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FBI agent Saga Anderson aims her flashlight at a monster in a forest setting in Alan Wake 2 Image: Remedy Entertainment/Epic Games Publishing

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Resident Evil has a new survival horror rival in Alan Wake 2

It’s time to see where Alan Wake has been all these years 

Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

Alan Wake has recovered from his 13-year-long writer’s block.

The fictional horror author, the protagonist of Remedy Entertainment’s cult hit of the same name from 2010, will reprise his role in a long-awaited sequel this October. His return isn’t just notable because he’s a beloved franchise character — the reveal of Alan Wake 2 marks an important milestone for Remedy, which has endured multiple failed attempts to create a new chapter for Alan Wake, and in the meantime launched the breakout hit Control.

While Alan Wake 2 bears similarities to its predecessor, like the inclusion of familiar characters and gameplay, the game takes considerable freedom to change things up. This time around, Alan will be joined by FBI agent Saga Anderson, who investigates a string of grisly murders in the Pacific Northwest. As players advance the story, they’ll take control of both Alan and Saga as a supernatural horror unfolds.

As part of Summer Game Fest, Remedy Entertainment and publisher Epic Games Publishing showed Polygon a hands-off demo, with around 30 minutes of gameplay that showed an early mission played from Saga’s perspective. What we saw was a slice of the game that leans into the survival horror genre and practically goes full-on Resident Evil 4 at points.

An image of Saga standing in an office room. It’s dimly lit and there is a desk filled with papers and a wall with papers taped up in Alan Wake 2 Image: Remedy Entertainment/Epic Games Publishing

The game kicks off with Saga walking through dense, conifer-filled woods with her colleague Alex Casey (who is modeled after creative director and writer Sam Lake, and voiced by James McCaffrey). As they talk, we learn that they’re investigating an area by Cauldron Lake, which just so happens to be the site of Alan’s disappearance in the first game, after a string of grisly murders.

To progress the story, players will walk around as Saga and search for clues in various crime scenes. In the demo, she jaunts around along a forest trail and checks abandoned shacks and cabins in search of sites of cult rituals, picking up scraps of paper and other objects with notable information. After collecting these items or scraps of paper with additional information, players can then teleport to a cabin room within Saga’s psyche called the Mind Place, which is filled with her collected evidence. Using these gathered materials she can use a “Profiling” power to piece together information and advance the story.

As Saga pieces clues together, a wall called the Case Board, with clues arranged like the string theory trope, will fill up with info and allow players to piece together the crime.

An image of a cultist in Alan Wake 2. The cultist is wearing a tan trench coat and a dear mask with horns on its head. They are holding a hatchet in one hand and a lantern in another. Image: Remedy Entertainment/Epic Games Publishing

The game swings between uneasy quiet while collecting evidence, and tense combat where an abandoned room might suddenly be broken into by a cultist wearing a deer’s head. This, like the original Alan Wake, is a third-person shooter and it returns to that game’s key mechanics. Players user their flashlight to weaken enemies, then shoot them to take them down. Similar to the original Alan Wake, Saga will duck to dodge attacks.

Because of how similar the movement looked when compared to the first game, Polygon asked if dodging in the new game will work the same as in the original. “Hopefully it’ll feel a lot better, but yeah, it does work the same way,” Thomas Puha, communications and press relations director at Remedy Entertainment, said. “Though the good thing is that Alan isn’t out of breath constantly, so he’s in a bit better shape.”

We also asked if players could expect to use additional powers when playing as Alan Wake. Puha said, “On the Alan side, I can say that light does matter quite a lot. Light is another mechanic that you have to use with Wake in the Dark Place, but we’ll show that gameplay later.”

Alan Wake, the author, stands near a graffiti-covered wall in New York City in a screenshot from Alan Wake 2 Image: Remedy Entertainment/Epic Games Publishing

This slice of the game shown appears to take heavy influence from other survival horror games, particularly Resident Evil 4. The image of Saga bursting through possessed cult members with a shotgun and donning her large jacket with “FBI” emblazoned on the back recalled images of Leon Kennedy fighting his way through the backwater woods in Resident Evil 4. Additionally, systems like the weapon organization system from Resident Evil 4 were also shown during gameplay.

We asked the team about Resident Evil 4’s influence, and Puha said, “I’ll add that while you saw half an hour of the game, it’s really important to know that we’re not one note at all. When you get to go to Bright Falls during the day, yeah it’ll feel slightly odd, but the vibes are going to be way different. [...] We definitely made sure there’s a lot of variety in terms of the tone. Then we head to the Dark Place, which is like a nightmarish version of New York, and that’s way, way different from what you’re seeing here. So variety is really important.”

Alan Wake 2 is coming to PlayStation 5, Windows PC via the Epic Games Store, and Xbox Series X on Oct. 17.

Correction: The original version of this story misidentified Alex Casey as voiced by Sam Lake. The character is voiced by James McCaffrey.

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