Alan Wake 2 Review – Fire Walk with Me

I’m tempted to use big words when trying to explain what exactly is going on in Alan Wake 2. Almost everybody on the internet does too. This huge-budget sequel to 2010’s Survival Horror pulls a literal shock and awe campaign aimed at your consciousness. The game masterfully tricks you and screws with your mind; it seduces and desperately confuses you. It makes you initially resent it, but animosity turns into deep appreciation when everything, eventually, clicks into place. In many ways, this is the boldest and most expensive experiment Remedy Entertainment ever attempted. Alan Wake 2 is the magnum opus for (once) tiny Finnish studio, one that fuses crucial bits of their previous work into one super-ambitious meta offering.

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Escaping the black lodge

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It’s been thirteen years since popular novelist Alan Wake vanished without a trace in the sleepy town of Bright Falls. We, of course, know about his altercation with the Dark Presence and his heroic decision to become its prisoner, saving everyone, including his wife. Real agent Cooper, that man. Now, under the volcanic caldera lake, the evil is stirring again. The cult-like murders disturb the lethargic mountain town, prompting the FBI investigation, which is destined to uncover much more than anyone could have anticipated.

Alan Wake 2 is all about duality, which starts with its second protagonist, FBI agent Saga Anderson. Saga’s reality is shaped by Alan’s writing, which, in turn, is motivated by his desire to break the shackles of his dark, otherworldly prison. In a desperate attempt to pierce the veil and escape the dark presence, Alan is fabricating the narrative which manifests itself as reality. The story comes to life in the most gruesome way possible, spilling shadowy horrors directed by the malevolent entity with a world-altering plan.

The duality comes to life with the dichotomy between Alan and Saga. After a brief, stage-setting introduction, you’ll get the opportunity to control both protagonists in their respective environments. While Saga’s world gradually becomes dangerously twisted, it never completely leaves the confines of objective reality. Stuck inside the Black Lodge, Alan doesn’t have that privilege, as he attempts to navigate the noir version of rain-slick, neon-lit faux New York. Saga tries to puzzle together what exactly is going on, while Alan invents the story in real-time, shaping both their destinies.

A pen is mightier than a sword

Alan Wake 2 review mind place

Explained like this, the whole thing surely sounds confusing. It will stay that way for a couple of hours even if you experience it firsthand. As a huge fan of the first two seasons of Twin Peaks, I initially suspected that Remedy went full David Lynch. I’m, of course, talking about the infamous third season, which premiered 25 years after the second. Alan Wake 2 surely projects late-stage insanity vibes for a while, but it sets itself straight near the midpoint, becoming laser-focused near the end. As someone who’s sick to death of mindf*ck content that goes nowhere, I can’t stress this enough. Alan Wake 2 will toy with you for a while, but it won’t leave you with an angry WTF expression. It will climax in a pretty satisfying way.

In the broadest sense, both Saga and Alan are survival horror protagonists, operating in dangerous, resource-starved environments. They differ in some important systems, however. Saga, being a detective, will primarily search for clues and information, intertwining everything in her “Mind Place”, where she’ll connect the dots, profile the suspects, and analyze Alan’s manuscript pages, moving the plot forward. She’ll also do plenty of talking with the cast of wildly different characters, including her partner Alex, who carries the likeness of Remedy’s own Sam Lake. You know, the Max Payne guy. Meta-content further expands with the appearance of the Federal Bureau of Control, tying the Alan Wake and Control franchises together. It all makes sense after a while.

Interdimensional surfing

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The best thing about the structure of Alan Wake 2 is the switch between protagonists. In most break rooms, places where you can save your game, you can also transition between Saga and Alan worlds, and vice versa. The Dark Place, where our novelist dwells, has much looser rules regarding reality. Alan’s objective is to escape, for which he’ll need to face his creation while attempting to circumvent the Dark Presence in real time. His levels are mechanically more complex and often very confusing. He’ll need to alter the zones/scenes, applying the narrative overlay that moves the segment of the story toward the conclusion. Alan will also need to solve specific puzzles involving the transfer of light between scenes, which opens previously closed paths. This process involves a lot of trial and error while figuring out what the ultimate goal is.

Combat with Taken is the activity they share. Saga and Alan both use the flashlight and firearm combo, dissipating the darkness shield on Taken before filling them with hot lead. The system is practically the same as in the first game, only the Taken come in greater variety now. The scarcity of ammo and healing/utility resources is no different than in any average Resident Evil title. The game will always make sure you have enough stuff, even if you are a gung-ho player who likes to waste it. Most of the time, you can avoid combat, save the set pieces and boss fights that you must complete to advance the story.

Serious GOTY contender

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In a year packed to the brim with superb releases, Alan Wake 2 is one more serious GOTY contender. As a developer, Remedy matured many years ago, but this time it feels like they achieved a combined crescendo of unlimited creativity and unlimited budget. This game is their best work, serving as a reminder that continued success doesn’t necessarily lead to stagnation, as we have sadly witnessed too many times. Alan Wake 2 is a superb example of someone setting their own goals and surpassing them multiple-fold.



  • Expertly written, with a top-notch cast and enormous budget.
  • Some parts, like the famous “singing” section in early Alan Wake levels, are fantastic.
  • Awesome visuals, especially on a (very) powerful PC.
  • Organic connection with Control and other Remedy franchises.


  • Very confusing initially.
  • Some of Alan’s levels are suffering from over-obfuscated design.
Review platform: PS5
Developed by: Remedy Entertainment
Published by: Epic Games Publishing
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