Easily, the best horror game in years.

Alan Wake holding a gun, standing in a supernatural version of New York.

In 2010 Remedy Entertainment released Alan Wake, a game where a writer is pulled into a horrifying world seemingly of his own creation. Alan Wake was a game that I bounced off at least two times. Despite the game being well received by critics and fans, I felt like its gameplay was just a repetitive slog that even its unique story could not overcome. When a sequel was announced by Remedy, I found myself extremely indifferent to the news. Still, I put in a review request out of morbid curiosity.

In short, what I encountered with Alan Wake 2 can best be described as one of those once in a generation psychological horror experiences. Alan Wake 2 is an ambitious, unnerving, and wild ride from start to finish that easily rivals the greats such as Silent Hill, Amnesia, Eternal Darkness, P.T., and others like them. For you television fans out there, Alan Wake 2 is akin to Twin Peaks if that show was always firing on all cylinders.

For most of the game, nothing in the town of Bright Falls is as it seems. Townsfolk may be hiding dark secrets. As reality and fiction blend together, the world and story can shift and alter, keeping both player and protagonists questioning what they know, or what they think is the truth.

Dual Protagonists

In Alan Wake 2, not only will players assume control over the titular Alan Wake, but they will also control FBI agent Saga Anderson. As Saga, you will explore the town of Bright Falls plus the surrounding areas: Dense wilderness, a theme park that should be condemned, a small fishing town, a trailer park, a retirement home, and more. Saga’s investigation into a series of disappearances in the Bright Falls area leads to her discovering that there is something far greater, far more sinister happening in the region. Saga uses a unique family trait to retreat to her "Mind Place." It is this Mind Place where Saga can piece together discovered clues, profile suspects and other persons of interest, upgrade weapons, and even listen to any discovered songs if she needs a few moments to unwind.

Saga's Case Board is where you will assemble the clues and evidence you discover in a way that makes the most sense. For the most part, the Case Board is optional but there are a few times where using it is required to reach a conclusion or to further the story along. Still, if you hop back to voluntarily update the Case Board every so often, it does help to provide additional plot or insight that you may not have understood otherwise. It is important to note that Saga's and Alan's stories in Alan Wake 2 are full of twists, turns, countless references to the Remedy Connected Universe, and a level of meta-ness that would put the entire Metaverse to shame. Using Saga's Case Board to make sense of a lot of this information feels almost like a necessity at times.

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Though Saga is contending with her own horrors in the real world, Alan Wake’s situation is several orders of magnitude more dire. Stuck in the Dark Place for the past 13 years, Wake's life is akin to a never-ending nightmare. For years he has attempted to write and re-write a story that would lead to his escape from the Dark Place. For years he has been perpetually pursued by an entity called the "Dark Presence," a supernatural force that can take on the appearance of Alan Wake and which can twist reality based on works of art. Though most of Wake's portion of the story is intense and disturbing, there are a few moments of levity that remind you that this is a Remedy game through and through. In fact, one of Alan's chapters is perhaps one of the greatest moments in gaming I have ever experienced.

Alan may not have a Mind Place like Saga but he does have a "Writer's Room." It is here where Alan will attempt to piece together the story he is writing, will write, or may have already written. Alan's side of the story is called "Return" while Saga's is called "Initiation." As the Dark Place reacts to works of art, such as Alan's writing, changes made to the story in Alan's Writing Room will alter the world around Alan. This is a key gameplay mechanic that allows you to overcome environmental obstacles, solve puzzles, and discover Alan's version of the truth.

It really isn't often that I find myself actually scared by a horror game. There may be increased tension here or there, but it's probably been years since I jumped from a scare. Then comes Alan Wake 2, a game where I was caught off guard a few times by scares. The scares in Alan Wake 2 come a blend of extremely tense, moody atmospheric horror with a healthy dose of jump scares. While not I am not typically a fan of jump scares in horror games, as they often feel cheap and out of place, they worked well in Alan Wake 2. It makes sense thematically with the rest of the game given how many of the horrors in Alan Wake 2 are created from thoughts, ideas, and memories. Even if you take the jump scares out of the equation, you are still left with the haunting environments, challenging enemy encounters, otherworldly sounds and whispers, and the often dark and moody atmosphere. Playing with a pair of headphones on and the lights turned off only enhances the experience. Credit where credit is due here: Alan Wake 2 succeeded in getting my heart racing numerous times and actually scaring me after years believing that I was immune to the scares in horror games.

Alan Wake 2 allows you to switch between the stories of Saga and Alan almost whenever you want. There are a few moments in the story where forced swaps still happen, ensuring that key story beats are never missed no matter who you choose to play as. This means that you can largely wrap up Saga's side of the story before ever touching most of Alan's story, or vice-versa. I personally opted to swap between the two characters after playing through a chapter. Though this made the most sense to me, others may feel differently. There is no wrong way to play because the introduction and finale of the game tie everything together in a way that makes a lot of sense when you play.

So Very Meta

Throughout a significant portion of her journey, Saga is accompanied by her FBI partner, Alex Casey. Casey is a veteran FBI agent that just happens to share a likeness and name to a fictional, hardboiled detective in Alan Wake's books. A detective that likes to lament about the cases he is working on and the state of the world. Both Caseys are also a self-insert of Remedy's own Sam Lake. Without going into details, Saga's Casey and Alan's Casey play pivotal roles within each side of the story. Both Caseys also just happen to be voiced by James McCaffrey, whom you may better know as the voice of Max Payne. Max Payne being originally created by Remedy Entertainment. The Alex Casey from Alan's fiction just so happens to wear similar clothing to Max Payne in the first two titles. Then there is a part in which a movie about Alex Casey is being discussed with the "actor" Sam Lake during a talk show segment in Alan's story.

A character talking about how meta everything the situation is.

Though this all seems confusing, it makes a ton of sense in the plot of the game itself. It also shows just how ridiculously meta this game can get at times. Some may even consider the self-inserts and references to be a bit too pretentious, but damn does Remedy ever make it work thanks to a near flawless execution. This is Remedy at their absolute best here, and absolutely comes across as a love letter to their longtime fans. There are countless tie-ins with their previous major release, Control. There are obvious nods to Max Payne, even if they do not own that property anymore. There is even a little nod to Quantum Break, despite that game not being explicitly a part of the Remedy Connected Universe. For a lot of fans, Alan Wake 2 could even be seen as a partial sequel to Control with how big a role the Federal Bureau of Control ties into this game's story.

Remedy has done an excellent job balancing the right amount of horror with a little comic relief when you may need it most. It was refreshing to go from long, intense sequences that got the pulse racing into a story beat that made me laugh or put a huge grin on my face. That is to say, the pacing in Alan Wake 2 is extremely well done. Very few horror games have managed to pull off pacing like this. Hell, very few games in general can nail the pacing quite like this game has. The only time the pacing falls apart is when you choose to seek out the optional collectibles and puzzles. Of course, it would be downright foolish to knock the game for something that you can optionally choose to do or not.

My time with Alan Wake 2 was spent exclusively on the PlayStation 5 version of the game. I flat out could not run the game on my PC's hardware even if I wanted to, so PlayStation 5 it was. Graphically, the game looked gorgeous. Sure, it may lack some of the crazy ray tracing and path tracing bells and whistles present on PC, but it was still a beautiful game. The environments and character models sported a crazy amount of detail. Remedy likes to pack their environments full of details that truly make their worlds feel real and believable. There are two graphical settings on PlayStation 5: Quality and Performance. In my testing, Quality locks the game to what always felt like a solid 30FPS. Quality seems to up the foliage density, especially in the forest portions of the game. Quality also seems to increase the shadow resolution. That said, I did opt to play through most of the game with the Performance setting. Performance targets a 60FPS experience but there were several times where I could tell it was not quite hitting that mark. The decrease in shadow quality was also quite apparent in several cases. However, I will almost always choose to play at higher framerates when possible and this was no exception. I will also note here that I turned off motion blur simply because it is motion blur and I have never been a huge fan of it.

An image showing a live-action cutscene in Alan Wake 2.


From start to finish, Alan Wake 2 just kept delivering. It is modern horror done right. This is the game for horror fans, for Remedy fans, or simply for fans of the original Alan Wake. It is the game for those looking for something fresh that will delight and thrill in unexpected ways. It was all just so incredibly good: The story, the gameplay, the twists and turns, the characters, the near seamless integrations live-action segments, the tension, the atmosphere, the scares, the way everything tied together in crazy and unpredictable ways, and so much more.

As I said at the start, I did not like the first game in the slightest. This game though? This game made me into a believer. I am already excited, even downright giddy, for whatever Remedy delivers next for Alan Wake. Apparently, that "whatever" will be a couple of expansions in 2024, one of which will once again tie in very closely with the Federal Bureau of Control. Also coming is a free update which will add a New Game Plus mode called The Final Draft. This mode will let players keep their unlocked upgrades and weapons, add in a harder Nightmare difficulty option, and perhaps most interestingly, will offer changes and additions to the game's narrative. I cannot wait to play it all.


Scoring system showing a score of 5 out of 5 stars.

Additional Information

  • Alan Wake 2
    • Developed by: Remedy Entertainment
    • Published by: Epic Games Publishing
  • Price: Starting at $49.99 (USD)
  • Platform reviewed on: PlayStation 5 (Also available on Xbox Series X|S and PC via Epic Games Store)
  • Release Date: October 27, 2023
  • ESRB: Rated M for Mature 17+ (Blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, and strong language)
  • This game was provided to Total Gaming Network for review purposes.​
  • Images used in this review are a combination of Remedy provided media and PlayStation 5 gameplay captures​​.

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