If survival-horror is truly Alan Wake 2’s emphasis, then players will likely be tasked with fleeing from light source to light source with less combat involved, if any. There are many ways Alan Wake 2 can and should implement the unique lighting mechanic its predecessor introduced, and it can also be adapted easily to the survival-horror genre as it was already competent at raising the tension in certain sequences throughout Alan Wake. With next-gen graphical capabilities and survival-horror features in mind, Alan Wake 2 could play even further into its light mechanics.
It is arguable that Alan Wake was less horrific than it was dramatic. Its mystery-thriller aesthetic served the plot of a television show à la Twin Peaks or X-Files rather than true horror, and that seemed to work well for it as an action game. Likewise, Alan Wake Remastered’s graphical fidelity is arguably not much better or more advanced than that of the original Alan Wake. Sure, characters’ faces were more defined, but environmental textures and cutscenes look like they were left largely untouched.
Remedy Entertainment’s latest games since Alan Wake include Quantum Break and Control, both of which lean heavily into their hybrid of character model facial-capture and live-action acting. Alan Wake certainly does not look outdated in terms of its visuals, even though it was originally released in 2010. Control, however, demonstrates the astonishing feats Remedy could achieve with even last-gen console hardware. Control’s mind-bending special effects and cinematic quality is almost entirely why fans have rallied behind the idea of Remedy developing a Doctor Strange game.
Remedy can fall back on Control as its own popular IP in the future if it must, but Alan Wake is taking a much more substantial step in its path toward survival-horror that could prove to ultimately benefit and rejuvenate the franchise in a way that would not be possible if it remained in the action-adventure genre. Alan Wake 2 will hopefully improve over the original in its gameplay, narrative, and cinematics, but there is one mechanic in particular that can help it to transcend in the survival-horror genre: lighting as a defensive resource against a sweeping darkness.
Light mechanics are the single most definitive and unique part of Alan Wake’s gameplay, and it is necessary that they not only return in Alan Wake 2, but are also improved upon with a shift toward survival-horror. In Alan Wake 2’s cinematic announcement trailer, Alan is seen carrying a strange hand-lantern that looks like its bulb is situated on some sort of effigy or figure. It is unclear how pivotal this item will be to gameplay or if it will have an influence on lighting in general.
The trailer cuts between locations starkly, with deep black shadows that envelop the environment while lamppost lights can be seen around Alan. If fans were worried that Alan Wake 2 would abandon its lighting mechanics, this trailer suggests that it will in fact continue to be a significant proponent of the character and the franchise. Moreover, Remedy aims to make Alan Wake 2 much scarier than its predecessor.
Alan Wake 2 should see to the return of standard flashlights, flash bangs, flares, and flare guns, though they may not all be used in the same capacity. It would be appreciated to see Alan Wake 2 come up with an explanation for why Alan does not simply use a smartphone’s flashlight, even if it is explained as Alan being an “old-fashioned” writer who works on typewriters exclusively and pretentiously chooses to not engage with modern technology.
Depending on what light sources are appropriate for the location, Alan Wake 2 could add more interactive mechanics, for example, that involve something as simple as flicking on a light switch in a room to illuminate it. Players could duck under a lamppost’s column of light while outdoors, and an interior ceiling’s fluorescent tubes could flicker on and off to provide perilous, momentary shelter. However, Remedy decides to extrapolate on lighting, it needs to suit the atmosphere and aesthetic well so that it seems natural yet terrifying to step out into the darkness.
Alan Wake emulated many author fantasies rooted in external influences, such as the mention of Stephen King or Alan’s live-action portrayal on a reality talk show interview. The latter instance in particular has no true connection to Alan Wake’s narrative and instead seems like an opportunity for Remedy to have incorporated more live-action segments into the game, as is its tendency. Because more than 10 years will separate Alan Wake and its sequel, it is hopefully assured that the franchise would only be returned to if Remedy was able to achieve something special with a new entry.
Perhaps this is what resulted in the idea of Alan Wake 2 being marketed exclusively as a survival-horror game, which does in fact generate more intrigue than it would have if it was a standard sequel set within the action-adventure genre. Survival-horror is by no means a tired or vapid genre, but there are only a handful of developers nowadays who are dependably putting out AAA horror titles. If Remedy is the next developer to dip its toes fully into survival-horror, Alan Wake 2 feels like the perfect guinea pig for such exploration in gameplay.
Alan Wake 2 is scheduled to release in 2023 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.