PC PlayStation 5 Video Games Xbox Series S Xbox Series X

Summer Game Fest 2023 Hands-Off Preview: “Alan Wake II”


Two weeks after unveiling an impressive new trailer for their upcoming third-person survival horror shooter Alan Wake II, the fine folk from Remedy Games gave journalists a deeper look at this scary shooter behind closed doors at this year’s Summer Game Fest, which was held June 9th and 10th at Los Angeles’ City Market Social House. And while we didn’t get to take the game for a test drive, the live demo did make this attendee even more excited for this scary game, which will be released October 17th for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

Alan Wake II Alan Wake 2

Set thirteen years after the original Alan Wake,

a series of ritual murders in Bright Falls, Washington has caught the attention of the FBI, who send agents Saga Anderson (played by This Is Us‘ Melanie Liburd) and Sam Lake, I mean Max Payne, I mean Alex Casey to investigate, and find that this case overlaps with the disappearance of author Alan Wake in the first game.

Or is it? After all, Alex Casey is the name of the FBI agent in the six books that Alan Wake wrote before he went missing. Also, Alan wasn’t just a character in 2010’s Alan Wake and 2012’s side story Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, he also appeared in Control, and was the central character in that’s game’s second and final add-on, Awe.

Regardless, the presentation for Alan Wake II — which had a member of the development team playing the game while Remedy’s Director Of Communications And Community, Thomas Puha, narrated — opened with Agents Anderson and Casey arriving at Cauldron Lake, which seems to be a small town and hiking area that’s long been abandoned. Hence all the empty, plant covered buildings and swamp-like flooded areas.

Alan Wake II Alan Wake 2

Now, unlike Alan Wake,

where you played as just Al, Alan Wake II also has you taking control of Agent Anderson, with her being in the real world, and Alan being…well, somewhere else. And while you won’t be able to switch on the fly, like you switched between timeframes in Titanfall 2, you will be able to go back and forth when you’re in the right place (which I’ll get to in a moment).

As for the part of the game we got to see in the demo, it focused on Anderson as she explored the forest around Cauldron Lake, which, like many of the areas in the recent remake of Resident Evil 4, consists largely of narrow but intricate passageways, occasionally broken up by relatively more open areas and explorable structures. Like, for instance, the former general store where she’s attacked by a cultist wearing a deer head. Or the flooded area where she had to take out two guys while dealing with knee high water. Or when, towards the end of the demo, she found herself in a maze-like stretch of forest, and had to contend with a bad guy who moved superfast, like the vampires in Redfall.

Further adding variety to the combat in Alan Wake II is how it, and you, use light. While bright lights are used to make some areas into safe zones, and to clear out some supernatural corruption that’s hiding a much-needed clue, Anderson also uses her FBI issued flashlight to cleanse enemies of that same corruption before popping them full of lead. Or buckshot; she can use shotguns as well.

The aforementioned safe rooms…

are not just good for catching your breath, though. They’re also where you can save your game — using an Inside Joke brand thermos — as well as where you can transition to the realm Alan Wake resides. Though from the way they talked about it, it sounded more like his story and Anderson’s are really two parallel but connected stories, not a choice between which two parts you like to play.

So sorry, dude, you’re going to have to play as a girl sometimes.

These safe spaces are not the only rooms where you’ll get stuff done in Alan Wake II. When Anderson wants to, say, upgrade her weapons, she does what every hero in a video game does: she brings up a menu. Except in her case, the menu is a mental construct that looks like the wood paneled basement my friend Ed had in the ’70s. It is here that she’ll not only improve her guns, but also uses her skills as a Quantico-trained profiler to figure things out about different characters, while also examining and organizing evidence necessary to solve the next piece of the puzzle.

Well, sort of. As Puha was quick to explain the evidenciary parts of Alan Wake II don’t actually work like puzzles. While they experimented with that being how this system would work, “It didn’t test well.”

Alan Wake II Alan Wake 2

This was just one of the interesting additional tidbits…

that came up after the demo ended and Puha took a few questions. Chief among them is that, with Alan Wake II coming thirteen years after the original game, and eleven after American Nightmare, the dev team are very aware that not everyone will remember what happened in those games, or even played them. Which is why Alan Wake II will have not only a recap video, but they made this sequel work as stand-alone game.

Though, as Puha noted, faithful fans of the original games will notice some fun things newcomers or forgetful folk won’t.

Puha also said that while Alan Wake II was inspired by other survival horror games, especially the Silent Hill and Resident Evil ones, and such movies and TV shows as Fargo, Se7en, Twin Peaks, and Midsommar, it was not influenced by the recent remakes of Resident Evil 4 or Dead Space. As he noted, this game has been in the works for four years — “thirteen for Sam [Lake],” he added, referring to Remedy’s Creative Director — and that when those games came out earlier this year, Alan Wake II was already in the home stretch.

And with that,

our time in Cauldron Lake, and with Alan Wake II, (and with Mr. Puha and his coworker), had come to an end. And while we’ll have to wait until October 17th, when the game is released on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC, to see if it’s scary good, this demo did make me think that visiting the Pacific Northwest this fall might not be a bad idea.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *