Alan Wake was heralded as a generational leap in character-driven video video games when it launched in 2010, successful over followers and firmly cementing creator Remedy Entertainment as an innovator in gaming. After a pair well-lauded video games, the studio is again for Alan Wake 2, and for a couple of hands-on hours, I received to dive again into the haunted world of a author and the supernatural darkness he fights.

I’d ready for the hands-on by taking part in by means of the unique Alan Wake, the stand-alone recreation Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (2012) and Remedy’s final hit Control (2019). In mid-September, Remedy gathered a couple of dozen members of the press in a Los Angeles warehouse all decked out to suit the hard-boiled and haunted world of Alan Wake. I walked within the door to discover a neon “Oh Deer Diner” signal above a wood-backed bar slinging espresso with sleeves branded just like the restaurant from the primary recreation. Over the following few hours, I performed two segments of the upcoming Alan Wake 2, representing the break up narrative between the titular Alan Wake and newcomer Saga Anderson. 

My first recreation session adopted Anderson, an FBI agent wanting into the Pacific Northwest city of Watery close to the primary recreation’s timeless haunted hometown setting of Bright Falls. A flood cuts off a lot of the city, however stranger issues are afoot because the Taken — people corrupted by the extra-dimensional Dark Presence that Wake had defeated within the first recreation — seem amid a rising conspiracy. The townsfolk aren’t what they appear.

To suss out the reality, I usually paused to enter a dynamic new system: Anderson’s Mind Palace, a liminal zone the place the agent can ruminate on folks she meets and draw conclusions about their connections to nefarious goings-on. To assist, there’s an precise cork board the place I might pin up proof as I collected it, connecting clues through literal string. It’s a neat mechanic to information gamers into seeing the larger image as Anderson hyperlinks seemingly unrelated issues right into a tapestry of narrative. And if gamers battle determining the place to go subsequent or tips on how to remedy a puzzle whereas staring on the board, Anderson can trace at an answer.

The second recreation session targeted on Alan Wake. Since selflessly condemning himself into the Dark Place dimension to save lots of his spouse, Alice, on the finish of the primary recreation, Wake has been wandering the liminal shadowland dimension for over a decade. In Alan Wake 2, gamers observe him utilizing his writing powers to attempt to escape. 

Instead of a Mind Palace, Wake has a Writer’s Room, and relatively than piece collectively a thriller he wrangles the shifting story with a Plot Board, organizing every recreation’s chapter right into a narrative with starting, center and finish. When Wake is in a location the place a “scene” happens, the you’ll be able to change it to a unique time interval to discover the way it’s been modified — as an illustration, in my session, Wake enters a lodge that is internet hosting an immersive theater troupe, and I switched one of many scenes from a manufacturing rehearsal to a gap night time gone horrifyingly, violently unsuitable. To progress by means of areas within the dreamlike Dark Place, it’s a must to tweak scenes to put in writing a definitive model and escape.

After 13 years, Remedy hasn’t simply picked up the place Alan Wake left off however stuffed Alan Wake 2 with new and dynamic methods to have interaction with a narrative instructed by two wildly totally different views. 

“Our considering was, how are you going to go additional? You have this author character you’re taking part in, how can we make the gameplay through which you’re actively collaborating within the creation of the story?” mentioned Alan Wake 2 director Sam Lake, who sat down with me for an interview after the sport preview. 

Fans of the unique recreation will get pleasure from returning mechanics just like the manuscript pages scattered across the recreation to seek out, which you hear learn aloud in Wake’s voice as he foretells occasions you’ll quickly expertise. But in Alan Wake 2, the pages are lined in edits, with notes added and components scribbled out, including intrigue. “Who did the edits, and what is the thriller that is uncovered?” Lake mentioned.

While different parts stay from the primary recreation to ease you in to the sequel — to save lots of their recreation, gamers drink a cup of espresso from a well-recognized blue thermos — Alan Wake 2 is an evolution of its predecessor, becoming immediately’s tastes for more difficult motion and pushing ahead Remedy’s daring mixture of full-motion video, gameplay and textual content logs to inform a narrative that transcends mediums. 

As with Remedy’s earlier media-blending video games, it is a query of whether or not new avid gamers will embrace such non-traditional storytelling. And it additionally may come all the way down to how followers of the unique Alan Wake will just like the more durable, stranger sequel.

Looking over a man's shoulder as he points a flashlight and a gun at an approaching shadow.

Combat is more durable in Alan Wake 2 than its predecessor.

Remedy Entertainment

Harder Than Before

To put together us for our Alan Wake 2 recreation classes, Remedy builders described it as extra of a survival horror recreation than the action-packed authentic, and so they’re proper. Enemies hit more durable and take extra rounds of your ammunition earlier than they go down. While the third-person digital camera nonetheless hovers over your shoulder, Wake and Saga each transfer slower, making encounters more durable to run away from. Ammo is not too scarce, but it surely’s not bountiful, both. 

You’ll nonetheless have to coach your flashlight on Taken enemies till they’re corporeal sufficient to shoot, and through climactic moments within the segments I performed, half a dozen enemies rushed me without delay — far too many to make susceptible with my flashlight. I died and reloaded a number of instances to get the timing of a struggle down and frantically tossed flares and flashbangs to drive enemies again and provides myself respiratory room. The sequel is in no way the breezy motion recreation that its predecessor was.

If you have performed different survival horror video games, the problem will not be too grating, and the brand new stock system might be acquainted with its Resident Evil-style grid. You may set as much as eight gadgets as shortcuts (two for every cardinal course on a d-pad) for fast entry, which is useful in a struggle. 

And then there are the puzzles. While Alan Wake had its personal gameplay checks and the latest Remedy recreation Control had in-game puzzles, the early Alan Wake 2 gameplay had not less than one mind teaser that needed to be solved by logic. In this case, I needed to match a personality’s job title with their archetype description, which proved difficult. While I did not see practically sufficient to guess whether or not Remedy has upped the puzzle problem alongside gameplay, it looks like the studio needs gamers to assume by means of tough conditions.

A man stares at a video projected on the wall that depicts himself.

Remedy Entertainment continues to mix gameplay and live-action footage in intriguing methods.

Remedy Entertainment

Alan Wake, Control and the Remedy video games multiverse

The authentic Alan Wake ends with the titular character trapped in a limbo dimension known as the Dark Place, and the follow-up recreation Alan Wake’s American Nightmare expounds on his efforts to flee as a malevolent doppelgänger, Mr. Scratch, who impersonates Wake with violent outcomes. Alan Wake 2 straightforwardly carries on the title character’s story from the place it left off and contains components from different Remedy video games in addition to.

Astute Remedy followers could have observed some references to Alan Wake within the time-traveling Quantum Break, and its subsequent recreation Control featured references aplenty (and a whole DLC) including extra story to the world round Alan Wake. Remedy way back confirmed that Control and Alan Wake are in the identical universe, so it should not shock gamers that bits of Control will leak into Alan Wake 2.

(Heck, Wake’s in-universe character that he writes about in his collection of books, Alex Casey, bears a putting resemblance to a different death-wishing former cop from a Remedy recreation collection — Max Payne.)

While I’ve personally loved all of Remedy’s video games and respect how the corporate has tackled new storytelling methods and genres in all of its video games, I believed the studio hit jackpot with Control. The Federal Bureau of Control incorporates so many storytelling potentialities as gamers tackled facet tales that felt like supernatural thriller, science weirdness, zombie alienation, psychological horror and extra. But as Lake described it, returning to the smaller scope of Alan Wake does not imply they’re abandoning Control or its world; the studio is doing each.

“We are retaining the lens [on Alan Wake] on condition that we’re engaged on a sequel to Control,” Lake mentioned. Remedy confirmed final November that Control 2 was within the works, and Lake’s affirmation suggests it is progressing. “Remedy has grown fairly a bit and now we have a number of tasks and a number of alternatives as nicely,” Lake mentioned.

Ultimately, every Remedy recreation fastidiously lays groundwork for the following. These breadcrumbs are intentional, a part of the decades-long story the studio is telling. While it looks like Remedy is masterfully gesturing on the subsequent recreation earlier than it comes out — Alan Wake 2 was teased on the finish of the “Altered World Event” DLC for Control — there are a lot extra story hooks sprinkled all through its video games. 

“I consider all of them as potential future video games,” Lake mentioned, noting that the workforce hardly ever throws issues into their video games as easy jokes and at all times cease and take into consideration in the event that they could possibly be one thing larger, whether or not that is elaborating on an FBC case file or introducing a personality’s backstory, which might all be video games or transmedia items of their very own if Remedy had extra bandwidth. “We want to select and select fairly harshly. There are solely so many of those [projects] that match into one’s profession.”

And but, the studio looks like it laid simply the correct quantity of breadcrumbs resulting in its latest recreation: the AWE enlargement in Control constructed up extra Alan Wake lore (and teased how a lot Wake’s writerly powers really manifested the Federal Bureau of Control itself) and ended with a prediction of one other occasion taking place within the close to future round Bright Falls, the place it already had an Agent Estevez stationed. After our Alan Wake 2 play classes, myself and different media sat in on a panel with Lake, Wake’s personal actors (Matthew Porretta for voice, Ilkka Villi for video), Saga Anderson’s voice and video actor (Melanie Liburd), and two different characters: an area cop and FBC Agent Estevez (Janina Gavankar). 

A man talks to a police officer, who is played by actor Shawn Ashmore -- who played a different character in the Remedy game Quantum Break.

Alan Wake 2 contains cameos from characters of different Remedy Entertainment video games — and actors like Shawn Ashmore, who performed the lead in Quantum Break.

Remedy Entertainment

From the appears to be like of it, Estevez might be taking part in a sizeble function later within the recreation (she did not seem in both of my recreation classes) that ties the Federal Bureau of Control tighter into the online of Alan Wake’s world. And followers of Remedy’s complete catalog might be happy too — that “native cop” is performed by Shawn Ashmore, the identical actor who portrayed Quantum Break’s lead Jack Joyce. While Ashmore’s character in Alan Wake 2 has a wholly totally different identify (which is smart, given Microsoft retains the rights to Quantum Break), it will go well with Remedy to evoke similarities, nonetheless imprecise, to tie its video games universe much more tightly collectively.

Lake and his colleagues at Remedy Entertainment have weaved a wealthy and sophisticated story amongst their video games, however it began with Alan Wake and the way followers cherished that character’s world. Which got here as a shock to Lake, who assumed that gamers would simply go away older video games behind. But quite the opposite, they’ve cherished older video games sufficient to canonize them as classics that stick round due to how they make gamers really feel, even all these years later.

“I want to assume and hope that individuals like Alan Wake due to the expertise, due to the emotion, due to the environment, and since perhaps the unanswered mysteries,” Lake mentioned.

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