Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for Alan Wake 2.
Whether it’s switching realities, heartless corpses coming back to life, mysterious manuscript pages, or sudden talk show sequences, Alan Wake 2 is perhaps the weirdest game I’ve played all year — and I’m loving every terrifying minute. Alan’s chapters, specifically, are thrilling and surreal in the nightmare of the Dark Place, where you’ll find yourself in loops, meeting mysterious yet familiar characters from other games, and being attacked by stalking shadows. And yet, I’ve been glued to our new protagonist, FBI agent Saga Anderson.
As mentioned, switching realities is a thing in AW2, letting you hop back and forth between Saga and Alan as you please, but I haven’t really been using the feature. Instead, I’ve been bulldozing through Saga’s chapters. It’s partly because I’m from the Pacific Northwest and I am, of course, attached to the setting. But mainly, it’s due to Remedy’s expert command of weird storytelling. It hooked me in with the subtle eeriness injected into every corner of Bright Falls, Cauldron Lake, and Watery, and the uncanny valley–esque interactions she has with other characters in all these places. “Return Chapter 5: Old Gods” of Saga’s story is perhaps one of the best horror levels I’ve played, making me paranoid at every turn.
So, of course, I just kept avoiding Alan’s sad, strange nightmare for hours. The poor writer got pushed to the side, and, oh boy, I didn’t know what I was missing. When I finally used the switch mechanic at a save point, I was met with Alan waking up in the dressing room of a talk show studio; this has been standard up to this point. The order of business is usually to walk up to a television, interact with it, and appear on the set of a late-night talk show (that’s also pretty weird, now that I write it out). From there, he’d get stuck in a loop, and I’d have to find a way out of it. And so I walked Alan over to the television to get started with what I thought would be a standard level. What I didn’t expect was a fully choreographed 15 to 20-minute musical number complete with metal guitar solos, jazz, and dazzling lights.
This chapter titled “Initiation 4: We Sing” is full of booming music and towering screens with Mr. Door (the talk show host), Alan, and the Old Gods of Asgard band looking down at you from above. The song is surprisingly great, which is something I don’t usually expect from videogames unless it’s Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical or Deathbulge: Battle of the Bands. Little did I know, 2023 had more music for me to enjoy before the year’s end — from a survival horror game no less. The lyrics “Show me the Champion of Light” have been stuck in my head since yesterday. I’m singing it while doing the dishes, folding my laundry, walking my dog, and playing more Alan Wake.
Remedy’s newest instalment is undoubtedly an impressive addition to the series. Its story is complex, and its dual protagonists are compelling. But it’s also amazing how the studio leans into weirdness from all angles. You’ve got the obvious mind-bending stuff with visual distortions and creepy jumpscares, but then you get a full-blown musical mid-game without warning, which also feels just as odd as the other stuff. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hilarious, and I was laughing the whole way through, but behind my smile, I was also extremely nervous about what could come next. Anything can happen in Alan Wake 2.