Saga Anderson arrives to investigate ritualistic murders in a small town. Alan Wake pens a dark story to shape the reality around him. These two heroes are somehow connected. Can they become the heroes they need to be?
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Alan Wake II understands the power, control, and allure of the federal bureau of investigations.
When power is wielded, it is often done through obfuscation. In chapter 6 of Wake's side of the game, you wander a few floors of a hotel. Stumbling upon evocations, Wake enters a writer's room and uses new artistic ideas to change physical surroundings and narrative before and afters. Alan Wake is in the Dark Place, a subconscious usually only glinted at in nightmares but is now our protagonist’s waking every moment. This concept is a straightforward, if writerly, flourish: dreams and nightmares are two sides of the same coin, often merging into one another. Alan Wake II attempts to determine the affect these nightmares have on the waking. Back at the hotel: Wake summons a cult, then the literal Devil, attempting to cohere a violent story of murder and death that allows you to progress through the game.
The unintended consequences of Wake's writing permeates the game. A cult or a devil murdered the star of an immersive hotel play. Who leads who isn't as relevant as yet another superfluous story to get to the ending Wake thinks he needs to write in order rescue himself. What choice is there - as the game reminds us at every turn - but to "go darker"? Another bullet needs to be shot against faceless dwellers whispering your name. You might run around the monsters with little to no impact on the various proceedings the same way a book’s exposition is lost in translation to a screen adaptation. Screams of real or fictional people crashing and burning in a subway and the attendees of a play lose their lives to a fictional story, one bent by the clacking of a time writer or twines of red string puncturing together evidence of an FBI agent’s case file.
By trying to do better, dreams are often swept aside, pushed forcefully against or otherwise ignored. As Saga Anderson, you psychically manipulate your own psyche and those around you to advance forward. In doing so Anderson ends up deeper in a nightmare of her own making: is it truth or fiction that she got a divorce, that she causally is to blame for her kid’s death, and that nothing seems to be going right in your case even as more evidence is surfaced? But more evidence reveals more loose ends and for every node on the psychic crime board, more potentials raised. Who are the people around you: Sam’s motives, Wake’s reason for rage, your daughter’s personhood, and does Alan Wake II care, or is it interested in moving towards a non-ending?
Sequel bait and verseification dampers the narrative proceedings. Instead of a satisfying ending, a post credits scene reveals an alive Alice, having faked her own suicide. She said she orchestrated the whole thing. Can we believe her? Does it matter when the plots of the next Remedy games are still drafts and notecards on a whiteboard in a meeting room? Anything can change between now and then. The world’s largest corporations use their own multiverses to supersede much of culture and dominate conversation. Admittedly, in Alan Wake II these verse connections are fun and deeply referential to the point of absurdity instead of shlocky means to a team up ending, but cracks appear to be seeping in.
Art and destiny is intertwined deeply. On Wake's first loop through Mr. Door's late night show, a book Wake did not write is revealed. Over and over again, the dual protagonists of Alan Wake 2 are reminded about the decisions they have or have not made and their fates. Wake didn't write Initiation, he wrote Return. Wake fell into a lake and the dark place, unsuccessfully honeymooning in a remote Pacific northwestern town. Wake didn't kill his wife, Scratch did. Wake successfully finished his book but one hero had to lose so Wake dies. Wake successfully finished his book but one hero has to suffer so Anderson’s daughter really is dead. What is a story but an extravagant spiral?
Through obfuscation, dreams are shrouded and nightmares are made coherent. Alan Wake II gives no straightforward answers because it has none. The dream to create and continue working has come crashing down on artistic intent, neat narratives. Keeping everything open ended makes for satisfying TikToks in the future where continuous small connections between two games can be made. The FBI, FBC, and the wider police force alongside them who populate this game wield power without checks and balances, concealing truths until they are purposefully confusing, deciding on the fly what and who is right versus wrong, what will or will not show up in the next Remedy game.
*As an overall aside that doesn't tie into the more lit crit attemptings of this review I must complain about technology and our own climate apocalypse. Remedy is real fucking annoying about "cutting edge tech". A little more than a year ago I bought a 1,200 dollar computer, marked down from 1,500 in a sale. This rinky dinky computer has a 3050 graphics card. I could not play this game natively on that very nice, very new PC. There is no reason for this. I don't give a shit about graphics or cutting edge tech. Neither should you. Our planet is burning as we continue to harvest rare earth materials while putting yesterday's rare earth materials into the trash.
"The Hero Turns To Look Inside, Is Destroyed By What He Sees, And Is Redeemed."
Finished Alan Wake 2 last night and oh my, I absolutely get the praise for Alan Wake 2 now. It's an experience like no other game and not only does it greatly improve from the first game in every single aspect, but this is easily Redemy Entertainment's magnum opus with its unique multimedia method of storytelling and immersion.
The graphics are just astonishing, especially with how carefully Redemy has been crafting thier usage of lighting to the point there are many scenes when you could easily mistake the game for live-action. The audio design is one of the best I have experienced and it's incredibly immersive to hear sounds from all directions and angels from pouring rain, ringing phones, a conversation between people, and eerie monstrous sounds. From an aesthetic viewpoint, Alan Wake 2 does an excellent job of sending the message that this is a survival horror story.
Speaking of survival horror, Alan Wake 2 makes a drastic change in gameplay from the first game. No longer an action-adventure game shooting down dozens of Taken and dealing with frustrating combat sections. The gameplay emphasizes less action and more on slowly walking through nerve-wracking uncertainly.
While the survival horror combat itself is nothing groundbreaking, what helps make Alan Wake 2 stand out is how the duel protagonists, the titular character himself Alan Wake, and FBI agent Saga Anderson, solve their obstacles to resolve the issue at hand.
With Saga's mind place to help put together pieces she finds throughout the game to solve the surrounding mysteries and interrogate suspects. As well as Alan's plot board changes the surrounding environment around him as if he's rewriting "plot elements" for a story. It's a fresh and creative layer to prevent the gameplay from ever being stale.
The shining gem of Alan Wake 2 is the story and narrative and while it's very difficult to talk about its story without going into spoilers and details. What I can say is it masterfully presents its story like no other game I've played.
You have live-action segments of a short film, an operatic rock musical, video autobiographies, commercials, etc. As well as songs that play during and at the end of each chapter and scattered pages of incomplete manuscripts, all complimentary to the spiraling complex narrative that explores the psychological descent of the duel protagonists.
While each unique segment of Alan Wake 2 does sound disjointed and nonsensical on paper, it all comes together flawlessly in a meta manner of speaking to tell a story about a story and how these characters are trapped in a horror story coming to life.
Not to mention, the worldbuilding and easter eggs that Remedy have set up with thier previous games Quantum Break and Control help sell the overall dark surrealism and atmosphere that extends beyond the main focus and scope of Alan Wake 2. So it's very rewarding to play Redemy's previous games to appreciate these finer details that would be harder to pick up.
Truthfully, Alan Wake 2 is a near-flawless game. While I do think some of the enemies are a bit too health spongey and the checkpoint system could be more forgiving, those are just nothing more but minor nitpicks. It's otherwise masterfully executed in game design, narrative, and presentation with its creative multimedia approach.
I'm not a huge horror fan so I can't say with confidence it's one of the greatest horror stories of all time. But what I can say is it's a hallmark of visual and audio entertainment and sets a new standard of story presentation and game design. As far as I know, Alan Wake 2 is easily one of the greatest games of all time and that is something I do not say lightly.
May write a more detailed log about this game later so not really an actual review but FUCK THIS GAME RUINED ME. Everything about it appeals to me on so many different levels and I have not been this grabbed by a story before since Control. Remedy's use of the medium and playing to its strengths when it comes to storytelling is on full display with this game. It's something that simply could not be adapted into another medium without essentially making an entirely different story anyway. I also wanna briefly talk about how the use of lighting in this game is superb and really effective. One of the few games I've played to really get creative with its use of lighting to convey tone/mood and how it actually tries to have different styles of lighting throughout the game in different places with different purposes tied to the use of those styles of lighting. The game's art direction is fantastic and one of the few times where an extreme push for graphical fidelity was also done with artistic intent behind it. The game very much needed the higher fidelity and utilized it effectively. I can't really think of a game with an art direction similar to Alan Wake 2's and I'm so happy that fidelity was used as a tool for achieving their desired art direction instead of a tool for making things feel "realistic". This game is just insanely special to me and truly feels like a passion project Sam Lake always wanted to make as it never felt like the vision he had for the game was compromised. It felt insanely consistent to its themes from start to finish as well as feeling like Sam had told the entire story he wanted to tell with this game (yes there's post launch content however I genuinely feel that could easily be Alan Wake 3 shit instead. The way the game ended is fantastic especially after thinking about the wider implications of the ending and the mid credits scene)
The game was a cluster fuck most of the time with all of the fked up shit that happened, but yeah this game has really insane horror with top notch atmosphere and audio design.
The most annoying thing was the constant fullscreen jumpscares for no reason... It got tiring after some time.
The most annoying thing was the constant fullscreen jumpscares for no reason... It got tiring after some time.