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Alan Wake 2 harkens back to Max Payne in the most interesting – and typically Remedy – way

Alan Wake 2 is set to continue a long-standing Remedy trend, but how it’s incorporated is what makes this new game special.

A split image featuring images from live-action element of Alan Wake 2, and a screenshot from the remastered Max Payne project
Image credit: VG247 / Remedy

If you’ve so much as booted up a Remedy game in the last 20 years, you’ll know there’s one thing that all of its projects has. No, I’m not talking about a Poets of the Fall/Old Gods of Asgard song (not this time, anyway). I’m talking about live-action.

Think about it: the most obvious implementation of live-action in Remedy games comes from Quantum Break, an avant-garde experiment in integrating a live-action television show in the middle of the game. It was met with a somewhat mixed reception, but it proved that there’s definitely a place for live-action footage in games, when it’s approached in the right way.

Control – Remedy’s most recent triple-A release – also folded live-action footage into the game by fleshing out the lore, and giving you video logs to watch that helped orientate the player in the weird, wonderful world of the Oldest House. It was less in-your-face than Quantum Break, but still a distinct and stylised part of the whole game experience.

It's been a long time off for Alan.

Before all this, though, Remedy was experimenting with live-action in a much more subtle (and technically limited way) as far back as 2001.

“It’s something we do at Remedy,” says Alan Wake 2 game director, Kyle Rowley, in an interview with VG247. “We used live action heavily in Quantum Break, we used it in Control, and we even had it in Alan Wake 1, right? In fact, we even had it in Max Payne!”

Sam Lake, Remedy’s creative director and lead writer of Alan Wake 2, laughs, and adds: “Well, we had in-world TV series, but the technology didn’t allow us to use video textures, so the still frames and an audio track had to do.”

But the intent has always been there; experimenting with the format and using various ways to tell stories has always been something of an MO for Remedy. “ It’s always been one of our storytelling techniques,” continues Rowley. “In Control, the live action footage blended onto the game world and was used for the ‘visions’. Here, in Alan Wake 2, we’ve taken all that we learned from Control. And Quantum Break and Max Payne, really – we didn’t just want to do it again because we’d done it before. We wanted to utilise it in ways it’s never been done before.”

FBI agent Saga Anderson focuses her flashlight deep into the dark woods in a screenshot for Alan Wake 2
Saga Anderson goes into the woods. | Image credit: Remedy

In Alan Wake 2, Remedy has used live-action sequences to immerse you more into the mind of player character and part of dual protagonist duo, Saga Anderson. Anderson is a renowned criminal profiler, infamous amongst her peers for her unrivalled (and slightly curious) ability to uncover even the most obscure cases. To help her achieve her goal, she retreats to her ‘Mind Palace’ (think Will Graham in NBC’s Hannibal) and visualises her cases to help her profile. That’s where the live action comes in for Alan Wake 2.

“[As the rest of the game is,] it goes back to that idea of stylised; even the live-action footage follows the same art direction, and it’s stylised in the same way,” adds Lake. “The ambition has been to stylise and interlace game and live elements so that it all feels much more flowing, and part of the same experience.”

The seeds Remedy planted back in the Quantum Break days are bearing fruit now, then. It’s the culmination of 20 years of experimentation and refinement, and the final result look like they’re going to be something very special indeed.

“In so many ways, in Alan Wake 2, we wanted to take certain elements of ‘the Remedy game’, and push it as far as we could imagine,” smiles Lake. And you can tell; from what I’ve seen so far, I feel confident in saying that Alan Wake 2 is going to be something special, and another modern classic for Remedy.

Alan Wake 2 is out October 17, and will be available on PS5, PC, and Xbox Series X/S.

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