Since its release in 2010, Alan Wake has been synonymous with Twin Peaks. Remedy Interactive and director Sam Lake have never been shy about how David Lynch’s classic TV show shaped the horror game. Alan Wake wears that inspiration on its sleeve, with its midwestern setting and eccentric cast of characters that feel like they could be regulars at the Double R Diner.
So, it comes as no surprise that its sequel, the upcoming Alan Wake 2, continues that trend. In a hands-off demo at this year’s Summer Game Fest, I was welcomed back to the eerie town of Bright Falls which is just as atmospheric and unsettling as ever. Though the David Lynch influence is still present, the sequel seems to be going in a totally new direction, one that draws from a broader spectrum of influences.
If you’re expecting the same oddball, camp-horror vibe that made Alan Wake a cult hit, you might be surprised by what Alan Wake 2 has in store. From what I’ve seen so far, the sequel seems to be more True Detective than Twin Peaks, looking at the weird world of Bright Falls through the lens of a dramatic procedural this time. And it does that while modernizing the original’s horror formula, making it feel more in line with Capcom’s current wave of Resident Evil remakes. Though that’s not to say the sequel has lost any of its weirdness.
The gameplay segment I saw at Summer Game Fest was based entirely around Saga, a new character in the sequel. She’s an FBI agent who gets sent to Bright Falls to investigate a cult, sending her deep into the woods with her partner. Alan Wake himself will be playable in the game as well, but Remedy is currently staying mum about what his gameplay looks like in the Dark Place. Instead, I’d get to see 30 minutes of Saga’s investigation, which has an entirely distinct tone from the original game.
It’s hard to get a full sense of the game from the slow-paced snippet I saw. My demo began with Saga slowly walking through the woods, picking up loose clues and soaking in the atmosphere. It’s not the same campy, off-kilter tone I came to love in the first game; rather, the sequence plays out like a straighter detective procedural with the duo trying to piece together clues about a supernatural killer on the loose.
I mean that literally, too. One unique part of Saga’s gameplay is that she’s able to retreat into a room within her mind where she can physically organize all clues she finds. Several times during the demo, I watched her pin clues she’d discovered while exploring on an evidence board, with red strings tying everything together. Later, I’d see her “question” suspects in that space by looking at a picture of them and choosing some dialogue prompts that help her figure out some leads. It’s unlike anything in the first Alan Wake, going for a more cerebral investigation system on top of its traditional third-person exploration.
During a Q&A after the demo, I asked the development team on hand about the original game’s link to Twin Peaks and whether or not that carried over to the sequel. They confirmed that the show was still a major influence on the game, but noted that the story draws from more influences this time. When a team member cited True Detective as an inspiration, the Saga gameplay instantly made more sense. The snippet I saw certainly carries the HBO show’s gritty, serious tone more than the eccentric melodrama David Lynch is known for. I imagine the latter might still be present in Alan Wake’s gameplay segments, but the team says it’ll reveal more about those later this summer.
It’s a surprising change of pace, but one that makes perfect sense in context. Alan Wake 2 aims for straight-up survival horror this time around, taking clear inspiration from Capcom’s Resident Evil remakes. The section I saw really looked and felt like Resident Evil 2, from its resource scarcity to its grid-like inventory system. Though it’s the action that makes that connection especially clear. Gunfights feel like they were pulled straight out of Capcom’s remakes, with Saga slowly and methodically shooting holes in creepy, supernatural cultists. Even when she shoves a flare in one’s mouth, the animation isn’t so different from Leon S. Kennedy stabbing a zombie in the head in Resident Evil 4. All of that makes the sequel feel significantly more modern, likely a necessary move considering how of its time its predecessor feels.
Though I enjoyed the more traditional survival horror gameplay I saw, I couldn’t help but wonder if the sequel was losing too much of Remedy’s signature weirdness. That fear was alleviated in the last leg of the demo where the unexplainable creepiness kicked into high gear. The final sequence sees Saga walking through a dark section of the woods as tunnels and alleyways overlay on top of the screen. It’s an unsettling image, one that made it clear that there’s something otherworldly happening under the surface. That would become especially clear with one final twist at the end of the demo. After finding Alan Wake washed up on the beach, she mentions that he’s been missing for 13 years, something that comes as an absolute shock to both him and me.
That ending sequence was enough to hook me, convincing me that Remedy’s style hasn’t been lost in its modernized approach to horror. Even with that AAA game and prestige TV drama influence, Alan Wake 2 isn’t going full Last of Us or anything like that. The oddball playfulness of the original is still present below its dark surface, with a layer of unexplainable supernatural mystery that I’m ready to get lost in. The Twin Peaks influence is still very much present; just expect more of the surrealist horror of The Return than the camp of its first two seasons.
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