Alan Wake 2 gameplay trailer analysis: 13 details you might have missed
Remedy Entertainment gave us our first look at Alan Wake 2 in action, and the trailer has raised a lot of question that are difficult to answer right now. Thankfully, I'm here to help you make a little more sense of the ritualistic murders, new characters, multiple settings, and more.
I've already said that Alan Wake 2 wasn't what I was expecting and is all the better because of it, and that's partly down to some of the details and easter eggs I was able to pull out of this trailer. I knew all of those years of hunting collectibles in Remedy games would pay off eventually.
Oh, and fair warning: I'll be touching on events in the original Alan Wake and the Control: AWE expansion, so this could be considered spoiler adjacent. With that disclaimer out of the way you can check the trailer (above) for yourself, and then be sure to keep scrolling to find our in-depth Alan Wake 2 gameplay trailer analysis.
1. Introducing Saga Anderson
Alan Wake 2's biggest reveal is that the troubled writer will share the spotlight with another playable protagonist: Saga Anderson. The character is an accomplished FBI Agent who is said to "have a reputation for solving impossible cases." Anderson arrives in the small-town community of Bright Falls with her partner, Agent Alex Casey, to investigate a string of ritualistic murders. Saga Anderson will be portrayed by Melanie Liburd, best known for her roles in This Is Us and Power Book 2: Ghost.
2. Meet the Cult of the Tree
With Agents Anderson and Casey attempting to put a stop to a series of ritualistic murders, the pair will brush up against a cult that is active in the Pacific Northwest region which encompasses Bright Falls, Cauldron Lake, and Watery. In the early frames of the trailer you can see cloaked figures wearing dear masks and, while this isn't confirmed in the trailer, there's a good chance that this is the Cult of the Tree – who were first mentioned in the Control: AWE expansion.
3. The victim was one of their own
The reason the Cult of the Tree attracts the attention of the FBI? They went after one of their own. As Alan Wake explains in a monologue, one which he is almost certainly typing into reality, "the victim was one of their own, FBI Special Agent Robert Nightingale." If you played the original Alan Wake this name should sound familiar, as you spend much of that adventure being pursued by Agent Nightingale – you know, before he is taken by the Dark Presence. The last time we saw Nightingale, he was seen gormlessly staring out at Deerfest, indicating that he has been corrupted by the Dark Place. What he has been doing in Bright Falls for the past 13 years is a mystery.
4. Where is Alan wake?
The gameplay reveal establishes that Alan Wake is not in Bright Falls, but rather that he is still trapped in the Dark Place. As you may recall, Wake concluded the original game by writing an ending to his horror story that allowed his wife to be freed from Cauldron Lake in exchange for him becoming trapped in the darkness. Wake has been a prisoner of the Dark Place for 13 years, in which time he has been fighting to write a story that would change reality around him in such a way that he would be able to escape. This was first hinted at during the Control: AWE expansion, and later confirmed during his enduring monologue throughout the trailer.
5. Manuscript pages return
Here's where things get interesting. One of my favorite parts of Alan Wake was stumbling across the manuscript pages to Departure, the horror story Wake had no memory of writing which was slowly changing reality, which would often provide cryptic signals about what you're going to encounter later in the game. In Alan Wake 2, Anderson is seen holding manuscript pages of a horror story that is beginning to come true around her – which directly references what she and Alex Casey are doing in Bright Falls. Wake may have been missing for a decade, but his work to escape the Dark Place appears to have grave ramifications for the people in the real world.
6. Agent Casey is a mystery
Fantastic easter egg for long-time Remedy fans, or something bigger? For starters, Casey shares the likeness of Remedy creative director Sam Lake (the original likeness of Max Payne) and is voiced by James McCaffrey (voice of Max Payne). That's fun, but here's something key: Alex Casey should not exist; the FBI Agent is a fictional construct – the protagonist of an action-thriller series written in-universe by Alan Wake, six books which follow the life (and death) of a hardened New York City cop. It would appear that Wake has written Casey into reality from the Dark Place.
However, there's potentially more to this still. Quantum Break may not officially be a part of the Remedy Connected Universe, but the 2016 Xbox One exclusive featured a live-action easter egg entitled 'Alan Wake's Return'. In it, we see Agent Casey working with an unidentified FBI agent to investigate the disappearance of the famous writer. The darker tone of this short certainly mirrors what we know about Alan Wake 2 so far, although I won't say any more than that – there's a very real chance the easter egg could signal the direction this story is heading.
7. Overhauled combat
The Alan Wake 2 gameplay reveal has flashes of PS5 direct-feed capture, all of which looks undeniably impressive. And while we await the full raw gameplay reveal at Summer Game Fest 2023, there are some details worth focusing on. For starters, the perspective has shifted between the games – the camera clings tightly to the shoulders of Wake and Anderson, while combat itself looks heavier. Every shot of combat in this trailer evokes big Resident Evil 2 Remake or The Last of Us 2 vibes, and I'm certainly very much into that.
8. What's up with Watery?
Saga Anderson will explore three distinct locations in Alan Wake 2: Bright Falls, Cauldron Lake, and Watery. That last one should stand out, because not only is it brand new but it has also been teased throughout Control and Alan Wake Remastered. Watery is said to be a "run-down city" on the border of Bright Falls, which was once "founded by Finnish immigrants around the logging and fishing industry." Here's the thing, back in Control there was a character named Ahti – the mysterious janitor who seems a little… out of this world – who will eventually send you a postcard to Watery if you complete his side-quests. In the gameplay shot covering the convenience store, there's fridges branded with 'Ahma' – a brand of drink which Ahti is seen drinking in Control. I don't know what this all means yet, but I can't wait to find out.
9. Will Alan Wake 2 feature filmed live-action?
The Northlight Engine is certainly impressive, but there are a couple of scenes in this trailer which look like filmed live action. If it were any other studio, I'd say that it were a cinematic trick, but Remedy Entertainment is known for mixing different mediums of entertainment through its games – with Quantum Break and Control being the most notable examples. Remedy is yet to confirm whether Alan Wake 2 will feature live-action sequences, although creative director Sam Lake does hint at the possibility. In a post on the Alan Wake 2 website, he cites "interactive storytelling, the mix of different mediums, filmed live-action footage" as areas in which Remedy is really pushing its ambition. Basically, take another look at the trailer for yourself, and you tell me whether that's in-engine Alan Wake or Alan Wake actor Ilkka Villi in the Dark Place phone booth.
10. New York, New York
I don't know about you, but I love Remedy's vision of New York. The city was used to great effect in the first two Max Payne games, and I'm super excited to see how Remedy will render it when it tackles the Max Payne remake. But for now we'll have to make do with a twisted, nocturnal New York in Alan Wake 2. The writer has built this vision of the city as a result of being trapped in the Dark Place, a space which operates on dream logic – drawing its appearance from the mind of whoever is imprisoned within it. While Saga Anderson's story will take place in reality, we'll be guiding Wake through a Dark Place version of New York – the city he once called home, and the setting for his Alex Casey crime novels.
11. Check in at the Oceanview Hotel
Here's a really interesting easter egg in the gameplay reveal trailer, and one which makes a clear connection between Alan Wake 2 and Control. Jesse Faden would often find herself traversing the Oceanview Motel during her adventure in Control, a dream logic space which allows her to navigate different areas of the Oldest House. Well, it would appear that Alan Wake 2 features a location called the Oceanview Hotel. Coincidence? With Remedy it never is. And while this rendition of New York is a function of the Dark Place, it's worth remembering that the Oldest House is also based in the real-world New York City – and a place Alan has had contact with through the Control: AWE expansion.
12. Cult of personality
Here's an interesting blink and you'll miss it detail from the trailer. While we see members of the Cult of the Tree running around in Bright Falls throughout the trailer – the principle antagonists for Saga Anderson – the trailer does indicate that this cult is a warped creation stemming from Alan Wake's writing in the Dark Place. Opposite the Oceanview Hotel is a poster for a "forbidden play bright to life." The poster clearly depicts a cultist adorned in a deer mask and, while I'd love to tell you more, the rest of the text is sadly distorted.
13. Alan Wake in the real world
While Alan Wake 2 has been primarily designed to be entirely playable without having played any of the previous instances where Wake shows up, the last shot of the trailer caused me to raise an eyebrow. Remedy has made it pretty clear that Alan wake 2 features parallel storylines, with Saga Anderson exploring the real world while Alan Wake is trapped in the Dark Place – so who is the disheveled Alan Wake that she encounters in the last frame of the trailer?
Could Wake have written a version of himself into this horror story to assist Anderson and Casey, or is this in fact a return of Mr. Scratch – Wake's Dark Place doppelganger who should have been burned out of existence in Alan Wake's American Nightmare. Then again, it could be Thomas Zane; as we saw in Control: AWE, Zane appears to have swapped the diving suit out for a replica of Wake's body. Whatever's going on, there's more to this scene than meets the eye.
Alan Wake 2 is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated new games of 2023, and there's still plenty more info to come ahead of its release on October 17 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X. It's been confirmed that Alan Wake 2 will get free DLC and two full expansions, and that it will be digital-only product at launch.