‘Alan Wake 2’ review: don’t sleep on this unsettling horror thriller

‘Alan Wake 2’ review: don’t sleep on this unsettling horror thriller

Every second spent exploring the exquisitely detailed world of Alan Wake 2 is a second well spent. Every time you turn back on yourself to explore a hitherto unknown pathway – or empty corridor, or abandoned theme park ride – is rewarding, not because the game will always offer up a well-hidden prize for your troubles, but because exploring the shadowy corners of this place is in itself its own reward. Alan Wake 2‘s achingly authentic world is so stuffed with secrets and detail that even its sentient shadows and terrifying story aren’t enough to hold you back from running wild.

Read more: ‘Alan Wake 2’ release date, launch times and PC requirements

We loved our time with Alan Wake 2. We know this because it occupied a lot of headspace even when we weren’t playing it, lodging itself somewhere deep inside as we replayed its most memorable sequences, looking for holes, scouting for clues. It’s not perfect. In fact, assessed independently, some of its core mechanics are a tad perfunctory – dull, even, if you’re feeling particularly uncharitable. Yet fused together, they elevate Alan Wake 2 until it becomes something much better. By taking all their learnings from its predecessor and adjacent games like Quantum Break and Control, the Alan Wake 2 team at developer Remedy have completed perhaps their greatest project thus far – and certainly one of the best games to come out of 2023.

Is it pretentious? Indisputably. At its heart, Alan Wake 2 is a detective game rather than a straightforward shooter – and you’ll spend considerably more time working through its puzzles than battling shadowy entities. Its story, which unites missing author Wake with FBI’s Saga Anderson and takes you on a supernatural rollercoaster of cults and murder and deer masks and men coming back from the dead – is undoubtedly outrageous, out-metaing all metas in a way that typically leads to derisory laughter and eye-rolls so savage, they could roll right out of your head. But we can confirm that you don’t have to like David Lynch or Twin Peaks or even have played its predecessor to have a good time with Alan Wake 2. Its genre-bending presentation and gripping mystery ensure it stands confidently on its own merit.

‘Alan Wake 2’ Credit: Remedy Entertainment

We can’t pretend to understand why an FBI agent so readily accepts the supernatural any more than we understand how she’s able to make such dazzling leaps of deduction by holding conversations in her head (to begin with, anyway; we do get some resolution later), but that lack of understanding doesn’t blight the adventure one bit. You’ll keep playing – confused or not, stuck or not, scared or not – because you’ll be desperate to find out what the hell is going on. And it’s been some time since a game wormed its way under our skin in this way.

Elsewhere, with its rich, dense, and varied environments, Alan Wake 2‘s exploration segments are every bit as enjoyable as its combat ones because it interjects the latter so infrequently. Unpopular opinion alert, but we just didn’t enjoy the combat in Remedy’s prior offerings Control or Quantum Break, missing the chunky, satisfying gunplay of Max Payne. While Alan Wake 2 in no way innovates as Max Payne did, it is at least fair and forgiving, and having to use the torch to burn off the dark sludge of your foes adds an interesting wrinkle to your encounters. On top of that, the endless uncertainty around having enough ammo adds a further layer of fear that persists throughout the game.

And it’s gloriously tense. Few games, if any, ramp up the tension as masterfully as Alan Wake 2, and beyond the handful of safe havens sprinkled across the locations, you’ll rarely feel safe, its shockingly effective sound design making it difficult to relax at all.

As for its puzzles? Saga’s Mind Place – think Sherlock Holmes’ ‘mind palace’, but less pretentious – is a dark room within her mind that lets you track the progress of your case, profile your suspects and make decisions. At first, it seems a little convoluted, then it’s surprisingly useful, and then it gets horribly confusing again and you’ll probably find yourself smacking photos and clues against the wall until they accidentally slot into the right place. We can’t say the game would be better without it, as that’s probably a stretch, but as careful as Remedy is to try and make such a complicated system user-friendly, it still has issues. The same can be said for Wake’s plot board mechanic, too. Yes, it worked, but only just. Often, it just gets in the way of progress instead of aiding it.

One highlight worth mentioning is the truly brilliant switch puzzles, crafted in such a way that they can simultaneously make you feel sensational and stupid in equal measure.

There’s quite a lot of fetch-questing, too – go here to get that, come back here and do this. You know the kind of thing. Again, the world is so interesting that this probably won’t be frustrating, and while you only have a handful of locations to explore, every time you return you’ll have a different key or a new tool to open up areas that had previously been inaccessible anyway.

‘Alan Wake 2’ Credit: Remedy Entertainment

After being forced to accompany just one character for much of the opening act, you’ll eventually be given the freedom to follow events as you deem fit. For us, the need to resolve Saga’s enduring mystery tale always pipped Alan’s. That’s not to say Alan’s chapters are unenjoyable – his neon-soaked nightmare vision of New York is endlessly fascinating to explore, and his sections a little more combat-heavy – but given the choice, you’ll want to spend more time with Agent Anderson. No hard feelings, Al.

Not all of Wake’s various narrative offshoots reconcile. Yes, it’s confusing. Yes, it’s jarring. And, at times, it’s bloody frightening, too. Like with Control before it, Remedy fuses real life with animation in Alan Wake 2, blurring the lines between what’s real and what’s fictional to create a cinematic, effective, and truly unsettling mystery that’ll keep you guessing – and terrified – right until the end.

‘Alan Wake 2’ is out now on PC (via Epic Games Store) PS5, and Xbox Series X/S


Alan Wake 2 isn’t just the best horror game we’ve seen in years – it’s one of the best games, period. Though its emphasis on exploration may progress a little too slowly for some, its unsettling presentation and jaw-dropping graphics make it one of the most ambitious titles we’ve seen to date. Don’t miss it.


A deliciously macabre story that will keep you guessing right until the end
A masterful blend of animation with real-life footage makes for an unusually cinematic experience
A well-balanced blend of combat and puzzle sequences


Pacing may feel too slow for some
Investigative elements can be a tad confusing at time, leading to trial and error more than organic deduction
Combat is perfunctory and a little underwhelming

The post ‘Alan Wake 2’ review: don’t sleep on this unsettling horror thriller appeared first on NME.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post ‘The Finals’ developer says AI allows for “new ways to work together” with voice actors
Next post The Beatles And Peter Jackson Announce ‘Now And Then’ Music Video

Goto Top