How Scary Is Alan Wake 2?

Alan Wake 2 may be a horror game, but you probably shouldn't be too scared to play it.

Alan Wake 2
Photo: Epic Games Publishing

While it feels silly to point out that Alan Wake 2 is a horror game (duh, right?), much has been made of the transition from Alan Wake’s style of Action Horror to Alan Wake 2’s brand of more “pure” Survival Horror. In fact, quite a few people seem to be wondering if Alan Wake 2 will be too scary for them to enjoy. 

That topic even came up during our recent interview with Alan Wake 2 directors Sam Lake and Kyle Rowley. The pair were well aware of the challenges of making a properly scary horror game that isn’t so effective that people end up not wanting to play it. That’s especially true for this sequel that is building upon a scary (but generally slightly more accessible) horror gaming experience. 

So how scary is Alan Wake 2? Truth be told, it’s a walk through a slightly spooky park compared to the absolute scariest video games out there. However, your personal tolerance for Alan Wake 2’s scares may vary based on what kinds of things typically scare you in horror games and other horror media.

To get to the point, Alan Wake 2 is significantly scarier than the first game. However, that’s largely due to the differences in pacing and tone between the two titles. The first Alan Wake’s emphasis on action meant that you often found yourself battling some kind of creature for most of the game’s short runtime. Fighting those enemies (or simply watching them appear in front of you) could be frightening, but that emphasis on action made it easier to acclimate yourself to the process. It was essentially a slightly scarier version of the monster closet concept seen in titles like Doom.

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Comparatively, Alan Wake 2 features a lot more “downtime,” so to speak, that you’ll spend exploring areas, investigating crime scenes, participating in dialog sequences, and solving puzzles. Fights are much less common, and when they do occur, they often interrupt prolonged segments of built-up tension that greatly increase their general effectiveness. Yes, that means those interruptions sometimes come in the form of jump scares. Enemies will sometimes appear on-screen suddenly, and those appearances are often accompanied by a loud noise or a similarly jarring effect. 

Even though there are jump scares in Alan Wake 2, they are not nearly as intense as what you’ll find in games like Five Nights at Freddy’s or The Mortuary’s Assistant. They’re effective, but they’re also relatively spare. Without giving away too much, I’ll simply say you will regularly go long stretches of time (30+ minutes of in-game time, in some cases) without encountering anything truly scary. Alan Wake 2 follows the “build tension and then pay that tension off with a jump scare” model seen in so many works of horror, but it’s certainly not a funhouse gauntlet of such frights by any means. 

At the same time, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of those moments of tension. In fact, I’d sooner describe Alan Wake 2 as being “creepy” rather than “scary.” There’s a general aura of menace that can be found throughout the whole game. You’ll often be convinced that something scary is about to happen even if those moments don’t lead to a jump scare or fight. Some of those visuals can even be quite disturbing. If you’re not comfortable with the human anatomy and occasionally disturbing creature designs, then parts of Alan Wake 2 may be too much for you.

Speaking of terrifying creatures, Alan Wake 2 does feature more than a few battles (including boss battles) against hulking monstrosities. I’d compare those fights to battling the Nemesis or Mr. X in a Resident Evil game. If you don’t like battling giant, super-tough monsters who will reach out and grab you, then you should know that Alan Wake 2 does utilize that tactic from time to time. You’ll rarely be “chased” by those monsters as you will in those Resident Evil games, but few enemies are easily dispatched and some can take a lot of punishment. 

Having said that, Alan Wake 2 does allow you to defend yourself via various weapons and tools that are typically generously distributed throughout the game. It’s not like Alien: Isolation or even Silent Hill which leave you largely defenseless or force you to navigate an intentionally cumbersome combat system. You can defend yourself as easily and regularly as you are able to in the Resident Evil remakes. Alan Wake 2 even utilizes control and UI elements that are somewhat similar to what we saw in those titles.

One thing Alan Wake 2 has that those games don’t, though, is a wonderful sense of humor. There are a lot of genuinely funny moments in this game that often come in the form of one-liners heard from nearby NPCs or especially hilarious dialog sequences. Generally speaking, Alan Wake 2 features more storytelling sequences than you’ll typically find in most other horror games. Cutscenes aren’t long or abundant by any means, but the game certainly emphasizes furthering its wonderful narrative more often than it is trying to directly scare you. There are quite a few moments of levity in this game, and they often come when you most need them.

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Ultimately, I’d compare Alan Wake 2 to Control and the recent Resident Evil remakes in terms of its overall “scariness.” It’s creepier than Control by virtue of its more overt horror atmosphere and the effectiveness of its scariest moments, but it features a lot more humor and storytelling breaks than what you’ll find in the Resident Evil remakes. If that sounds like it falls into your comfort zone, then I urge you to play this truly exceptional horror title