Alan Wake 2 Review: Mind-Bending System Smasher

Remedy’s Alan Wake 2 is the most unexpected, mind-bending, and refreshing entry delving into the survival horror genre, this year. The series’ return after a 13-year-long wait has coherently connected its universe and opened the doors for future potential projects. But for whatever reasons, explaining the game is like solving a multi-layered riddle alongside Rubik’s Cube and Minesweeper. Let me cut straight to the chase, it’s not a usual ball in the park with this one. So, we suggest taking a recap or brushing up on the plot before starting it.

Whether the game is well-optimized for PCs or not, seems to be a question the entire community is asking Remedy Entertainment. Before we start with the review, we know that many players are scared of the game’s demanding requirements. But did the anticipated sequel game deliver on different system configurations and presets? Here’s our Alan Wake 2 performance review that breaks down everything to help you out.

Alan Wake 2 Performance Review – How Did We Test?

We tested Alan Wake 2 on two higher-end Nvidia GPUs, GeForce RTX 4080 FE and Alienware x17 R2 powered by RTX 3080 Ti to assess the game in its full glory. Considering the game’s minimum system requirements, I had a feeling that its gameplay wouldn’t fall apart. Turns out, even with the best graphics settings, there are some moments when the sequel game can falter down. So, we strongly recommend you update the latest available graphics drivers.

Speaking of our test bench, here’s some details on our system specs:

Alienware x17 R2 DLSS 2

  • CPU: 12th Gen Intel (R) Core (TM) i9-12900HK
  • GPU: GeForce RTX 3080 Ti (16GB)
  • RAM: 2×16 DDR5 4800MHz (32 GB)
  • SSD: M.2 PCIe NVMe (1TB)
  • Resolution: 17.3” QHD 2560×1440 @165Hz Display

RTX 4080 FE 16GB DLSS 3

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 7950x
  • GPU: GeForce RTX 4080 FE (16GB)
  • RAM: 2×16 DDR5 4800MHz (32GB)
  • SSD: M.2 PCIe NVMe, SSD (1TB)
  • Resolution: 32” G32QC Gigabyte Gaming Monitor

DLSS 3.5 is a Solid Treat

Alan Wake 2 is one of the few games powered by the recent DLSS 3.5 alongside other graphics-packed Ray Tracing features. The results are gorgeously rendered landscapes, lighting, and jaw-dropping details alongside gripping gameplay. Adding to the list, the latest Ray Reconstruction significantly boosts the frame rates multiplying the game performance. This allowed me to run Alan Wake 2 over 90 FPS at 1080p on RTX 4080 and +50 FPS on Alienware x17 R2. The available DLSS 3.5 offers a whole other level of immersion, realism, and advanced graphics. But don’t be disappointed since the game is fairly stunning on lower-end GPUs with Medium and Low settings.

Leveraging the sheer power of RTX and DLSS 3.5, here are all the Ray Tracing presets you can enable in Alan Wake 2:

  • Path Tracing In Use
  • Path-Traced Indirect Lighting Quality
  • Ray Traced Direct Lighting
  • Ray Traced Transparency

If you haven’t enabled the Ray Tracing preset, the two lighting denoisers will be available, instead. They are:

  • Direct Lighting Denoising Quality
  • Indirect Lighting Denoising Quality
Alan Wake 2 Performance Review FPS

Ray Tracing, Frame Generation & Ray Reconstruction

Advancing into the dawn of a new rendering technology, the DLSS 3.5 is powered by the AI Ray Reconstruction replacing the hand-tuned denoisers. Thanks to Nvidia, it recognizes the lighting patterns and is trained with 5x more data than DLSS 3. That said, you can enable it on all the RTX graphics cards including the RTX 20 series.

During my tests with the Ray Reconstruction enabled, here were the following results:

  • Faster Light Response
  • More Intricate Details
  • Detailed Shadows with No Flickering
  • More Texture Stability
  • Realistic Reflections
  • Higher Image Quality and Details
  • Breathtaking Soft Lights and Illumination

Random Stutters, Screen Tearing & Freezes

While testing Alan Wake 2 on GeForce RTX 4080, I didn’t face any occasional stutters, freezes, or lags. But honestly, I can’t say the same for Alienware x17 R2 as it required toning down the settings. It struggled to pull an average of 50 FPS without enabling the Frame Generation. The difference wasn’t too big with the gameplay aspect but it felt like a visual downgrade. On top of that, it resulted in random and brief stutters that ruined the gameplay experience at times.

This issue could be resolved by switching to lower graphics settings and presets. So, it’s safe to say that the game is well optimized on the PCs delivering great visually appealing gameplay. There were also a few occasional stutters and freezes briefly but overall it wasn’t an awful experience for me. If you are facing such issues, switching up your render resolution to “Balanced” might help you out.

No Potato Mode?

Unfortunately, the lack of Potato mode on Alan Wake 2 can be a real horror story for the players running a Radeon RX 5000 or GeForce GTX 10 series. As you can play the game with low settings, the performance results can be poor and unbearable. But with the visual coup that Remedy Entertainment pulled off, having a higher-end 30 or 40 series is quite understandable. Luckily, the sequel game will boot on GTX 10 or Radeon 5000 series. But sadly, the performance won’t fare well and might be impossible to play.

Performance Showdown

During my tests on different game presets, the RTX 4080 delivered the smoothest and most beautiful gameplay experiences. Setting up the “High” preset for quality and Ray Tracing in a Quality resolution, I could get an average of +95 FPS with no issues. In this case, enabling the DLSS Ray Reconstruction also enhanced the overall visual experience.

Here’s the screenshot of our result with the test bench running Alan Wake 2 on 1440p resolution:

alan wake 2 test bench on nvidia rtx 4080
GeForce RTX 4080

When I tested out Alan Wake 2 on Alienware x17 R2 (3080 Ti) DLSS 2 with maxed-out settings, the result was briefly disappointing. Fair enough, I had to switch to a Balanced preset with lower graphics settings to get maximum frame rates. As a result, I could pull a +45 FPS average while running the game. But switching to a lower preset came with the cost of the brilliant visuals and quality. This might fairly be due to the lack of DLSS 3 that includes Super Resolution, Frame Generation, and Nvidia Reflex.

Here’s the screenshot of our results with the test bench:

alan wake 2 test bench on nvidia rtx 3080 ti
GeForce RTX 3080 Ti

However, you should grab an RTX 40 series card to get the fullest gameplay experience if you want to play it. Frankly, anything less will be missing out on the fascinating, photorealistic, and gorgeously immaculate visuals. So, you might need to upgrade your system for this one.

Alan Wake 2 Review

Alan Wake 2 masterfully uses unconventional narrative and storytelling switching between shifting realities. The game’s opening might be the most ambiguous and random thing I’ve witnessed in my recent memory. Offering a multi-layered storyline with branched complexities, Remedy’s latest addition has two key protagonists. You play as FBI agent Saga Anderson along with Special Agent Alex Cassey, investigating a series of murders by a Cult across the Bright Falls. On the other end, Alan Wake’s story campaign is a direct continuation of the original game and involves him escaping from the Dark Place.

That said, the sequel of Alan Wake is a culmination of the past 13 years for Sam Lake, Remedy’s Creative Director, who has been in a metaphorical Dark Place himself. As you delve into investigating the series of ritualistic murders by the cult, Dark Place, and the Twin Peaks-esque town of Bright Falls, Alan Wake 2 leaves no stone unturned.

But does Remedy Entertainment deliver its full prowess with the sequel game? Check out our review to know the final verdict.

Slow-Paced Psycho Thriller to Survival Horror

Saga Anderson Mind Place

Playing as the FBI Agent, Saga Anderson uses the metaphysical Mind Place (like Sherlock’s Mind Palace) to keep track of her current case. This can also help you keep track of the entire storyline and the narrative so far. The detective-duo investigates and picks up early that something is quite off about Bright Falls. With a slow-burn start, Alan Wake 2 builds the atmosphere and the looming danger naturally. What’s more interesting is that the sequel doesn’t shy away from switching to fast-paced survival horror in due time. Once the storyline picks up the pace, you won’t catch a break due to the ambush by darkness and its unexplainable monsters.

Dark Place is a Writer’s Hell

Canonically, the Dark Place is a dimension where Alan has been stuck for the past 13 years, since 2010. While being trapped in this place for some hours, I might have overused the “I was in a dark place” joke an unreasonable amount of times. It’s an ever-changing dimension where fiction manifests into reality resulting in endless loops. Without spilling any more beans, this place is like a maze Alan has been trying to escape using different plot narratives and writing. As a shared profession of writing with Mr.Wake, exiting the Dark place was a hell, until I solved its looping puzzles. But at a certain point, I wasn’t so sure that my shadow wouldn’t attack me back as I ran from them.

Alan Wake 2 Review

Honestly, what kept me going were the awesome neo-noir landscapes, bizarre graffiti-styled hints, symbols, and puzzles. Likewise, it’s bound to keep you hooked and moving forward.

Alan Wake 2 is a Bridge to Remedy Verse

The multiple callbacks throughout Alan Wake 2 greatly connect the Remedy universe spanned by multiple games like Control and the original game. Since the main protagonists are somewhat tied to FBC, they are more than Easter Eggs as confirmed by Sam Lake. Although Remedy Entertainment has always loved such callbacks, the sequel has smartly built the foundations for a shared universe.

Cinematic Masterpiece

Bringing emphasis on the game’s visuals and world-building, Remedy beautifully delivers a punch with its survival horror sequel. Spiraling between two different campaigns, the game feels more like a movie than a game. From the full-motion advertisements on Television to the amazing musicals, it will leave you speechless as you conclude. The lights, shadows, and facial details are fairly well-executed thanks to Global Illumination. It adds plenty of realistic touch to the psychological horror aesthetics.

Alan Wake 2 Review visuals

Cultural Nods & Inspiration

The sequel game combines all the past projects that Sam Lake and Remedy Entertainment have worked on including Quantum Break. While the original game was heavily inspired by Twin Peaks and Stephen King novels, the sequel game builds on much newer inspirations. These include Ari Aster’s movies like Hereditary, Midsommar, and even Robert Eggers’ Lighthouse. The game picks up its slow-burn and buddy-cop start from the season one True Detective, Fargo, Inception, and Se7en for its grounded art direction as confirmed by Kyle Rowley during his interview with VGC.

For someone who has watched all of these, Alan Wake 2 instantly felt familiar and perfectly bizarre. I can’t help but appreciate the Twin Peak-esque humor that was so consistent throughout the sequel game. But Remedy not only focussed on movies for inspiration. They have also talked about taking influences from Resident Evil and Silent Hill.

Final Verdict

Alan Wake 2 Review

Ultimately, Alan Wake 2 offers a greatly crafted mind-bending psychological thriller storyline with the most immaculate visuals of all time. Its cinematic story-telling and unique gameplay mechanics will leave you awe-struck while asking for what’s next. The storyline’s unpredictability, audio, and musical score kept me in the zone until I finished the sequel.

But after spending around 18-19 hours, unraveling all the mysteries laid down by the Dark Presence, it looped me back again, asking for more. So, if you dare to try out this Psycho-thriller and survival horror, be prepared as it can be anxiety and fear-inducing. Hopefully, Remedy Entertainment won’t make us wait for another 13 years for their future projects.

That’s all about the Alan Wake 2 Performance Review. If you enjoyed reading this, check out more Reviews in our dedicated section right here on Gamer Tweak.

Don't miss out!

Remedy's most ambitious Psycho-thriller Survival Horror

Alan Wake 2 is Remedy Entertainment's most ambitious designed game in terms of performance, visuals, & storytelling.

  • Storyline Plot 9.5
  • Overall Gameplay 9
  • Performance & Ray Tracing Features 10
  • Graphics, Visuals, & Global Illumination 9
  • Music & Soundtrack 9.5
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