Alan Wake II is great, but it doesn't need guns

Alan Wake II is a unbelievable sport. It tells a twisted, serpentine story of paranormal homicide, shifting realities and demonic possession, with two brooding investigators at its core. Builders at Treatment Leisure are masters of temper and Alan Wake II is their newest showpiece, highlighting the studio’s eye for psychedelic terror and complicated mysteries. This sport is filled with monsters, ghosts, cults, Previous Gods, rock operas and mind-bending perspective swaps. And on high of all that, its character fashions and set items are completely attractive. Despite the fact that it simply got here out on the finish of October, it’s no shock that Alan Wake II is nominated in a number of classes at The Recreation Awards, together with Recreation of the Yr.

There’s much more than clue-gathering occurring in Alan Wake II. The sport often mixes full-motion video with CGI in a approach that doesn’t really feel foolish or contrived; set in a universe of damaged realities, the visible kinds bleed into one another like alternate timelines preventing for dominance, becoming each the narrative and mechanical storytelling on show. 

Alan Wake II
Treatment Leisure

There are two playable characters, Saga Anderson and Alan Wake, and so they’re every capable of escape inside their very own thoughts to unravel the mysteries at hand. Saga, the stoic FBI agent, has a Thoughts Place the place she will join items of proof with purple string on a big, wood-paneled wall, and she will additionally profile individuals of curiosity, utilizing her instinct to talk with their unconscious selves and uncover their secrets and techniques. Alan, the writer who’s been misplaced in purgatory for 13 years, has a Author’s Room with a plot board that actually alters actuality when he provides new concepts to it. Gamers are capable of change between Saga and Alan all through the sport, as they try to crack the identical case from reverse sides of the underworld.

Each of their environments have been infiltrated by shadow individuals, the usual enemies on this universe. The black silhouettes, glitching across the edges and hissing Alan Wake’s title, are affected by mild — a lot of them fade away below the beam of a flashlight, however a few of them rework into corporeal enemies and instantly assault, requiring a number of gunshots or one sturdy explosion to take them out. Saga and Alan can discover short-term solace below lampposts and different well-lit areas, however these are inclined to flicker out within the warmth of fight.

Which brings us to my problem with Alan Wake II, a sport I very a lot loved and extremely advocate. As a result of I can nonetheless hear the livid typing from individuals who gained’t learn a adverse phrase about one thing they love — please bear in mind, it’s doable to take pleasure in one thing and in addition talk about what it might’ve achieved higher. Within the case of Alan Wake II, this implies eradicating the weapons.

There’s a scrumptious undercurrent of rigidity operating beneath Alan Wake II, propelled by darkish corridors, ugly rituals and a creeping wave of private loss. This sense of unease builds all through the story and bursts by way of the display in jump-scare vignettes because the characters’ conditions turn into extra determined. Thriller is the guts of Alan Wake II’s horror. Sadly, the slow-burning narrative rigidity is routinely interrupted by gunplay, changing it with a distinct, harsher form of nervousness that feels misplaced on this survival horror expertise.

Time and again, I’d be exploring a brand new space, mentally placing the clues collectively because the story unspooled, when immediately — time for a gunfight. The tone would instantly shift from darkish, inquisitive terror to pew pew pew, changing my practice of thought with customary action-game issues like touchdown headshots and dodging. After the scuffle, it will take a protracted second for me to seek out the rhythm once more, remind myself what I used to be on the lookout for, what was at stake, what actuality I used to be in. The stress and terror would begin to construct once more, after which — one other gunfight.

Alan Wake II
Treatment Leisure

There’s nothing mistaken with the fight in Alan Wake II, however it isn’t revolutionary and it doesn’t serve the sport’s narrative. It’s an pointless interruption. Alan Wake II has intense detective work, horrific setpieces, paranormal drama, reality-shifting mechanics, secrets and techniques uncovered with mild, two variations of a Sherlock-style thoughts palace, small puzzles, grand mysteries, murderous demons and loads of motion with out weapons in any respect.

Gentle is the shadow individuals’s weak point, and Saga and Alan each carry flashlights for a lot of the sport. Turning on the excessive beam stuns the shadow enemies and typically opens weak factors of their chests. Gentle hurts the ghosts, however it doesn’t kill them. To kill the ghosts you want bullets. I discover this idea foolish sufficient, however there are additionally scenes the place the ghosts have weapons, which is downright hilarious. On high of that, a few of the shadow persons are true bullet sponges, consuming eight to 12 pictures earlier than happening. This sucks typically, however it’s particularly egregious in a horror sport, because it replaces emotions of dread with frustration and bullet math. Tediously taking pictures a ghost eight occasions as an alternative of 1 doesn’t make an encounter any scarier.

With mild as a weapon, Alan Wake II doesn’t want weapons. Activating the excessive beam already makes use of valuable battery energy, and each Saga and Alan have to seek out batteries hidden round their environments, protecting resource-management fears alive. There are scenes the place a flashlight and weapon mixture truly works effectively — primarily, the flashlight and flare gun supply a swift one-two punch for traditional enemies, preserving the panic of an assault whereas providing twitchy fight moments that don’t interrupt the general vibe. Right here, the gun is secondary, whereas the sunshine does a lot of the work. When it comes to sport logic, this makes far more sense than a ghosts-and-guns strategy.

Alan Wake II
Treatment Leisure

Treatment is asking Alan Wake II the studio’s “first foray into the survival horror style,” which makes its reliance on weapons and much more perplexing. No matter whether or not Alan Wake II is extra of an motion horror or survival horror sport, I’m most involved with the way it serves horror. On this regard, the gunplay simply will get in the best way.

I turned on story mode about two-thirds by way of my playtime, and I didn’t really feel cheated out of any rigidity or terror; the enemies have been nonetheless scary, and the sport’s puzzles remained difficult. Treatment does bizarre stuff rather well, and Alan Wake II is grotesque, mind-melting and darkly soapy, like The X-Information or Twin Peaks, with a contact of Outlast and Resident Evil 4. I simply marvel what sport we’d’ve gotten if the builders didn’t design round fundamental third-person shooter tropes (be happy to avoid wasting these for Management, Treatment — weapons make sense in that sport).

You know the way each big-studio motion film these days seems like a modified model of Iron Man? The Marvel Cinematic Universe set the trendy customary for big-budget motion flicks, and it looks as if many different films now try to imitate its tongue-in-cheek tone, the epic scale of every battle, its predictable narrative movement and climax, the green-screen motion scenes, its cliffhangers and after-credits scenes. An identical phenomenon is happening with big-budget mainstream video games, the place there appears to be a system that builders try to emulate, and this consists of gunplay with hordes of bullet-absorbing enemies.

It seems like Alan Wake II fell sufferer to this pointless constraint, with adverse penalties for the sport’s sense of storytelling and terror. I get it — weapons, ammo and stock administration are a well-recognized, accepted mechanic in video video games as an entire, which makes firearm fight a simple ingredient to incorporate in mainstream titles. I simply don’t suppose Alan Wake II wanted it to achieve success.

This text initially appeared on Engadget at

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