Alan Wake II: the sequel we’ve been waiting for

Note: This article has been translated from Italian by ChatGPT and may contain errors.

Thirteen years. Thirteen years to finally play the sequel to one of the most interesting works of the Xbox 360 era. While I wouldn’t place it among my all-time favorite titles, Alan Wake won me over with its captivating story and top-notch technical aspects. In my memories, it remains one of the most beautiful experiences from those years. I can’t say the same for Remedy’s subsequent productions, with a pleasant but no more than that Quantum Break and a Control that I had a hard time digesting. However, we were all waiting for just one thing: Alan Wake II. Was it worth the long wait?

Alan Wake II puts us in the shoes of the tormented writer and detective Saga Anderson

Dreamlike Vision

Alan Wake II is only available in digital format. A choice that many, including me, didn’t like. I’m not among the digital supporters, but that’s a topic for another discussion. Let’s focus on the game. Alan Wake II is a slow experience. The pace is calm and diluted. There are numerous collectibles and documents to read to delve into its universe, following Remedy’s tradition. You read, you watch, and yes, you play too. Perhaps the balance isn’t always perfect, but I found it generally well-balanced.

One of the aspects that Alan Wake II emphasizes is, of course, the story. Is it good? Bad? Exciting? It’s hard to give a definitive answer. Due to its uniqueness, it depends a lot on personal taste. I can say that the first Alan Wake was perhaps more mysterious and fascinating; in some ways, it had captured my interest more. However, the story is pleasant to follow, and the further I progressed, the more things became interesting and intriguing, culminating in some truly engaging final moments and a successful epilogue, although not entirely clarifying… the doors for an Alan Wake III are officially open. I like the dreamlike aspect, the distortion of reality, art that modifies the world, different realities colliding with each other, but at the same time, some narrative solutions didn’t captivate me completely (more of a feeling). The story is layered, cerebral, and there are moments (and gameplay sections) that leave a mark (the musical! The hotel! The nursing home! The final sections!). The dialogues don’t shine particularly; I often found them too cryptic for the sake of being cryptic, and there’s the typical tendency of Remedy to make some passages a bit over the top to give it a certain tone, but it’s much more enjoyable than Control. If I had to define the story in two words, I’d say: interesting and visionary.

Play More and Better

In terms of gameplay, there’s a clear improvement compared to the first Alan Wake. Please note: we’re not talking about excellent gameplay; I didn’t expect it from Remedy. However, there’s much more to it than before, and the setting abandons a bit of linearity to embrace more freedom of action, allowing us to explore the environments and solve side cases (related to collectibles to find). Combat is initially scarce (I didn’t fire a shot in the first two hours), but it becomes more present as you progress and, while not providing extraordinary thrills, it does its job. The main problem remains the enemy variety, practically non-existent: except for the boss fights, you face the same threat from start to finish.

Alan Wake II in live action!

There’s also a system that allows us to analyze cases from Saga’s perspective. However, it’s not very deep; it remains fairly guided: it’s more a way to keep track of the unfolding plot. In Alan’s shoes, there’s the possibility of modifying certain areas of the scenarios: a very nice idea that never truly shines but still provides a certain satisfaction. At a certain point, you also have the option to switch between Alan and Saga (or vice versa).

The gameplay is entertaining enough, although Alan Wake II sometimes feels like a walking simulator. That was the initial impression I had, but it’s not entirely negative. As I continued, I delved further into the mechanics of gameplay, finding them absolutely valid. The game almost always encourages the player to use their brain, whether it’s a puzzle to progress, studying the map and the environment to understand where to go, unlocking a lock with a code, reasoning about the story, and more. Of course, there’s an underlying repetitiveness, accentuated by the above-average duration, but Alan Wake II remains enjoyable from start to finish. It gets better as you progress, pulling you further into its dream and reality vortex.

But… Is It Scary?

No. Not at all. Honestly, I’ve never been able to consider Alan Wake a true, pure horror game, even though the idea of a horror story is at its core. The reason is that tension and anxiety are at a minimum level, even in this sequel. Certainly, if we were forced to choose a genre to categorize it, horror would probably be the most accurate. Nevertheless, there are some jump scares, but I found the experience rather relaxing and enjoyable, almost comforting in its darkness. It’s a personal judgment (we know that fear is subjective), but the enemies don’t scare, unsettle, or disturb. However, the atmosphere is excellent, and there are some well-crafted sections. You could say that, more than leaning towards Dead Space, Alan Wake II approaches and surpasses the best horror parts of The Last of Us. Just that in Naughty Dog’s titles, this kind of atmosphere is present for only a few phases, while in Alan Wake II, this atmosphere is present for almost the entire game. In short, no fear, but yes, atmosphere.


Only on ‘new gen’

The visual impact is more than good, but not excellent. I played in both performance and quality modes, and each has its minor flaws. Overall, Alan Wake II offers graphics in line with the times, although some hiccups persist, such as the handling of certain shadows, elements in the environment not always loaded properly, missing reflections in mirrors, animations not outstanding, physics not always at its best, and, in quality mode, an occasionally unstable frame rate. However, the overall look is decidedly convincing. Characters are well-realized, and the locations are filled with details that make them feel alive and believable: exploring them is a pleasure. The lighting is excellent, and the audio department is good. The longevity is very good; it took me about twenty-four hours to reach the end credits.

Italian dubbing: the case

A separate note for the lack of Italian dubbing. I have always been in favor of dubbing. We all should be, because having audio support in our language adds a lot for those who want to enjoy the title in their own language, which are probably the majority. Experiencing a narrative like this in your language enhances the immersion. Even more so when the subtitles have various synchronization problems: in Alan Wake II, some subtitles pass so quickly (or out of sync) that they are impossible to read (a flaw found only in the first half of the game).

It’s a real shame that Alan Wake II doesn’t have Italian dubbing (the first one did), and I’m not so convinced by what some say: “Buy games without dubbing so they will dub future titles.” Is it really so? It could be, but maybe not. And what if the developers’ reasoning is simply: “They buy undubbed games, so why should we dub them? We sell them anyway, and so we risk nothing.” I don’t know if there’s a truth, it probably depends on the company, case by case. To me, it seems a bit like the classic cat chasing its own tail. Personally, the lack of dubbing is a decidedly negative point (which can sometimes even make me lean towards not buying), but for works I trust, like Alan Wake II, the only sensible choice was to buy it. A different story is in the case of a game that doesn’t even have subtitles in Italian: in that case, it may be a masterpiece, but it stays where it is.

The combat is not particularly innovative, but it entertains adequately

Alan Wake is back!

Although from a certain point of view, the true protagonist of the game is Saga Anderson, we can finally say it: Alan Wake is back! I don’t know if it’s too early to say it, but Alan Wake II is probably the best Remedy title I’ve played. Setting aside the first Max Payne, which I played too late, I have always considered Alan Wake my favorite title from the studio (and perhaps it still is, narratively speaking). This is because Quantum Break was a partial disappointment, and Control left me almost completely indifferent. Alan Wake II is a much more structured game than the first chapter, with more varied and interesting gameplay: it’s solid and it works. The atmosphere is remarkable, and the story is very pleasant; there are some narrative phases that I loved! It remains a Remedy title, a bit crazy and sometimes off the wall, with all the pros and cons that come with it. The passion infused into the production, however, is evident. If you like the style of the software house, you will certainly have something to enjoy. Otherwise, Alan Wake II won’t change your mind. My opinion? Alan Wake II is a nightmare to experience with a controller in hand, a dreamlike experience to be carried away by, a visionary current to let yourself go and… drown. Now, don’t make us wait another thirteen years for the sequel!”

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