Alan Wake 2 review: True Detective meets Resident Evil in this gripping sequel

By Sam Smith
By November 1, 2023 Game, Reviews

Alan Wake 2 is here, and with it, a new shared universe that blends mind-bending sci-fi with gory supernatural survival horror. Here’s what we thought of Alan Wake 2 after spending the better part of 20 hours exploring every inch of it.

We enjoyed the original Alan Wake when it released over 13 years ago. The game reminded us of Twin Peaks, Wayward Pines, Silent Hill and various Stephen King novels. Like other creepy games, such as the Evil Within, The Last of Us and many more, the original took inspiration from Resident Evil 4, yet aesthetically had more in common with a spooky TV show, while thematically borrowing from Silent Hill 2.

It was the perfect setting for a survival horror videogame as well as a gripping story that left us wanting more – and boy did we get it.

Alan Wake 2

Alan Wake 2 is scarier than ever.

Building a shared universe

The game was soon followed up by multiple DLC packs and the standalone quasi-sequel in Alan Wake’s American Nightmare which continued the story. Even more shockingly, Remedy’s 2019 game Control also connected to Alan Wake, with subsequent expansions revealing that both games were set in the same universe and were part of a much wider story.

Fans of Control will be happy to learn that Alan Wake 2 continues these connections, but we’ll need to wait until Control 2 to fully see where they go. Suffice to say, whatever the Dark Presence, a malevolent entity that is trying to escape the lake in Alan Wake’s town of Bright Falls is, it’s connected to the Hiss – another evil force which has invaded the skyscraper in Control.

Turning the page

Setting the shared ‘Remedyverse’ aside for now, Alan Wake 2 picks up 13 in-game years after the original and the author is considered missing (likely dead) by the authorities, with the townsfolk of Bright Falls believing he was claimed by the Dark Presence within the lake – something many of them are secretly aware of. Life has continued in the town and now a string of murders are being investigated by a new protagonist, the likeable FBI agent Saga Anderson.

Due to the influence of the Dark Presence, things are getting increasingly weird in Bright Falls, and controlling Saga feels like playing through a season of True Detective. The game even gives you access to a mystery board in Saga’s mind, where the player can connect clues using red string and start to piece together the evidence. Things take various twists and turn and even if Alan Wake 2 was fully comprised of these segments, it would be an excellent murder mystery game – but its so much more.

Things get even more exciting when characters, among other things, from Control start to appear. While Saga’s segments start out as an engaging detective story, she too is soon pulled into the supernatural horror as she’s targeted by both the Dark Presence and Alan Wake, who both see her as the key to their salvation. While the murder mystery gameplay remains throughout, Saga’s segments become more creepy and combat filled as the dreaded Taken begin to come for her, possessing the townsfolk and turning them into monsters that would make the creatures from the original game run in terror.

alan wake 2 enemies

The enemies are far more frightening than the first game.

If I die before I Wake

However, that’s only half of the story. The other half involves playing as Alan Wake himself as he navigates the twisted dimension of the Dark Presence as it continually tries to use his writing abilities to free itself from the lake. The evil entity knows that it can manifest Alan’s writing into reality to break free from its prison, and then wreak havoc throughout the world. So, not only is Alan trying to escape its clutches, he also wants to rescue his wife Alice, and contain the hostile force that’s trying to manipulate him.

Alan’s gameplay segments are more like a traditional survival horror game, as the Dark Presence throws everything it can at him as he navigates a creepy and twisted version of his home in New York City, attempting to learn what’s happened to his wife Alice. Once again, Alan needs to make use of light to battle his tormentor and its minions, even on its own turf. The corroded and worn version of New York that Alan explores contrasts nicely with the lush forests and lakeside town vibes of Bright Falls – even if the lake and town are at the mercy of an evil presence lurking under the water that wants to consume them all.

Alan is also writing his story as events around him play out and we as the player get to take an active role in this, not only solve the in-game puzzles, but to drive the story forward. Its a neat gameplay mechanic that separates Alan Wake 2 from all the other third-person survival horror games that are out there.

alan wake 2 lake

Alan Wake 2 has some stunning visuals.

Survival horror masterpiece

Bit by bit, Saga and Alan’s stories begin to intersect and the game slowly morphs into a chilling and psychologically charged survival horror title. The trippy world within the lake reminded us of The Evil Within at times and the sequel has shed its Silent Hill 2 vibes and evolved into something more akin to the Resident Evil 4 remake. Not only is Alan Wake 2 a more faithful survival horror game than the original, it also packs more action and tense drama into proceedings, exceeding the original in every way.

Alan Wake 2 is honestly a masterpiece that every horror and third person shooter fan should play. While the game wears its influences on its sleeve this is a strength not a weakness. Be it through its shared universe building with the Control games, or that gut-punch of an ending – the Alan Wake series is heading somewhere truly special. But for now, just know that the second chapter of Alan Wake’s story is a real page turner, and quite possibly Remedy Entertainment’s magnum opus.