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Alan Wake 2’s slow opening hour is like a perfect first episode of TV

It hits all the right beats, at just the right time.

Saga Anderson, of Alan Wake 2, looks perturbed in the setting sun of a mountain township.
Image credit: Remedy Entertainment

Alan Wake isn't exactly subtle when it comes to its television inspirations. Anyone that played the first game could clearly tell that lead writer Sam Lake was a big fan of Twin Peaks, even if you're just looking at the love of coffee the two games share. Plus, there's the fact that the original also had TV style recaps at the end of each part, a charming decision that added to the game's surreal atmosphere. But where Alan Wake is the 2000s era of schlocky thrillers, Alan Wake 2 is the early 2010s era of 'elevated' TV, like, say, True Detective, a more recent inspiration for the sequel. Of course, when you aim for the heights of widely critically-acclaimed TV like True Detective, you better make sure you don't miss. It's a good thing then, that Alan Wake 2's first hour is pretty much the perfect first episode of television.

Looking back to Twin Peaks, of course all of the quirky, odd elements were things that garnered it cult classic status, but at the time it was the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer that had everyone hooked. When you're telling a mystery story, you really need to make sure you have all the right elements to compel people to watch the next episode. Alan Wake 2 achieves this right within the first 10 minutes, and it's all thanks to one naked, afraid man. Spoilers ahead for the first hour of the game.

Maybe Alan Wake 2 is the best detective game now?Watch on YouTube

You would think, given the name, that the first character you might play as would be none other than the titular Alan Wake himself. Though, as marketing for the game had also demonstrated, it was always going to be possible that you'd kick things off as newcomer Saga Anderson. Alan Wake 2 doesn't care though; instead, you're greeted with the nude, wet body of Robert Nightingale, a man who's clearly been having a worse night than all of us. We see him slowly clamber out of a lake with nothing to his name in the middle of the night, before he begins to trudge through the dark woods looking for any kind of help.

Things just go from bad to worse for Robert though, as he's confronted by a group of cultists who seem to want to kill him. Oops! They do catch and kill him, you won't be surprised to hear, and there in our bold cold open we have the setup for our mystery, punctuated with a loud and large title card.

The opening gives us a ton of questions too; Why was this man naked in a lake? How did he get there? Who are these cultists and what do they want? It's got all the right ingredients to kick things off, and the following hour hits all the right beats too. We're introduced to Saga and her partner for the case, Alex Casey, as well as being briefly reintroduced to the town of Brightfalls. On top of that there's the town sheriff, Tim Breaker, played by Shawn Ashmore, who you might recognise from the X-Men series, as well as another of Remedy's games, Quantum Break.

Alan Wake 2 has atmosphere for days.

There's a lot more walking than your average episode of TV, but it is a video game, so that's par for the course, and it does let us spend a bit of extra time with all of these new characters. We learn that Saga has a daughter, Logan, and that Alex shares a name and career with the protagonist of Alan Wake's novels, which feels like just that bit too much of a coincidence. These are small, but significant, details which are sure to become relevant at some point further down the line.

All of this is just the calm before the storm, though, as like any good mystery writer knows, the only thing better than one mystery is two. Here, at the end of the first chapter, a scene that's meant to be a simple examination of Robert's corpse turns into a nightmare; sheriff Breaker disappears in a manner that suggests he knew something would cause it, and Robert's corpse comes back to life, now with an added violent streak. This is where the combat finally comes into play, and after a brief showdown between Saga and Robert, the latter too disappears before the player is greeted with the text 'End of Chapter'.

I'm still only a couple of hours into Alan Wake 2, but while I often feel like TV and film inspirations can hold games down, at least for the game's first hour, it feels like a boon this time around. I'm already desperate to dive back in and seek out the answers to all of the questions I have, but, like any good episode of TV, I'll have to patiently wait for the next one.

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