There’s something very wrong in the town of Bright Falls. But there’s something quite right with the PS5 game Alan Wake 2, a sequel that infuses the original game’s rich psychological thrills with exciting new settings and gameplay that will appeal to survival-horror fans.
Remedy’s original 2010 game was part run-and-gun action game, part horror thriller, part metafictional commentary on authorship. Remedy games had always experimented with juggling multiple media formats, but with Alan Wake, the studio found an approach that kept players guessing and created a cult phenomenon.
Alan Wake’s blending of traditional story techniques like voice-over narration with quirky full-motion video sequences starring professional actors ultimately paved the way for classics like Control. And with Alan Wake 2, Remedy takes this formula to its logical conclusion: a showdown between the forces of reality and fiction.
Let’s dive into new gameplay details from sections featuring both playable protagonists – conveniently split up by each protagonist’s journey, from Alan Wake’s fight through a surreal New York to detective Saga Anderson’s trek through Bright Falls and the Pacific Northwest.
Surviving the horror. For all its horror trappings, the original Alan Wake had a brisk, energetic pace that felt more at home in an action-adventure game. With Alan Wake 2, Remedy is taking a page from survival-horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Movement speed is slower and more methodical, while the claustrophobic camera is positioned tight over your shoulder to heighten tension. Your otherworldly foes hit hard with melee and ranged attacks, but you can tap the L1 button to dodge and help escape damage. Ammo and health are scarce, so you’ll need to fight carefully in order to preserve resources. The high-stakes combat is a welcome, fitting shift to match the game’s moody and ominous atmosphere.
Let there be light. Whether you play as Saga or Alan, your primary foes are The Taken. Returning from the original game, these shadowy humanoid entities make for intimidating enemies, keen to quickly dart in and land a surprise attack. Though initially invulnerable to weapons, The Taken are vulnerable to bursts of intense light. As both Saga and Alan, you can hold R1 to burn away an enemy’s protective shielding with the flashlight. Once it’s removed, you can use pistols, shotguns, and crossbows to banish these specters for good. Watch out, though: flashlight batteries are a scarce commodity, though flares and flashbang bombs are also available.
Two to tango. FBI agent Saga Anderson’s adventure takes place in the twisted town of Bright Fall and Pacific Northwest, where a local cult is up to no good. Meanwhile, horror writer Alan Wake is stranded in The Dark Place, a Limbo-like realm that feeds off his dreams and nightmares to keep him trapped in a ghostly New York City. Both characters have the same basic abilities and combat skills, though each brings their own unique approach to progressing the narrative. Saga’s FBI profiling skills can analyze evidence and open up new leads and locations to advance the story. Alan Wake’s writing skills can manipulate the reality of The Dark Place, reshaping the environment and leading him closer to escape.
After the introductory sequences, you’ll be able to swap between playing as Alan and Saga at will. Both characters’ fates seem to be tied together — let’s take a closer look at what’s in store for each.
Saga Anderson gameplay
FBI agent Saga Anderson comes to Bright Falls as part of her investigation into ritualistic murders. This gloomy Pacific Northwestern town was the real star of the original Alan Wake, and as Saga you’ll dig into its grimiest crevices in Alan Wake 2: creepy forest trails, trailer parks, cult hideouts, and a dilapidated local amusement park, and that’s just for starters.
Inner light. Holding the touchpad on the DualSense controller instantly teleports you to Saga’s “Mind Place,” a mental sanctuary that holds the key to unraveling obstacles and leads in her murder investigation. This space is represented as a cluttered detective’s room, complete with case files, records, a TV, map, and other resources that provide you with a way to unravel clues and advance the story… and, equally importantly, to dispense more information on Bright Fall’s strange residents and dark history. And if you’ve got the resources, you’ll also be able to upgrade your weapons in the Mind Place.
Survival staples. Carrying on the survival-horror vibe, you’ll encounter brightly lit safe rooms scattered throughout the game. Coffee thermoses serve as save points, while shoeboxes in these rooms act as a box to store spare items to save limited inventory space (which can be expanded by discovering upgrades).
‘Round the Pacific Northwest. Saga’s journey will introduce her to a large cast of residents, many of whom wouldn’t seem out of place in a David Lynch movie. But the town’s eccentricities run much deeper. There are loads of extended narrative bits for players to dig into, from local drama around an impending mayoral race to the hilarious video advertisements of local amusement park Coffee World. These juicy bits of lore are classic Remedy, and will deepen your appreciation of this quirky, creepy place.
Puzzling places. Bright Falls is festooned with puzzles. Some are integral to the main path, like deciphering symbols in the environment to unlock a door. Other puzzles are standalone rewards, like padlocked chests with notes that cryptically point to environmental clues. One puzzle that stands out involves unlocking a chest with a powerful crossbow, where the solution involves investigating an archery range riddled with bolts. These fun, bite-sized puzzles pack helpful rewards and a refreshing break from the tension.
Alan Wake gameplay
Horror writer Alan Wake is trapped in a nebulous place between worlds, and his only hope for escape lies in unraveling the mysteries of his own mind.
In a mirror, darkly. Compared to Saga’s Pacific Northwest journey, The Dark Place is an illogical and dreamlike place where reality is suspect and danger is everywhere. Depicted as a warped version of New York City, The Dark Place follows its own set of rules. Alan Wake’s only advantage is his unique connection to this realm, which allows him to reshape his circumstances using his storytelling skills. His foes? Unearthly apparitions and a relentlessly pursuing Dark Presence.
White space. Where Saga’s “Mind Place” is a cluttered detective’s room, Alan retreats to an internal Writer’s Room for inspiration. When your progress is blocked by occasional narrative dead ends, you can use the Plot Board here to piece together an alternate plot that helps you escape. As Alan Wake collects ideas and invents a new fictional solution for his predicament, these new story elements will literally reshape the environment around you and open up ways to progress. It’s a clever and satisfying mechanic that strongly differentiates Alan’s segments from Saga’s.
Shine a light. In addition to a double-barreled shotgun and revolver, Alan Wake wields another powerful tool: the Angel Lamp. This mysterious artifact is essential to navigating the city, and lets you “carry” a light source from one place to another. Moving a light source generally opens up an unseen path, and some of the changes are dramatic and unsettling — imagine walking into a ground-floor entrance and emerging onto a rooftop high above the city. These Angel Light sequences add some puzzle variety and make Alan Wake’s journey feel distinct and unsettling.
All in all, our initial hands-on experience with Alan Wake 2 was quite encouraging, and seemed to show Remedy at the top of their game. Now that there’s a true “Remedyverse,” who knows how deep this rabbit hole will go?
There’s only one way to find out. Dive into the mystery of Alan and Saga’s unraveling realities when Alan Wake 2 hits PS5 on October 27.