Remedy Entertainment was one of the few studios name-checked at the Xbox One Reveal event last week, and as soon as it was mentioned, many fans familiar with its past works expected Alan Wake 2 to finally be revealed.
Unfortunately this wasn't the case, as it was trans-media project Quantum Break that was announced instead. Shortly after the reveal event, Remedy's creative director Sam Lake took to Twitter and then to YouTube to explain to the franchise's fans that although an Alan Wake sequel is not on the cards at present, it is "definitely" something that the studios want to return to in the future, when the opportunity arises.
The original Alan Wake was a strange game. After five years in development it was released in 2010 to minimal fanfare, but has since sold over 3 million copies, slowly and steadily securing its status as a cult favourite. Blending a distinctive Twin Peaks-style surreality with third person shooter mechanics, its combat is basic, its enemies repetitive, and its bizarre plot an unwieldy mix of psychological thriller, fantasy and horror. The game's purposefully awkward writing smacks of throwaway pulp noir rather than Pulitzer Prize winning potential, and its visual style mimics low-budget television serials rather than polished Hollywood blockbusters. It isn't a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination.
And yet, it still manages to be great fun. It's a parody not only of horror games, but cheesy horror novels and cheap horror films. It's clumsy and heavy-handed, but always well-meaning, and always entertaining. The characters are likeable and interesting, and fittingly, the media-conscious world it paints, which features everything from movies and music, to literature and radio, is absolutely steeped in pop culture references.
Despite Alan Wake 2 being written off for the time being, imagine for a moment what that game could play like on the Xbox One. Reading into what we already know about the next generation console's capabilities, the platform is positively crying out for a horror series and Alan Wake 2 could be the perfect title to showcase the potential for future survival horror games.
The original Alan Wake is flawed, but it attempts to tell a compelling horror story that doesn't rely on gore or shock value - instead creating a unique atmosphere that plays with concepts like light versus dark and reality versus fiction. The narrative theme of seeing the media Alan creates come to life and eventually engulf him, his actions and words influencing both the world and his perception of the world, could be taken to fascinating new levels with the Xbox One's unique technology.
One obvious potential feature concerns the new Kinect's ability to pick up and read a player's heartbeat. Imagine if an Alan Wake sequel could read your body language and react accordingly - it could wait until your heartbeat was reasonably steady before dispatching a Taken to shatter the peace, or alternatively a recurring rapid heartbeat could repeatedly trigger tense musical motifs at crucial narrative junctures. Music is often used to establish emotional cues in games - with the new Kinect, the pounding of your heart literally becomes the bassline.
Another new feature of the Xbox One, a feature that seems perfectly suited to an Alan Wake sequel in particular, is the new and improved active IR camera that enables the console to see in the dark, as well as sense the levels of light in a room. Alan Wake, a series that deliberately riffs on the juxtaposition between light and darkness, could potentially do some really interesting things with this.