Mark Delaney

Alan Wake 2 was revealed a year and a half ago, but since then we’ve seen nothing about it. That is, until now. From the virtual showfloor of the PlayStation Showcase for May 2023, we got to see a new Alan Wake 2 trailer, giving us a generous glimpse at more of the world players have longed to return to for 13 years.

The trailer overtly does a few really neat things. First and foremost, it reveals a new playable character named Saga Anderson, an FBI agent who seems to have arrived in Bright Falls to investigate the town’s perpetual weirdness–not to mention the apparent death of Agent Nightingale from the first game. It also gives us glimpses into the gameplay, which seems to deliver on Remedy’s words that this will be a true survival-horror experience. A closer camera, a slower pace, and new haunting enemy encounters give the trailer a Resident Evil feel, albeit still with Remedy’s signature flair for cinematic and stylish world-building and characters.

Like we did with the game’s reveal trailer, we’ve decided to pause this new trailer frame by frame in search of new story details we may be able to gather from it. Join us as we take another dive into Cauldron Lake. It is, after all, a special place.

Cultists wearing deer masks

Cultists wearing deer masks

In the first trailer, we thought we saw what looked like a deer mask in one of the frames, and now we can confirm it. Whoever this group is, they’ve decided to wear the faces of deer to hide their own faces while performing ritualistic killings in the woods. My best guess is they are the Cult of the Tree, a shady group first mentioned in Control’s Alan Wake-themed DLC, “AWE.”

The Cult of the Tree seems to have ties to a symbol we’ll see elsewhere in this trailer–and saw in the last one–of overlapping triangles. According to what little we know of the cult so far, they may be based in Watery, Washington, a town that neighbors Bright Falls. Watery and Bright Falls, on a normal day, throw rival fall festivals called Moosefest and Deerfest, respectively. But it seems in Alan Wake 2 there aren’t a ton of normal days to be had, what with all these ritualistic murders occurring.

Alan's new (and maybe not literally old) look

Alan’s new (and maybe not literally old) look

Our first glimpse of Alan Wake himself in this trailer shows us the in-game model of the reimagined hero we first saw in Control’s DLC. He’s got slick long hair and a full beard–I guess they have the John Wick franchise in the Dark Place.

However, more notable is the fact that he doesn’t necessarily seem to be 13 years older. We know from the last trailer, which depicts the 81st Deerfest, that Alan Wake 2 takes place in present day, as the original game took place during the 68th Deerfest. So Alan’s world has moved ahead 13 years just as ours has. He should look older, and maybe he’s aged gracefully, but I have another theory: Alan hasn’t aged a day in the Dark Place. This would be very sad because everyone else he knows–Barry, Sheriff Breaker, and most importantly his wife Alice, will be much older now.

I can imagine a reunion between the two that’s right out of that Twilight Zone episode, “The Long Morrow,” where an astronaut returns home from a six-month trip and finds he and his partner are now far apart in age. In the Control DLC, it’s suggested that Alan is Alice’s ex, but we don’t know if that’s because she divorced him in absentia or if it’s because the world assumes Alan is dead. My bet is Alice’s heart still aches for Alan and their age disparity will be a tragedy.

Meet Special Agent Saga Anderson

Meet Special Agent Saga Anderson

How’s this for a hero shot? Feeling like it’s pulled right out of The X-Files, the game’s second playable character, FBI Special Agent Saga Anderson is introduced. We’ll see her starring in her own gameplay moments soon after this shot in the trailer, but here we get to see another neat detail: her very cozy knit sweater. It seems an odd apparel choice for an FBI agent, arguably even mom-like.

I don’t think this sweater holds any deeper lore significance, but I do think it helps us start to understand Saga as a character. She’s said to be a brilliant criminal profiler, and I don’t doubt she is, but her sweater reveals a side of her that is a little less self-serious than you might expect given her job. I can’t wait to meet her.

As for the narration, we learn something else important in this moment: Special Agent Nightingale, who was hounding Alan for much of the first game, assuming the city slicker was the cause of all the town’s ongoing problems, is dead. It’s his death that Saga is there to investigate. In the original game, we last saw him after seemingly becoming taken over by the Dark Presence, but unlike Alan, he was not in the Dark Place. He seemed to be another Taken–the name for those claimed by the Dark Presence who, in gameplay terms, represent the enemy faction. What happened to Nightingale? That’s for Saga–and the players–to determine.

It would be quaint, if I didn't know any better

It would be quaint, if I didn’t know any better

Here we get a nice establishing shot of Bright Falls’ less-than-bustling town center. The sleepy town has long housed whispered-about nightmares, but in the daylight, it can still trick passers-by into thinking it’s a nice place for a vacation. A few choice details to take away from this: We once again see signs for the 81st Deerfest, thereby reaffirming that the game takes place in the present day.

Curiously, we also see a Coffee World sign above the Oh, Deer Diner sign, attached in such a way that it almost seems like they’re the same establishment now, like Coffee World bought out the diner perhaps, or maybe they’re just dueling businesses on the same block.

Coffee World’s significance in the story hasn’t yet been explained, but new assets in Alan Wake Remastered combined with a few other details we picked up on suggest it will be important in Alan Wake 2. In the Control DLC, we see post-it notes mentioning Coffee World nearby some scribbled-together details on the Cult of the Tree. To me, it seems like someone in Watery is corrupting Bright Falls, perhaps by literally using a tainted water supply. Assuming that’s true, my only question is whether it’s tainted in natural ways, or if it’s tainted with the Dark Presence, maybe creating more Taken. There’s just something so odd about this recent focus on Coffee World. I’m keeping a close eye on it.

No, that's not Max Payne

No, that’s not Max Payne

Hey, look it’s Sam Lake, creative director of Remedy and the original face model for Max Payne on PlayStation. And wait, is that James McCaffrey I hear? Does that mean Sam is reprising his role as Max Payne? Well, no it doesn’t. But close guess!

I believe Sam is actually playing–wait for it–Alex Casey! Who’s that, you may ask? Casey is the fictional protagonist of Alan Wake’s best-selling crime novel, The Sudden Stop. In the first game, Alan and Alice arrive in Bright Falls under the false pretenses of a leisurely getaway to help soothe Alan’s writer’s block as he struggles to write his follow-up book.

How is it that Alex Casey has come to life? Well, Alan Wake has always been about fiction coming off the page and taking shape in the real world. The sequel seems to be about that too, with Saga finding herself stuck in Alan’s horror story. Does that mean Alex and Saga are manifestations of Alan’s fiction? Not exactly, I think. Perhaps in Wake’s world, like his light source, the Clicker, which he manifests to drive out the darkness in one important moment of the original game, the line between fiction and reality can get so blurry that it becomes irrelevant. Whether these FBI agents were real before Alan thought them up, I do believe the story is telling us they’re real enough now.

Enjoy a refreshing Ahma

Enjoy a refreshing Ahma

Another odd detail that links Control to Alan Wake is Ahma brand beer, which we see here on the fridges on the right. This is a beverage you can see Ahti the janitor drinking in a postcard he leaves for Jesse Faden in Control. That postcard even suggests he’s moved onto Watery, Washington, a place players will be visiting in the sequel. So that’s odd!

Beyond that, we don’t know much about its importance, though we do know Ahma is the Finnish word for wolverine. And no, I don’t think this suggests the X-Men are part of the Remedy Connected Universe…or are they?

Who's running this general store anyway?

Who’s running this general store anyway?

As Saga investigates the Cauldron Lake General Store, we can see the dilapidated store still sports a poster for the 68th Deerfest–the one that took place during the original game. This suggests that this store hasn’t been operating for some time. Given the magical properties of Cauldron Lake, perhaps it’s the case that this store isn’t even always visible to the human eye. Bird Leg Cabin itself disappears soon after Alice goes missing there in the first game. If the general store is within the range of the Dark Presence’s influence there, perhaps it too can shift in and out of reality. Then again, maybe it’s just been abandoned for a few years.

Wake in the big city

Wake in the big city

Unlike Saga’s spooky adventures through the woods of Bright Falls and Watery, Alan very much looks to be in a city. Of course, it’s not a real city, but it’s how the Dark Presence is appearing to him for reasons we can’t deduce just yet. Perhaps they’re twisting his memories of living in New York, or perhaps he will find his way to something like Control’s Oldest House, which is also set in New York and not so easy to access.

Now that Remedy has publicly revealed the truth of there being a Remedy Connected Universe, I fully expect Alan Wake 2 to go hard in that direction, while still operating as a jumping-on point for new players. Alan’s trip to the “city” will have significance, no doubt.

The Oceanview...Hotel?

The Oceanview…Hotel?

As Alan explores his twisted cityscape, we see a neon-lit sign for a hotel, but can’t quite make out the name. All we can see is “-NVIEW HOTEL.” If you played Control, you’ll be familiar with the Oceanview Motel–emphasis on the M. Could the Oceanview, which I believe to be a transit junction spanning all of the Remedy Connected Universe stories, be making another appearance, albeit as the slightly modified Oceanview Hotel? I don’t see why not.

The Dark Place bends reality in odd ways, and when you’re in the thick of it, it’s not really reality at all. In a cityscape like Alan’s a downtown hotel makes more sense than a shoddy motel, so perhaps this is just how Alan’s mind is seeing this special place in this moment.

Lend me a hand, wouldya?

Lend me a hand, wouldya?

Yikes! What is that? Here we see Saga face to face with someone who would look like a sweet grandmother were it not for her extra limbs making her out to be something closer to a bipedal spider. I guess the Taken, assuming that’s what she is, will take on new shapes in this sequel.

Out of the darkness

Out of the darkness

In the trailer’s last shot, we see what appears to be Saga and Alan communicating in the same realm–particularly in the wilderness surrounding Bright Falls. This is really fascinating, as the game’s premise suggests we’ll be experiencing their separate sides of the same overall story. On one hand, Alan will be seeking to escape the Dark Place, while on the other hand, Saga and her (not Max Payne) partner, will be exploring Bright Falls.

So you’d sort of figure if Alan escapes the Dark Place, it would come at the end of the game, and if that’s the case, we’d surely not see it in a trailer. But it looks like they are sharing the same plane of existence here, so maybe there’s more than meets the eye to this scene.

Stick with us for a lot more Alan Wake 2 coverage over the coming weeks and months as we approach the game’s October 17 launch on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation.