Alan Wake 2 is not cutting corners on its commitment to being a detective survival horror. It’s a game that has a clarity of vision that looks to be executed by a Remedy that is firing on all cylinders. Alan Wake’s return, even at this stage, is shaping up to be one of the most distinct and original games of 2023. This is a dream project that Remedy have been iterating on since the release of the first game, and after seeing 30 minutes of its brooding investigative gameplay, and tense combat, it’s clear Remedy is pulling out all the stops. And for fans, the prospect of an Alan Wake sequel potentially being the studio’s best game is like an idea written in a dream that’s now infiltrating our reality.

During my hands-off preview, I got to see an early segment in the story of the game’s all new protagonist, FBI agent Saga Anderson: a serious, calculated, and introspective agent that serves as a comical contrast to her partner Alex Casey, who is more a caricature of a gruff hard-boiled agent that walked straight from the pages of a crime novel (wink wink). Together, they investigate the gory aftermath of a murder scene in the murky and rain-covered woods of Bright Falls, a fictional town in the Pacific Northwest. The pacing of the demo reinforced the idea of building tension, starting by giving Saga the chance to examine clues and gather evidence, all of which can be placed and re-arranged on a case board that is accessed in Saga’s Mind Place. As the name implies, this space is a mental construct in Saga’s own mind (think Sherlock’s Mind Palace). With a single press of a button, Saga instantly teleports into a room within her mind that you can physically explore. This is where you’ll organize evidence, view manuscripts, upgrade weapons, and access the map. The transition to The Mind Place is seamless and instantaneous, which both shows off an impressive use of Remedy’s Northlight engine, and also centers the investigative aspect of the game as a core focus—and I also just adore the concept. It adds physicality to how the player interacts with evidence, giving it all a sense of weight and importance that is lost when limiting evidence to a static menu screen.

The very act of organizing evidence involves shifting pictures, manuscripts, and clues around a physical wall where thumbtacks and red thread connect everything together, allowing the player to make deductions necessary to Saga’s progress. By successfully matching evidence, Saga’s deductions supernaturally manifest things from The Dark place—an otherworldly dimension—into her reality. Saga is also a criminal profiler, which paves the way for profiling as a mechanic as well. There will be moments when some clues and evidence can only be discovered when Saga puts herself into a subject’s head to reveal deeper clues not visible in the world around her. In the demo, I got to see Saga tap into the mind of Robert Nightingale (the former FBI agent and antagonist from the first game) in order to locate a human heart to access the Overlap–a supernatural fold in reality where The Dark Place bleeds into Saga’s world. It looks and feels like Remedy is committed to fully capturing the detective element to Saga’s character, making it feel thoughtful and cohesive, but also giving it a supernatural twist that is uniquely Remedy. It was downright impressive to see how fleshed out the detective elements are, and equally exciting to see Remedy step out of its action-focused roots and embrace something new.

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