I love it when a studio shows off their upcoming game in the best way possible. Playing a game in a noisy convention centre hall is fine, but I don’t think it would have showcased Alan Wake 2 in the best light - literally.
At Gamescom, I headed out to a nearby cinema in Cologne alongside other members of the press to see 45 minutes of Alan Wake 2 on a big screen in the dark, beer and popcorn in hand, and I left extremely excited to jump into the full game.
I say this is the best way to show off Alan Wake 2 because it’s a masterclass in cinematic and atmospheric storytelling. It’s gorgeous on a big screen, showing off its biggest strengths. Once you have it at home, turn off the lights, turn the sound up, and make the most of it.
The Dark (but beautiful) Place
As I said, Alan Wake 2 is pretty stunning visually. The level we were shown, which was from Alan’s perspective, sees him traverse the Dark Place with little more than a revolver and flashlight to protect him.
The Dark Place is a dark, semi-real version of New York City. The deserted streets are soaked, covered in discarded newspaper, and lit by flickering street lamps. The lighting builds a palpable edge-of-your-seat tension.
Pockets of darkness feel like they’re surrounding Wake and you never know what’s coming next - it could just be one of Remedy’s almost randomly timed jump scares.
It’s got that same intense creepiness that Control does, slowly building to a set-piece. There’s a constant feeling of threat that’s so well conveyed, with the level of detail in the world increasing massively for Alan Wake 2.
Signs and parts of the Dark Place flicker and change to represent Wake’s changing mindset, so there’s a lot to keep an eye on as you explore.
As you explore, you’ll encounter enemies shrouded in darkness, and you take them out in a new way. You can avoid most enemies entirely if you’d prefer, but using Wake’s flashlight, you can expose them and shoot them a few times with your pistol. It seems to be quite an intense and tactical process, forcing you to decide which enemies to attack and how to position yourself as they lurch towards you.
New combat skills
It’ll be a good way to break up the exploration. Alan Wake 2 is definitely a bit slower than I expected, and significantly slower than Control. It’s all about taking in the atmosphere and watching as Wake journeys deeper into madness.
Combat is not the only use of his flashlight, either. In probably the most interesting new feature, Wake can completely change what he’s looking at in a blink of an eye.
In the demo we were shown, a subway station in The Dark Place’s New York was blocked off. With one flash of his light, Wake’s able to open it up again and head inside.
This skill is used for various puzzles and as part of exploration and it’s phenomenally integrated. If you’ve played the recently released Viewfinder puzzle game, which uses a camera to instantly change your surroundings, the feature works in a similar way in Alan Wake 2, just with larger and more detailed areas.
In just one frame, the world is changed. It’s incredibly impressive and I’m excited to see how its uses change as the game progresses.
For fans of Remedy games
Also, yes, for any fan of Control, the massive location and chapter title screens return for Alan Wake 2. I don’t know why, but I love them. It won’t be the only similarities to Control either. In a Q&A with Sam Lake and Kyle Rowley of Remedy, they confirmed that “yes, this is a Remedy connected universe experience.”
However, they also said that “there is no required homework with [the] Remedy connected universe. You don’t need to have played Control or the first Alan Wake game.”
I’m excited to see more of the complex story Remedy have concocted for Alan Wake 2. What I do know now, after seeing 45 minutes of the game, it’s going to be a wildly impressive visual spectacle that takes the intense atmosphere of Control to another level.