Alan Wake 2 (PS5) Review

Not a Lake, An Ocean

alan-wake-2-ps5-review 2023-10-25_23-04-36_650554
alan-wake-2-ps5-review 2023-10-25_23-04-18_715407

Alan Wake 2

Brutalist Review Style (Version 2)

A lot of things can happen in 13 years. A newborn can graduate junior high school, a medical student can clear their residency, Alan Wake 2 can release and answer all the questions the cult-classic original left behind for fans back in 2010, and it’s finally here.

Embracing everything Remedy Entertainment has learned through their releases up to this point, Alan Wake 2 is a culmination of masterclass storytelling and over a decade of games developed combined to make a sequel that is so exhilarating it will seize the player and hold tight with a cold clammy grip until the credits roll.


Alan-Wake-2-Ps5-Review 2023-10-26_09-19-12_794716

Alan Wake 2 takes place canonically 13 years after the events of the original, and our favourite true crime/supernatural writer is caught between a rock and The Dark Place. So, fans will find themselves behind a different point of view — FBI Special Agent Saga Anderson (Melanie Liburd) as the second playable main protagonist.

Agent Anderson is assigned to Bright Falls to investigate a string of serial killings performed by the mysterious Cult of the Tree. Who else would accompany her on her investigation than FBI Special Agent Alex Casey (modelled after Sam Lake, voiced by James McCaffrey), who is hilariously irritated that he shares the same name as the fictional detective in Alan Wake’s true crime Alex Casey novels.  

Saga Anderson picks up almost right where Alan Wake left off 13 years prior in Cauldron Lake, a supernatural location that acts as a bridge between The Dark Place and the real world. While Saga Anderson is attempting to make sense of the mysteries surrounding the murders, Alan Wake himself is attempting to write himself free of The Dark Place, which he has been a prisoner of for over a decade.

Manuscript pages operate as collectables, and they litter the landscape while providing event foreshadowing that happens in the game with clues about what needs to be done next. While this is a nod to the original, Manuscript pages play a far more important part this time around, and instead of Departure, the dismembered novel cadavers are part of a bigger work called Return.

Alan-Wake-2-Ps5-Review 2023-10-25_23-03-36_843847

Alan Wake 2 has boldly shifted genres. From an action-adventure title with waves of enemies to its true DNA, a survival horror where a single enemy can make you see a game over screen. This is made even more true when my dread-induced clammy hands couldn’t pull a game controller trigger properly.

This risky move has provided the directorial team of Sam Lake and Kyle Rowley an atmosphere not seen in the first title and is unlike anything Remedy Entertainment has done before, a dual protagonist system and true horror.

Every second spent playing Alan Wake 2 sets my teeth on edge and evokes true ‘lying in wait’ suspense. While creeping up a dimly lit hallway as Saga, I remembered the actor Bruce Campbell saying, “There’s a reason Ash Williams wears brown pants,” and that’s why I wore brown pants while playing Alan Wake 2, seriously frightening moments.

Let’s Get Serial

Alan-Wake-2-Ps5-Review 2023-10-26_09-19-50_205270

As Saga explores locations like crime scenes, the iconic Oh, Deer! Diner, Cauldron Lake, and the new neighbouring town, Watery, she picks up clues that are part of the bigger puzzle. When you enter the menu screen, Saga is in a hub called The Mind Place. Finding clues is one of the best feelings, and the feeling is compounded when you add them to the first thing you can imagine when you think cork board with red string in a police station, a true crime staple.

This board doubles as a recap for those who step away from Alan Wake 2 for a long period, kind of like a darker version of “previously on Dragon Ball Z” without overstaying its welcome. The rest of The Mind Place allows Saga to go over case files, upgrade weaponry, profile persons of interest, and a TV.

Alan Wake 2 continues the trend set by the original and allows Saga to watch Bright Falls television after she finds certain shows playing. As you scour the landscape, Saga is rewarded with exposition dumps for Bright Falls and the surrounding area of the world. My favourite of these from the first title was Night Springs, a fun easter egg like Twilight Zone (thankfully, this is still present).

“Every second spent playing Alan Wake 2 sets my teeth on edge and evokes true ‘lying in wait’ suspense.”

The best exposition in Alan Wake 2 is, hands down, the Koskela Brothers advertisements for tours and a theme park called Coffee World. The tour ad has a poorly made cut out of a cardboard bear, and it was just so out of place but so charming that I laughed hard. The atmosphere of Bright Falls filled me with such dread that watching commercials made me laugh; go figure.

Speaking of atmosphere, Petri Alanko masterfully navigates harrowing themes in the soundtrack, adding to the sense of dread and discovery in every second of gameplay. Alan Wake 2 contains a treasure trove of end-of-chapter custom-made musical tracks.

Alan-Wake-2-Ps5-Review 2023-10-26_09-19-59_845145

These are all lights-out (pun intended) tracks, and the writing of the lyrics describes what has occurred in each chapter. The music is one of the best parts of Alan Wake 2 and features several of Finland’s popular musical talents. A breathtaking musical score that I’d gladly listen to, but in the daytime.

Like the other collectables, the Oh, Deer! thermos returns as a save point in the sequel, nursery rhymes with small puzzles, Cult of the Tree lockboxes, and heavier weaponry are also placed strategically throughout the landscape.

Each discovery can have a small puzzle attached to it, and solving these small instances just felt GOOD. Collectables provide Saga/Alan with tools to unalive the Taken and can even provide ammo and other useful items. Almost none of these are required to continue forward, but if I can access easier Taken extermination, sign me up!

Light is Hope

Alan-Wake-2-Ps5-Review 2023-10-26_08-30-09_727577

The Taken have been taking serious gear in the last 13 years, and each basic enemy feels like David vs. Goliath. Some run hyper-fast and do hit-and-run techniques, there are Taken boss fights that have true progression and don’t operate as simple bullet sponges, and there are even Taken dogs. Dogs are my personal Dark Place in basically every game, and the designers behind Alan Wake 2 said, “Hold my coffee,” and made it harder. The challenge makes bringing them down feel SO much better.

Taken show body damage in Alan Wake 2. After lighting them with a trusty flashlight so bullets do damage, each projectile tears the flesh off the Taken with force. The flashlight is the most important item to fend off Taken, and unlike the original, strong flashes must be used to weaken them.

I found myself constantly digging into every corner to find supplies to stay prepared in case of a Taken attack. Resident Evil 2 walked so Alan Wake 2 could sprint, and it showed. There are returning safe havens that are big areas illuminated by light. These act as literal beacons of solace, welcoming me with warm arms and saying a good job of making it further.

“The atmosphere of Bright Falls filled me with such dread that watching commercials made me laugh; go figure.”

The brief repose I have in these moments quite literally calms the anxiety built up from the stifling atmosphere of the darkness. After reuniting with the titular writer in the story, without missing a beat in the past 13 years and while having a face covered with blood, his first words are, “I’m Alan Wake, I’m a writer.”

Wake Up, Alan

Alan-Wake-2-Ps5-Review 2023-10-26_08-29-47_486140

After filling the capable shoes of Alan (and tweed jacket), it’s almost like playing a different game. The Dark Place is the Alan Wake 2 equivalent of Stranger Things’ upside down, and everything feels like it is not what it seems.

Alan has access to a new device called the Angel Lamp, which functions as a reality-altering Deluminator without wizards and adds to the complexity of puzzles littering the landscape. Like in Saga’s chapters, solving these small puzzles and netting sweet lore exposition is a full-on dopamine hit, I think I may have actually said Aha! At one point.

“Alan Wake 2 is Remedy Entertainment’s best release yet; a masterclass narrative is here, and Remedy went the extra mile to fix problems they had in their previous titles.”

The Dark Place is a hellish landscape based on New York City but with less traffic. Payphones ring, and a mysterious voice guides Alan forward. Like Saga, Alan also has a hub in his menu screen that operates as a recap. This is called The Writer’s Room, and it kept me sharp on story elements. This was sorely needed. Like The Mind Place, Alan Wake 2 is a serious trip, and most of the time, it’s incredibly hard to tell what exactly is going on, which is by design.

Each time I felt lost, the narrative gave me just enough to compel me forward, and each payoff continued to feel more rewarding than the last. Remedy Entertainment demands the player to dance, and although I’m not known for dancing prowess, I danced.

Alan-Wake-2-Ps5-Review 2023-10-26_08-29-31_123355

There are so many moving pieces at play here, and Remedy Entertainment navigates them with deft hands. The serial killer, Cult of the Tree, is incredibly believable and feels plucked straight from True Detective without Harrelson. The Dark Place is an embodiment of Hell mixed with New York (some could just say New York), and the actors portray their characters with a cadence that tore emotion out of me at every turn. A stellar experience all around.

Alan Wake 2 is Remedy Entertainment’s best release yet. A masterclass narrative is here, and Remedy went the extra mile to fix problems they had in their previous titles. I had an issue with the map in Control, and the map in Alan Wake 2 is incredibly easy to read. Unlike the original Alan Wake, combat is less common and much more impactful.

Nods are made to other Remedy Entertainment titles, Max Payne (Sam Lake) himself appears as Alex Casey, and Shawn Ashmore, the main character in Quantum Break, is present in Alan Wake 2 as a sheriff. Alan Wake 2 doesn’t just function as an incredibly well-made horror title. It is a celebration of everything Remedy Entertainment has accomplished so far—a masterful true sequel.

Final Thoughts

Philip Watson
Philip Watson

This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, CGMagazine may earn a commission. However, please know this does not impact our reviews or opinions in any way. See our ethics statement.

<div data-conversation-spotlight></div>