If you know Max Payne, then you may know Remedy. They are the developers of the Max Payne franchise. Not Rockstar, since a lot of people tend to confuse “published” and “developed”. Remedy is a Finnish game studio that has made fantastic single player games that focuses more on storytelling and gameplay, which is why most of their notable games are Max Payne, Control, Quantum Break, and Alan Wake (let’s sweep CrossfireX under the rug since it wasn’t a full fledged Remedy product).
I myself have played Max Payne a few years after it came out, albeit on an office computer that can only handle Blue’s Clue’s Treasure Hunt and other point and click games. Trying to play Max Payne on that computer turned the office computer into an airplane, and mind you that this was in 2003. Office computers today can run Max Payne easily, but not on those computers back then.
I never really go to finish Max Payne 1 and 2 until a few years later when I got a laptop. Not a gaming one, but enough to play and finish both Max Payne’s. So, you can imagine my excitement when Remedy and Rockstar announced Max Payne 3 in 2009. Obviously, I had to get it so I can play it. But little did we know, we would be waiting for 3 years for the game to come out due to delays.
Along the way, Remedy released a game called Alan Wake in 2010. This was a year after the Max Payne 3 announcement and 2 years before Max Payne 3’s release. This game actually did pretty well for a new IP, and Remedy fans definitely ate it up. It was a departure from the psychological thriller theme that Max Payne had, as it focused more on the supernatural side, but it was a nice change that really showcased Remedy’s ability to create different kinds of stories.
The game sold 1.5 million copies during its first year, which is incredibly impressive for a new IP and the fact that it is also an Xbox exclusive at the time. You would think that after selling so many copies on its first year, Remedy would be making a sequel for Alan Wake, right?
Well, you’re half right.
Alan Wake’s: American Nightmare released 2 years later as another Xbox exclusive title. It is classified as a spin off, but there are certain story elements and characters that are featured in this game that show up and are referenced in Alan Wake 2, so one might say that this game needs to played in order to get a better understanding of Alan Wake 2. But after this, we would have an Alan Wake 2 announcement, right?
Nope. After American Nightmare, Alan Wake was shelved. There’s a lot of complicated details that would just confuse you, so let’s just say that the rights to Alan Wake were acquired by Remedy back in July 2019, a full 7 years since American Nightmare’s release. Before that, Remedy released Quantum Break in 2016 and Control in 2019, the same year Remedy bought back the rights to Alan Wake.
So, with the rights of Alan Wake now back to Remedy, it was only a matter of time until we got anymore news or a hint for an Alan Wake sequel. And we got the biggest one in Control’s expansion, AWE.
Control’s AWE expansion included the return of Alan Wake, 7 years after American Nightmare. It was then revealed that Alan is still trapped in the Dark Place and has been trying to find a way out for almost a decade now. Jesse, the main protagonist of Control, is able to communicate with Alan throughout the entire expansion.
With the AWE expansion finally reconfirming that Alan is still trapped in the Dark Place, it was only a matter of time that Alan Wake 2 would be announced. After all, why would they tease everyone by having an expansion dedicated entirely to Alan Wake? None other than to raise hype that soon, Alan Wake will return for another dark adventure.
In 2021 during the Game Awards, Alan Wake 2 was announced, and people have gone wild from this announcement. Fans of Alan Wake, Control, and Remedy are finally seeing the return of an iconic horror protagonist come back, sporting a John Wick-esque look in the new sequel. But he’s not alone, because with Alan returning, we also get characters like Mr. Scratch making a comeback.
Fast forward to 2 years later, Alan Wake 2 is now in our hands, and I was giddy for the first 5 minutes I got this game before I was flashbanged by a naked man whose bare bottom was staring at me for the first 5 minutes of the game. But how is the game? Is it good? Is it bad? Is it worth the wait?
Meet the Dual Protagonists
While the game is indeed called Alan Wake 2, we would expect to be playing as Alan Wake again, right? Yes, you do. But you also have 2 in there, so that means you’ll have another protagonist alongside you. No, it’s not another Alan Wake, but another character named Saga Anderson. An FBI agent sent to Bright Falls with her partner, Alex Casey, to solve a murder that looked like it was done by a cult.
Saga Anderson plays a very important role in the story. She’s not there because she wants to, it’s because Alan wrote her into the story he is writing in order to get himself out. While she doesn’t know it yet, her whole life will change, and I mean that quite literally. Her entire life is being rewritten by both Alan and Mr. Scratch, and she does not take kindly to it. While she does resent Alan for bringing her family and her partner, Alex Casey, into his story, she is willing to help her.
When playing as Saga, you will be in the real world solving crimes and discovering the darkness that is lurking in Bright Falls and its surrounding locations. Unlike Alan, Saga is an FBI agent that excels in her work thanks to her Mind Place, which is essentially a much smaller version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes Mind Palace. Here, you will be able to review your Case Board and pin leads and clues in order to unlock more of the story.
Saga also has the ability to what is essentially reading a person’s mind by Profiling them. There, she can gather clues and more information that will help her in her investigation into what’s happening in the area. These are features that you will be using a lot if you want to progress Saga’s story further into the game.
But what about the main man himself?
Alan Wake, as we all know from playing Alan Wake (or the remaster) and American Nightmare, is still trapped in the Dark Place. This is further confirmed years later with the Control expansion, AWE. For 13 years, Alan has been fighting to get out of the Dark Place, but has never been able to make any progress as he goes on.
With that in mind, that is the whole goal of Alan’s story: to get out of the Dark Place and stop the Dark Presence from getting out into the real world. In order to do so, Alan writes a story to get himself out, as the Dark Place seems to change when he writes. But that doesn’t mean the Dark Place won’t fight back, as it always sends the Dark Presence to hinder his progress.
Just like Saga, Alan has his own area in the Dark Place that he can access anytime. It’s called the Writer’s Room, and this is where Alan goes to when he needs to make changes in the Dark Place. Not changes that completely transforms the Dark Place into the Happy Place, but small changes that allows Alan to move around locations easily.
Both Alan and Saga will need to help each other in different worlds in order to achieve their goals, which means you will be able to play through two stories at the same time. However, you won’t have to play as one character per chapter. In fact, after reaching a certain point into the game, you will be given the chance to play as either Saga or Alan whenever you want.
Two Stories, Two Worlds
Controlling two characters means you will have two different worlds to explore: the Dark Place and the real world. For the case of Alan Wake, he will be moving around the Dark Place as he finds a way to get out and stop the Dark Presence and Mr. Scratch. But the Dark Place is chock full of danger at every corner, and I mean that quite literally.
In the Dark Place, there are shadow figures that are spread out all over the area. Whether it’s at the main plaza, the subway tunnels, or the movie theater, you will find that there are these figures roaming around, and they will call out Alan’s name as he travels around the Dark Place. Some might be harmless, but others will attack you if you get too close.
The shadowy figures in the Dark Place are hard to read if they are going to attack you or not. You might think one of them will attack you as they approach you, but the moment you use your Flashlight Boost to burn away the shadow, they disappear. But suddenly, you will have another shadow figure approach you from behind and hit you.
These shadow figures are tricky and will most likely bait you into using a Flashlight boost, causing you to waste one Flashlight Boost. But one thing’s for sure, you can take out these enemies the same way you take out Taken: using the light to burn away their shadowy armor and using your guns to take them out.
In the case of Saga Anderson, she will be out in the real world, dealing with the Taken. Similar to the original Alan Wake, Saga will be moving around Bright Falls and its surrounding areas, trying to figure out what is going on and why these monsters are popping up all over the place, all while trying to battle a horror story that is slowly changing her life.
While Alan is playable, Saga’s section of the game is more reminiscent of the original Alan Wake game. It takes place in the real world where you fight a combination of a changing story that affects your life and horrible monsters called Taken, all while trying to find a weapon called the Clicker that can help stop the Dark Presence from causing more damage.
Remedy Continues to Show Off their Creative Storytelling Abilities
If you’ve played any other Remedy game, then you’ll expect some of the most creative ways to tell a story that no other developer is able to do. Alan Wake 2 implements a couple of things that Quantum Break and Control had: live action cutscenes and shadowy silhouettes. Yes, you will see the actual actors who provide their faces and voices to the characters in the game to show up in live action cutscenes, as well as the silhouette cutscenes that appear in gameplay.
In Quantum Break, finishing each chapter will reward you with what is essentially a 20 to 30 minute live action episode of the game that further pushes the story along. Control has these shadowy silhouettes that shows up in gameplay that are actually live action recordings that are seamlessly integrated into gameplay.
You will notice all of these when playing Alan Wake 2, and it’s not something you normally expect when playing a video game. Usually, cutscenes are all developed with the in-game engine. But Remedy likes to experiment a bit in their games, utilizing technology to seamlessly implement live action cutscenes into the game.
Combat is More or Less the Same
Whether it’s on the streets of the Dark Place or the forests of Washington, you will face enemies that will try and stop you from achieving your goal. Unlike the original Alan Wake game, there are mostly seven types of enemies you will encounter in the game:
- Normal Taken
- Wolf Taken
- Fast Taken
- Range Taken
- Brute Taken
- Diving Taken
Takens are mostly found in Saga’s story, as Alan will be dealing with Shadows in the Dark Place. Each enemy operates differently and will require different strategies to defeat. But one thing is for sure: light is their weakness. Using your trusty flashlight to shine a bright light into their faces will remove the shadowy armor they wear, allowing you to attack them.
I did find the Shadows much more menacing compared to the Takens. While the Takens rarely come into view while moving around with Saga, the Shadows are always around Alan as he walks around the Dark Place. The worst part about them is that you’re never too sure which Shadows are hostile and which Shadows are docile.
That’s not to say that Saga has it easy. Depending on your difficulty, the Taken can range from easy kills to bullet sponges. If you’re playing on Normal difficulty, fighting Taken feels like you’re just throwing your bullets at them. They can even survive a point blank shotgun blast to the chest and head sometimes before getting up and walking towards you. One might wonder if the game is too hard or too imbalanced.
Thankfully, updates seem to be coming in that tweaks the damage of the weapons and the health of the Taken, so it’s possible that we’ll see more tweaks to the enemies in the game.
But what about the combat itself? Well… it’s okay. If you’ve played games like Resident Evil 4 and Callisto Protocol, then there’s nothing new here. It’s a third person shooter, so you will be aiming your gun and shooting enemies, sometimes even meleeing them if they get too close to you. There’s also a dodge mechanic that was also from the first game, and that’s about it.
But the combat is very unforgiving. In a sense that if you are to make a mistake like reloading at the wrong time, the enemy will take advantage of this and close the distance. Same thing if you run out of bullets in your gun. The enemies are much more smarter in this game, no longer waiting around and taking turns like they did in the first game. If they see an opportunity to overwhelm you, they will take it.
Bottom line, it’s just the combat of the first game, but polished to modern triple AAA gaming standards. It’s fast, it’s fluid, it’s unforgiving, and it makes for a great experience every time you need to fight enemies in the game.
Graphics Are Fantastic, But You Will Need to Upgrade
I played this game on PC, and it wasn’t that bad. Before the game came out, they released the PC requirements that usually tells you if your game can run it or not. Well, it certainly gave PC players quite the scare, because these requirements are off the chain. Seriously, an RTX 3070 to play this game on 1080p? With DLSS and FSR2 set on Performance?
Don’t get me started about how you will need an RTX 4070 to play this game with Medium Ray Tracing settings. Good lord, this game is beefy. But thankfully, playing the game with an RTX 3050 graphics card and an Intel Core i5-11400 CPU on High settings with DLSS set to Quality on 1080p actually went pretty well. In fact, it was more stable than Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
The problem mostly came from Saga’s section of the game. Since Saga will be in Washington most of the time, the game has to render so much foliage and other things on screen that it keeps it at 30 to 35 FPS most of the time. But if I were to go indoors or to Bright Falls, it would jump up to 45 to 60+ FPS, which isn’t bad.
I personally don’t mind playing at 30 FPS. Growing up playing on consoles primarily, 30 FPS is just normal for me. Sure, playing on PC and playing on 60 FPS is nice and all, but it’s not going to kill me if I don’t get a stable 60 FPS at all times. Luckily, this game doesn’t dip below 25 FPS, even when playing in Saga’s sections of the game.
Alan actually has the most stable and smooth framerate the whole game, consistently staying between 40 FPS to 60+. Again, it mostly has to do with location, and with Alan being in the Dark Place where there the game doesn’t have to render a million foliage on screen, the game runs pretty well. And better yet, it still looks so good. Playing on the lowest graphical setting of this game surprises me, because the game looks so much better than most triple AAA games today.
The game is also still receiving updates, with the latest patch actually improving performance a lot (for me, at least).
13 Years Since the Cliffhanger & We Get Another Cliffhanger
This one is a bit spoilery, so if you don’t want to read this part, it’s perfectly fine. But I would like to express my genuine disappointment that the game ended on another cliffhanger. The first game ended with the iconic line that has haunted us for 13 years: “It’s not a lake, it’s an ocean.” That line has stuck with us for 13 years, hoping that one day, we will get to see what Alan meant.
And technically, we do see what he means in Alan Wake 2. The darkness we see in Alan Wake is not small, like a lake. In fact, it’s much larger than that, a horrible and terrifying entity that can swallow up the Earth when given enough power, like an ocean. Of course, that’s my interpretation, and you are welcome to interpret it however you want.
But with Alan Wake 2 being released and ending on a cliffhanger, it does annoy me that we are once again kept on the edge of our seats. Now it may seem like I hate this cliffhanger, but I really don’t. In fact, I do love it, as it potentially means more Alan Wake games. The disappointment comes from the fact that when the game was starting to ramp up again, it ends on a cliffhanger.
Now, there are DLC coming out for the game soon, and it’s possible that we will see more there. There’s also the upcoming New Game + mode coming soon, which has been confirmed that there will be new story related content added to the game. So, if you’re itching for some more story, then we won’t have to wait too long.
My Final Rating & Recommendation
Alan Wake 2 Review
Alan Wake 2 is quite possibly my favorite story based game this year. It’s a fantastic game that does everything Remedy does best. While there’s very little replayability, the game will have an upcoming New Game + mode added soon, so there’s that to look forward to. But as of right now, it’s a 4.4/5 for me.
I fully recommend this game to anyone who loves Remedy and their storytelling. But if you’re not sure if you want to jump into the game just yet, you can always just wait until a sale comes up.