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Alan Wake 2 preview: A needlessly thorough breakdown of gameplay

Our first look at the titular man himself

At Summer Game Fest we got our first look at the exceptionally promising gameplay from the long-awaited sequel Alan Wake 2. The game will take a new dual protagonist structure, and all of the footage shown featured Saga Anderson, a completely new character. While fans were pleased to see some combat from the FBI agent in familiar setting Bright Falls, but it’s not who they came to the showcase for. No matter who is leading Alan Wake games will always be about the man himself.

Gamescom 2023 opened with a number of trailers, and one of the most highly anticipated was Alan Wake 2’s. While we saw glimpses of Wake, including a cutscene completely shot in live action, gameplay was still mostly secretive. GLHF was invited to an event where we could watch 40 minutes of uncut footage which showed the entirety of the second mission ‘Casey’, though the developers admitted that the staff member playing had a deep knowledge of the level, and was essentially making a beeline straight to the end and taking out each enemy with precise headshots along the way. While it only took her 40 minutes, the developers predict that casual players will require much longer.

Alan Wake 2 moviecam

One of the things that made fans most nervous was the announcement that Alan Wake 2 would feature live-action footage, something that was criticized in Remedy’s other game Quantum Break. From what we’ve seen, this live-action footage is only used in cutscenes, or in animation effects to give a creepy uncanny valley feeling to the Dark Place. ‘Casey’ takes place in a version of New York that has been conjured by the Dark Place, where Wake has been living for the past 13 years. There are two Alan Wakes, each with their own playstyle. One remains in the lodge writing the story, while the other wanders around the version of New York that Wake is writing.

In this way there are two kinds of gameplay. You will mostly control the New York Wake, but you will switch to writer Wake when your path is blocked. The mission opens with a mysterious phone call that leads you down a dark alley only to find Alex Casey, a fictional detective that Wake often wrote about. Casey, as played by director Sam Lake, hates you but luckily, you are able to grab a gun and flashlight from him so you can begin fighting back against the Taken. There are two main ways in which you can change the environment of New York. The first is by capturing light in a special flashlight and using it to dispel illusions covering an area. The second is by writing your way out.

Alan wake 2 writers room

There are two Alan Wakes and one remains in the lodge writing the story.

As you wander around, you’ll find new scenes and plot points that can be used by writer Wake back at the lodge. You can switch Wakes at any point, and by looking at the new scene on the plot board will allow you to choose how you want to write your way out of the dead end. There is often more than one choice, and you can choose whichever you like but there is only one critical path forward. Choosing ‘wrong’ plot points will help you uncover more about the story, though. Once you choose a plot point Wake will start typing it out, and the scene around New York Wake will change.

The combat was used sparingly in the mission and was a stark contrast to the footage we saw of Anderson at SGF. It is completed in much the same way as the original where the flashlight can be used to reveal the Taken’s true form, and then the gun can take most enemies out in a few headshots. Notably not all Taken will get in Wake’s way, unless they aggro onto him he can usually just walk by. However, once the flashlight is shone onto them they will immediately attack. In the preview, all of the Taken’s true forms were the same, but the developers told us that there will be a variety of enemies in the final build.

Alan Wake 2 writers room

Once you choose a plot point, Wake will start typing it out, and the scene for New York Wake changes.

What struck us most during the gameplay was how the atmosphere was used to create a sense of dread. There is of course the Taken and other mangled bodies around the scene, but it was the smaller details that added to the horror. The use of sound, or silence was foreboding, and while wandering around the abandoned subway station there are sections that exploit fears such as claustrophobia. There were two things that we found cliché. One was that there were two jumpscares during the mission where an image appeared on screen and a loud sound was played. The second was a section of loud screaming that occurred as you crawled through a train car that got louder until you got off. These felt more annoying than scary, and detracted from the overall feeling.

The original Alan Wake featured a number of pop culture references with obvious homages to the works of Stephen King. Sam Lake admits that while Remedy will possibly never be able to resist adding in references, the team is trying to only make references to other Remedy games like Quantum Break and Control. Interestingly, in Casey we saw Shawn Ashmore who played the lead, Jack Joyce, in Quantum Break, however, in Alan Wake 2 he is playing a new character Tim Breaker who will help you out with new information and resources.

Alan Wake 2 talk show

The talk show scene offers an interesting teaser.

The most interesting teaser was contained in the talk show live-action cutscene at the beginning of the act. The host makes some meta comment about how Wake’s second book – the one Alan Wake 2 is based on – stands in the middle of a trilogy. We know that the team has been keen to create more Alan Wake games, but these comments seem to cement that a third entry is already planned, and that the success of this first sequel is already presumed.

In a year of unprecedented success in the industry, it almost feels as if anything that releases in the second half of the year is fighting against a storm. However, the time and energy that has clearly gone into developing Alan Wake 2 shows that Remedy is putting its foot forward in an attempt to topple the likes of Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur’s Gate 3. While many have already claimed their game of the year, Alan Wake 2 is sure to stand up and demand our attention when it finally releases just in time for Halloween.