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Alan Wake 2

Exploring A Killer Hotel As Alan Wake
by Marcus Stewart on Sep 27, 2023 at 09:00 AM

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Platform PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Publisher Epic Games
Developer Remedy Entertainment
Release
Rating Mature

During a recent preview trip, I got to play over two hours of Alan Wake 2 between two demos starring Alan and Saga. You can read about my experience with the latter here, but Alan’s segment impressed me thanks to its inventive environmental puzzle-solving and powerful atmosphere. 

I then took control of Alan, trapped in the Dark Place and in search of an escape. The Dark Place takes the form of a twisted version of New York City, and players navigate roads from a central square to reach various destinations. A lead by Alex Casey, the hard-boiled detective character from his novels (performed by a live-action Sam Lake), points Alan towards the Oceanview Hotel. 

Using Alan’s new Dark Place Lamp (DPL), a light-capturing rod, I circumvent obstacles and create new paths by absorbing light charges, which instantly transform areas. For example, I find a shotgun trapped behind a locked door, but capturing the light from a nearby lampost shifts to the “dark” version of this spot, in which this barrier vanishes. The changes can sometimes be more subtle to the point that I was swapping between the light and dark versions several times in some spots in search of new paths. But it’s a neat effect that lends itself to some generally fun puzzle-solving.

I reach the hotel, and it’s tough not to think of The Shining as I explore its immaculate yet eerie corridors. Multiple locked doors can be entered upon finding the correct key, and I hear strange, often startling noises behind some of them, such as a woman either humming or moaning in a not-so-inviting fashion. One optional room was packed with enemies, which I stubbornly tried to clear out and was repeatedly swarmed and taken out. Watching Alan’s rather disturbing Game Over screen, in which the real-life actor lays wide-eyed in a pool of blood to the backdrop of an intense sound effect, never ceased to unsettle me. I eventually succeeded, but it came at the cost of precious ammo and flashlight batteries. 

In some spots, I discover floating orbs, one white and one black. Positioning myself to line up my view in a way that makes these orbs overlap creates an eclipse-like circle that unlocks an in-game cinematic. These are called Echoes, and they reveal story moments via live-action scenes overlayed on top of the gameplay. Fans of Control should immediately recognize this presentational touch, as they clearly inspire Echoes. 

Several Echoes show Alex Casey conversing with a theater director as he tries to get to the bottom of a murder that took place during an immersive performance the hotel hosted called “The Cult.” This play is considered a legend in theater circles and has been passed by word of mouth after the original manuscript was lost. However, the director tells Casey the play was said to hold a special power; while performing it, the director says, “We felt like kids playing with a Ouija board,” and alludes that they may have summoned a sinister force by doing so. 

 

The murder was supposedly the work of a group called the Cult of the Word and their leader, Mr. Scratch. As Alan remarks, the hotel and other elements make for prime literary inspirations, letting me sample Alan’s other primary puzzle-solving ability: rewriting scenes. As I explore, I step into areas that reveal narrative elements, such as a pre-write rehearsal for “The Cult.” These plot details appear in Alan’s Mind Map on the Plot Board, where I can select and apply them to designated areas, called Scenes, to rewrite and change them. 

There’s only one “correct” answer in terms of which Plot Element to apply, but you can use any of them in any scene. The results can be positive and negative, such as revealing hidden items or inviting enemies. It’s a cool effect that creates some inventive environmental puzzle-solving. 

For example, to chase the murderer, I needed to transform the hotel with an inspiration called The Devil, warping the area into the aftermath of the killer’s massacre of the venue, complete with a bloodstained trailer leading to his location. 

It took me around 90 minutes to explore The Dark Place’s spin on New York and most of the Oceanview Hotel. Between the DPL and Plot Elements, manipulating environments is a thoughtful treat, and I can’t wait to see how far Remedy pushes this mechanic. The studio has already encouraged players to experiment as much as possible, and hopefully, doing so will pay off with some creative solutions and discoveries. Alan Wake 2’s future is looking brighter as we march towards its October 27 release. 

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Alan Wake 2

Platform:
PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release Date: