When we last spoke to Sam Lake about the long and winding road to getting Alan Wake 2 made, he said, “What we have now as Alan Wake 2–I’m so happy it’s this version. I’m so happy we did not get the opportunity to go with the earlier ones because I’m still very excited about this creation and what we are doing with it.” While I never doubted the authenticity of the sentiment, it wasn’t until I played it myself that I really understood what Lake meant.

I played close to two hours of Alan Wake 2, and, in numerous respects, it was impressive. Lake’s quote specifically referenced the shift to survival horror and, based on limited slices of the game, it’s already clear that was the right call. There are core mechanics carried over from the first Alan Wake that just make so much more sense in this Resident Evil 4-inspired survival-horror mold. The gameplay systems now feel like a vital part of a cohesive whole, as opposed to a fun gimmick with limited mileage layered on top of a thriller-themed action game.

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As a longtime fan of the studio, however, the most exciting thing for me wasn’t how good it felt to burn away the shrouds of darkness enveloping enemies before firing gunshots. Nor was it investigating an environment and piecing clues together to open up a lock. Or even soaking up the unsettling atmosphere of the Dark Place, a surreal alternate dimension that now serves as Wake’s prison. What really stuck with me was the pervasive sense of confidence in the execution of ideas, stylistic choices, and decidedly Remedy flourishes. Making Alan Wake 2 a survival-horror game may have been the big breakthrough for Remedy, but it feels like its greatest triumphs could only have come after the games the studio created since Alan’s first visit to Bright Falls.

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