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In 2013, a contrite Sam Lake sat in a dark corner of Remedy Entertainment and told fans that the studio couldn’t make Alan Wake 2 for financial reasons.
Ten years later, Lake took to the stage in front of millions, and performed a musical number alongside a suite of characters he created, on the same night Alan Wake 2 would win Best Game Direction, Best Narrative, and Best Art Direction. 2013 couldn’t do Alan Wake justice. 2023 is when technology finally caught up to Remedy’s ambition.
Remedy has been setting the stage for Alan Wake 2 for a decade. From the live-action elements of the underrated Quantum Break to the cerebral, Lynchian storytelling of Control, you can find elements of Remedy’s last ten years of work across Alan Wake 2. Still, what Alan Wake 2 does in terms of taking the studio, and in some way the medium, to the next level is staggering.
There’s a ridiculous amount of confidence in making a sequel to a cult classic that fans have waited a decade for, and then completely up-ending the expectations of players. The first game was a pulpy Twin Peaks-like with a few scares and some excellent sequences that cultivated that diehard fan base.
However, if you told someone in 2010 that the sequel would not only juggle two narratives, but also introduce a fantastic new protagonist, and manage to be one of the most genuinely terrifying horror games in years, they wouldn’t have believed you.
Remedy has managed to operate at the top of its game from a production standpoint with incredible visuals, wonderful music, and masterful writing, while also remaining so confidently Remedy. The constant reverence for its native Finland, the dedication to references that only the most hardcore of Remedy devotees would get, and the willingness to do ridiculous things with a straight face are the X factors that make Alan Wake 2 special.
When we first began reviewing Alan Wake, we were told that there was a chapter in the middle of the game that we had to swear to secrecy not to speak about. This is fairly standard in video game review embargoes and usually amounts to the developer not wanting you to tell fans that X dies during chapter Y, which is fair enough.
This chapter was We Sing.
Remedy’s love of music and penchant for including gameplay sequences set to music is well established. Alan Wake had a battle set to The Old Gods Of Asgard rocking out on stage. Control featured the Ashtray Maze, a highlight that’s almost invariably the first thing someone brings up when they mention the game, but nothing prepared us for We Sing.
If you’ve not played Alan Wake 2, this is the moment to leave this article.
We Sing is the kind of sequence in a video game that will be referenced for decades. A level so confident, so precisely executed, and so liable to ruin the game if it was done poorly, that nothing but a developer at the peak of its powers could pull it off.
If you’re going to do something like this in a game, you have to take it incredibly seriously, or it will fall flat. We Sing is about as serious as it gets. Not only is the song fantastic, but having the player traverse a TV studio with floor-to-ceiling screens displaying live-action footage of the game’s cast performing the song is a stroke of genius.
In a lot of ways, We Sing is the perfect encapsulation of how far Remedy has come. The studio that had to apologize to fans for not being in the position to give them the game they desperately wanted, is now a decade later producing a 10-minute musical paying homage to the decade it took them to get there, a singing and dancing Sam Lake in tow.
One need only look at the expression on Lake’s face during The Game Awards performance of the We Sing sequence to know how much Alan Wake means to him, Remedy, and the fans.
What’s next for Remedy? Well, at the current count, the studio is working on four games, including a remake of its seminal hits Max Payne 1 & 2 alongside Rockstar. Alan Wake 2 is the game that makes whatever is next from Remedy a must-play. It’s an incredibly steep hurdle to climb, but with the momentum that Remedy has gathered since Lake sat in that dark room in 2013, we wouldn’t bet against it.
In one of the best years ever for video games, Alan Wake 2 manages to stand alone. It’s an incredible survival horror game that’s outrageously confident, full of weirdness and humor, and is genuinely going to change the way that the video game industry tells stories.
No other studio could have made Alan Wake 2, and few could have developed something with such presentation flair. It’s a masterpiece and VGC’s Game of the Year.