Alan Wake 2: Blending Horror and Detective Fiction
Remedy has long been a studio that wears its influences on its sleeve. From the hard-boiled police files of Max Payne to the New Weird foundations of Control, movies, TV shows, and books have long served as inspiration. This is no different in Alan Wake 2, which blends horror and detective fiction in creatively unsettling ways. We talked to Remedy to find out why these genres work so well together, discuss some of the game’s cultural touchstones, and how they bleed their way into the survival horror story, characters, and gameplay.
Why Detective Fiction and Horror are a Perfect Mix
“A really great detective mystery in my opinion is when you can put yourself in the shoes of the detective and pay close attention to things, look at the connections, put it all together”, says Principal Narrative Designer Molly Maloney. “What makes really great horror in my opinion is when you wish you could look away, but you can’t. It’s that balance of I don’t want to look, but I need to. So detective and horror I think are a great mix because you wish you could look away, but you really need to pay attention. And the delicious dance of those two feelings.”
The Influence of True Detective and Other Cultural Touchstones
Both detective fiction and horror have long been bound together within book spines and film reels. Remedy’s Creative Director Sam Lake explains, “There is this aspect of horror as a genre having a lot to do with detective fiction, because usually, the premise is something strange is happening, which is very close to a crime has happened. And on one part we are afraid to find out, but we are driven to find out.”
Game Director Kyle Rowley reveals that one of the key influences for Alan Wake 2 was the first season of True Detective. The dynamics between the two detectives and the ritualistic elements of the show were compelling to the team. Other cultural touchstones mentioned include Silence of the Lambs, Twin Peaks, and the works of David Lynch.
The Two Halves of Alan Wake 2
Alan Wake 2 is a game split into two halves, with Saga and Alan representing two sides of the same coin. Saga is an FBI-trained detective investigating a series of ritualistic killings, while Alan is trapped in a hellish, surrealist maze of his own making. These distinct styles demanded different approaches to tone and drew inspiration from various sources.
Influences from Film and TV
Rowley explains, “For Wake’s Nightmare in New York, we wanted it to feel more grimy, more rundown. It rains a lot. And so things like Seven, how they utilize rain to heighten different moods, we utilize weather not just as a visual thing. We also want to use it actually narratively to as things escalate, there’s more water, there’s more rain.” Scorsese’s Taxi Driver was also a visual inspiration for the wet asphalt and neon signs of Alan’s New York.
Sam Lake expands on other influences, mentioning films like Inception, Memento, and Fight Club, which all contribute to the dreamlike and psychological aspects of the game.
Influences from Video Games
Remedy also draws inspiration from video games, with references to the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series. Molly Maloney specifically mentions being inspired by Daniel Mullins’ work on Inscryption and Pony Island, hinting at some interesting moments in Alan Wake 2.
A Game that Surprises
Alan Wake 2 is set to be a game that surprises. With its unique blend of horror and detective fiction, it aims to challenge players’ expectations and deliver an unforgettable experience. As Remedy explores the intersection of these genres, players can expect a narrative that keeps them on the edge of their seats.
Alan Wake 2 is a testament to Remedy’s ability to create immersive and innovative games that push the boundaries of storytelling in the gaming industry.
Simon Cardy actually thinks season two of True Detective isn’t that bad. Follow him on Twitter at @CardySimon.