Alan Wake 2 is undoubtedly the underdog nominee for this year’s Game of the Year award at the TGAs. While most assume this year’s ceremony will be a two-horse race between Baldur’s Gate 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, I’ve heard many a distinguished, learned gamer call for Alan Wake 2 to take home the top prize, and it’s filling my jaded little heart with hope. I love a dark horse (and the Dark Place) as much as anyone, but I find Alan Wake 2 particularly easy to root for. It doesn’t realistically have a chance to win this year’s video game popularity contest, but it’s at the top of my list, and it absolutely deserves to win Game of the Year.
My argument for Alan Wake 2 isn’t complicated. I don’t think any other game in the category comes even close to matching its artistic merit and creative ambition. I realize that’s subjective, but Alan Wake 2 isn’t just the most interesting game on the list, it’s also the most inspiring. Many GOTY nominees represent refinements of their genre, but Alan Wake 2 is something new, something bold, something that moves the industry forward.
I could refer to specific moments to make my point. The musical chapter We Sing has been widely celebrated for its engrossing ingenuity and unique use of mixed media. That sequence deserves an award on its own. The chapter Return 5 – Old Gods, which follows Saga on her investigation into Odin’s disappearance at the Valhalla Nursing Home, is one of the most terrifying and perfectly constructed horror sequences ever made. I don’t recall the last time I played a game that was as memorable moment-to-moment as Alan Wake 2. It’s filled from beginning to end with moments that are destined to be iconic.
I’m Restarting Alan Wake 2 Before Even Getting Close To Finishing It
I’ve missed so much in the little time I’ve spent with the game and it’s giving me FOMO.
I enjoyed playing all of the games up for GOTY, but Alan Wake 2 was a singular experience. It’s the kind of game that shows there’s still so much the medium has to offer, and so many kinds of games and experiences we can’t even fathom. Its strength lies in its imaginative gameplay mechanics, like the investigation board that puts a narrative and interactive twist on the traditional quest log, and the Angel Lamp used to solve environmental light puzzles and the coolest tech-trick this side of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’s portal jumping. Alan Wake 2 doesn’t just do a few things you’ve never seen before in a game, it’s made entirely of new ideas.
This goes for the narrative structure too, which takes cues from David Lynch and True Detective yet never feels beholden to any of its influences. The story is engrossing, cerebral, and delightfully camp all at once, a blend of tones that now belong to this game. Complicating and enriching the complex narrative is the fact that you can choose what in what order you experience it, which has a huge impact on how its more ambiguous moments are understood, while personalizing the experience for each player.
What Other GOTY Nominee Has Vibes Like This?
In the spirit of the season, I imagine the GOTY nominees as Christmas presents. Spider-Man 2 and Super Mario Bros. Wonder are traditional, classic cubes with bright shiny bows on top – the platonic ideal of a gift sitting perfectly under the tree with something familiar and beloved waiting inside. These are the stuffed teddy bears of the category, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Baldur’s Gate 3 and Tears of the Kingdom are the big money boxes you save for last. They’re giant playsets of Legos or Hot Wheels tracks that you’ll spend countless hours building and tinkering with. Resident Evil 4 is a nerf gun, one of those electronic ones that can shoot 40 darts in five seconds. It is the first present you’ll rip out of the box and the first one your mom takes away from you because you won’t stop terrorizing the cat with it.
Alan Wake 2 isn’t like the rest. It’s the box found under the tree a little while later after all the other presents are unwrapped. It doesn’t have a tag and no one seems to know who brought it or how it got there. The box itself is an enigma. Each time you look at it seems to get ever so slightly larger, and when you look away you can’t seem to remember what color the wrapping paper is. You get a strange, excited feeling when you start to open it. There’s something unnatural and forbidden about it, like it wants to be unwrapped. There were a lot of great presents under the tree this year, but there’s something… different about this one. It transcends the medium and makes all the other options seem pedestrian in comparison. That’s how I feel about Alan Wake 2.
While the TV-ification of the triple-A industry continues to shove games into the HBO-box in the most boring way possible, Alan Wake 2 approaches the prestige television format in a way that only a video game ever could. It all comes together so perfectly. From the incredible soundtrack that brilliantly compliments and informs the narrative, to the survival-horror gameplay that represents Remedy’s best execution yet. Even the jump scares, a traditionally cheap and ire-inducing scare technique, are used in a unique and meaningful way here. If you don’t like ‘em, you’re wrong. I haven’t even mentioned the graphical fidelity yet, but if that’s what we were comparing here, Alan Wake 2 would have no competition.
The singular vision and flawless execution of Remedy’s games put the studio in a league of its own, and Alan Wake 2 is its most ambitious and successful project yet. That it manages to be so inventive, so creative, and at times, so esoteric without alienating the general audience is a remarkable feat. This is an arthouse project with a blockbuster presentation, and that’s exactly what we should be lifting up and celebrating at The Game Awards.
Next: You Don’t Have To Like A Game To Know It’s GOTY-Worthy