action Max Payne titles. It immersed players in a psychological thriller heavily inspired by the King of horror and Lovecraftian terror through the titular character. However, despite all these influences from the horror genre, the gameplay itself leaned more toward action than it did toward horror, something the sequel aims to fix.

Alan Wake 2 is set to be a behemoth compared to its predecessor. But how colossal are we talking here? To put it in perspective, this game sprawls across not one, not two, but three completely open-world locations nestled within the Pacific Northwest: Bright Falls, the bustling fishing and logging hub of Watery, and the picturesque enclave known as Cauldron Lake. That’s not counting the Dark Place versions of these locations either.

Now, hold onto your seats because it’s not just the physical scope that’s expanding; Alan Wake 2, in a gutsy move, is shedding its T-rated innocence and embracing an “M” for mature rating. Sam Lake, the mastermind behind this project, has boldly described this shift as “liberating.” No more compromises, no more censoring – just pure, unadulterated content. Brace yourselves for a game that promises to be darker, grittier, and more brutal than ever before. Count me right in.

But amidst all this change, one thing still remains unchanged – the franchise’s love for references. Brace yourselves for a rollercoaster ride of nods and tributes, as the game weaves together references from iconic series such as True Detective, Silence of the Lambs, Twin Peaks, Fargo, Se7en, Taxi Driver, Inception, Hereditary, Midsommar, Memento, all crammed into one epic package. Honestly? They had me hooked at True Detective.

And that’s not all, folks. The game’s cutscenes are still keeping a unique trick up their sleeves. Remedy has once again chosen to incorporate live-action cutscenes into the narrative, immersing players in a cinematic experience like no other. It reminds me of that old Matrix PS2 game where the original actors played out all the cutscenes themselves, though this time the game’s visuals are gonna be able to match the cutscene quality.

I really, really like using live-action. And this time around, we were looking for stylization and ways to integrate it seamlessly into the experience. The Dark Place is this shifting dream reality, kind of a layered place where Alan Wake is churning through these layers and it just felt very suited for switching the medium to keep you off balance.” – Lake

Enter The Remedyverse

The sequel exists as a part of the ever-expanding RCU, or Remedy Connected Universe, a storytelling realm where both of the developer’s biggest IPs, Alan Wake and Control, coexist. It’s not just a subtle reference or an easter egg either; it’s a full-blown crossover experience in this interconnected universe which might just be setting us up for a Control 2.

In Alan Wake 2, The Federal Bureau of Control, which you might remember from Control, is also set to play a significant role. It’s not surprising if you, like me, have played the expansion to Control, title AWE. This is because the expansion also showed us Alan Wake himself, making an appearance in The Oldest Home. Now, it seems like this connection is going to be explored further in the sequel.

Control reference?
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And that’s not all that’s changing. Remember how in the first game, the only enemy types you had to deal with were those creepy darkness-possessed Taken and a bunch of hyper-aggressive crows? Aside from that one possessed tractor boss fight of course. Well, thanks to game director Kyle Rowley who took inspiration from the Resident Evil games, brace yourself for a shift in gameplay dynamics because the inclusion of the FBC means that we might be facing more human threats alongside some other types of monsters.

We are not saying anything definite at this time, but we are setting things up that will play a role in the future of the Remedy Connected universe.” – Lake

This move is a welcome one for me, and I bet I’m not alone in this. The original game often felt like a tedious routine of running from one point to another, shining your flashlight at enemies, and then shooting them a couple of times to take them down. With these new enemy varieties, every encounter will require different strategies and keep you on your toes. It’s a change for the better, making the gameplay less of a chore, and I’m all for it.

Alan Wake 2 Combat

Split Down The Middle

Alan Wake 2 is taking a bold leap from its predecessor, and one standout change is the introduction of two main characters who will be sharing the spotlight. Our man Alan’s now joined by Saga Anderson, a fresh face on the scene, hailing from the FBI and drawn to Bright Falls to investigate a series of chilling ritualistic murders that are most likely tied to the Dark Place.

But the big question on our minds is this: how much time will we spend playing as each of these protagonists? Well, according to the game’s director, Kyle Rowley, it’s all about balance. In a recent interview, Rowley revealed that the playable sections for both Alan and Saga will be split right down the middle at “about 50/50.”

It’s important obviously that we’re creating an Alan Wake sequel, so we need to make sure we wanted to represent Alan as a character. But 50/50 felt about right for us from a pacing perspective. Alan is present in Saga’s side of the story as well, so it’s not like he’s only in the dark place.” – Rowley

And if you’re wondering about the game’s length, then get ready for a marathon as Alan Wake 2 is set to be over 20 hours long, making it Remedy’s longest yet. That translates to roughly 10 hours of gameplay per protagonist. However, since Alan and Saga’s stories are interwoven, expect plenty of overlap between the two as they venture into the unknown.

But that’s not all. Similar to the ability to switch between Trevor, Michael, and Franklin in GTA V, Alan Wake 2 will let you switch between the two main characters at times. This was one of my favorite features from GTA V as it allowed you to experience three distinct gameplay styles simultaneously. If this feature makes its way to Alan Wake 2, then it’s just one more reason for me to grab the game as soon as it hits the digital shelves.

Epic Games Has Been Blowing Off Steam As Well

Speaking of digital shelves, while I know all of us Alan Wake fans have been eagerly anticipating the release of a sequel for 13 long years, and that the wait is almost over with the game being available on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and PC via the Epic Games Store starting from late October, if you’re a Steam user like me, you might be wondering why the title isn’t anywhere to be seen on the popular gaming marketplace.

The reason behind this is quite simple. Sometimes, games become exclusive to a particular store because of a financial agreement. In such cases, the store offers a significant amount of money to the publisher or developer to keep the game exclusive to their platform for a certain period of time. However, that is not the case with Alan Wake 2.

Yes, I understand the reasoning, but it’s still doo-doo reasoning isn’t it?
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Instead, it’s because Epic Games is the one funding and publishing the game, which means they hold all exclusive distribution rights. This was also the case with Alan Wake Remastered, which is only available on the Epic Games Store for PC. Still, while it’s not impossible for Alan Wake 2 to eventually make its way to Steam, given that Epic Games is the publisher, it is highly unlikely.

Thankfully there aren’t any distribution wars over on consoles, so PlayStation and Xbox owners can comfortably buy it from their respective stores whenever it’s available. That’s aside from the fact that Xbox players will be limited to 30 fps while PlayStation users can access performance mode, which is a bit of a drama of its own. Still, since the game’s meant to be played at that framerate anyway, I don’t really think that’s a problem.

The Reviews Speak For Themselves

Back in June, Remedy allowed a few lucky individuals a shot at playing a short demo featuring gameplay from Saga’s perspective. The demo level showed Saga making her way through the dusk-lit woods of the Pacific Northwest, searching for her dead partner, Nightingale, who apparently sprang back to life and ran off into the woods prior to the beginning of the demo.

In this early look, we were introduced to some interesting features. First up, there’s The Mind Place, an ability of Saga’s that lets her explore a virtual case board to piece together clues and drive the narrative forward. Then, there’s the “Break Room,” a spot where players can save their progress using those iconic Thermos collectibles from the first game. You can also switch between characters here, though Alan wasn’t on the playable roster just yet.

How Saga be entering the Mind Place whenever she has to progress the story
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The demo concluded with Saga entering the Dark Place herself and taking down multiple Taken enemies, Nightingale being one of them, before finding a mentally scarred Alan and asking him where he’d been for the last 13 years. All the fortunate reviewers who got their hands on the demo couldn’t stop singing its praises, highlighting things like improved visuals, more engaging exploration, and thrilling combat sequences.

While I didn’t get to try the demo out myself, the clips that have been circulating on Twitter seem to back up their claims. For now, though, all we unlucky bunch can do is wait for October 27th to experience the dark horror awaiting us at Bright Falls.

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