Alan Wake 2 builds on GTA 5 with its risque narrative format

From its off-the-record sleuths to its time-hopping storylines, Remedy Entertainment has a long history of breaking the rules. With Alan Wake 2, the next survival horror game featuring two protagonists and an unusual dual narrative, creative director Sam Lake and his team wanted to continue the tradition. And it turned out to be a tricky process.

“We step out of our comfort zone in so many ways,” Lake says, sitting in a New York cafe as rain hits the windows. The night before, he sat down with horror director Mike Flanagan at the 2023 Tribeca Festival to talk about the nerve-wracking process of writing a horror story in which the player has so much control. “I got out of breath along the way. I think there was this pent up will to push everything forward. With the depth and the layers of history — just how it’s built, and how big it is…” The lake mimics swimming. “I feel like my feet aren’t touching the bottom.”

It’s been 13 years – both in the real world and Alan Wake’s – since the first game ended with the titular novelist trapped in the Dark Place, an ethereal, endless nightmare of time loops and malicious enemies. Not wanting players to have to “do their homework” before playing the sequel, Lake and game director Kyle Rowley came to an early agreement on the idea of ​​a two-lead cast. As an FBI agent sent to investigate the disturbances in the Pacific Northwest, Saga Anderson is the perfect replacement for newcomers and veterans alike – she has so many questions about the world (and how it has changed) than the players. From what we saw of his half of the story at Summer Game Fest last week, it already reminds us strongly Resident Evil 4 And real detective season 1, in which law enforcement also investigated occult murders in rural areas.

Alan Wake investigates an urban stretch of New York from The Dark Place in Alan Wake 2, which he has been trapped in since the end of the first game

Image: Remedy Entertainment/Epic Games Publishing

The other side of Alan Wake 2The narrative piece, in which players explore and attempt to escape the Dark Place as a tortured novelist, takes the form of a surreal and disturbing New York. Lake told Flanagan that Taxi driver exerted a major influence on Wake’s sinister journey. “The neon-y, borderline gothic vibes” of Martin Scorsese’s 1976 masterpiece captures the urban isolation that Wake, as a New Yorker himself, drew inspiration from in his detective novels in the universe. “I inhaled American pop culture as a kid, and New York was the beating heart of it.”

However, we have seen games with multiple playable characters before. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty threw audiences for a loop in 2001 when he introduced Raiden after just two hours as Solid Snake. the original Assassin’s Creed kept its current chapters and second protagonist secret until launch day. Auto grand theft 5 nearly blew up the idea of ​​multiple playable characters in 2013, allowing players to jump between Michael, Franklin, and Trevor at will; but most importantly, they had to progress the men’s individual storylines through competing “plot gates” before moving on.

Alan Wake 2 is an attempt at something different: a dual story in which the player can not only switch between characters on a whim, but also see a character’s story through almost until the end — without returning at all to the other.

“Once you’ve unlocked both characters, you don’t need to switch back to the other until very late in the game, if you don’t want to,” Lake explains. “In any game, you place the timing largely in the hands of the player. [With Alan Wake 2], we wanted to go further. You are free to choose, once we open it, which side of the story you pursue and how far. They are connected. There is a lot of foreshadowing, a lot of mirror between them. They kind of float side by side.

Saga Anderson consults his wall of evidence in his

Image: Remedy Entertainment/Epic Games Publishing

Lake says players can even abandon investigations and missions mid-run if they get stuck, and come back to find things where they left off, hours later. In the vein of several recent role-playing games, Anderson, as a “brilliant criminal profiler”, has access to a metaphorical “Mind Place”. It takes the form of a room, complete with clues, photos, leads, and a red string, which players can enter whenever they want. This is best done when the FBI agent is in a safe environment, however – time will progress normally outside of the Mind Place, meaning nearby enemies are free to do as they please.

“Sometimes you see some kind of in-game vision of a character, and you’ll have absolutely no idea what it means,” Lake says, shaking his head and throwing up his hands. “Then you play the game again and jump between characters more frequently, or stick with one character for longer periods of time, and that same vision makes a little more sense. As players, and as humans, really, we’re still trying to find meaning. And we try to invoke that idea here. It’s our longest game ever, and I’m sure players will make connections between Saga and Alan that we haven’t even fully considered. It’s exciting.”

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