There’s no good way to adequately describe Alan Wake 2’s “We Sing” sequence to someone, and understanding the many complicated layers Remedy Entertainment wove throughout this scene is paramount to its overall success.
When everything lines up perfectly, the lights go dark, and the music starts playing, it’s a beautiful moment for players to lower their guard and enjoy themselves.
In this nearly 20-minute musical, Alan Wake 2 blends a high-quality video game with a live-action musical with real-life actors and stagehands retelling the story of Alan while the fictional band Old Gods of Asgard rock out. It’s electrifying, funny, catchy, and partially horrifying when you think about it from Alan’s perspective, who had a great time walking through this, remarking, “He didn’t see that coming.”
The success of this scene hinges on how well it fits into the Alan Wake 2 narrative. It’s merely a silly scene or a gimmick the writers thought would be fun for a quick break from the combat, but it fits within the rules of the Alan Wake universe and the Dark Place. It’s a medium of art that the Dark Place would be drawn to and could feasibly create. With those rules respected, it’s such a fantastic time, and Remedy gives players a chance to experience this unique creativity through this phenomenal performance. Few studios could pull off We Sing, and Remedy nails it.
Everything Clicks with Alan Wake 2’s We Sing
The effectiveness of “We Sing” is built upon multiple layers that unfold during the first few hours of Alan Wake 2. We start with Saga in the real world and then show Alan being stuck in the Dark Place. The rules in Saga’s gameplay don’t entirely apply to Alan, and he can consistently change the reality around him if he can creatively write it up and produce it.
The talk show at the start shows us how other powers work in Alan Wake 2. He might not remember it, but it happened, and it’s also currently happening for Alan, even though he’s watching it. Much like players, Alan is, at times, a viewer in the Dark Place and watches on as he sees himself undergoing these forced performances. It’s only at the end it’s revealed he was a participant – whether he knows when he stopped being a viewer or not. Like everything Remedy has layered into the Alan Wake universe, it’s incredibly meta and only works because of the setup the team did to establish these rules with the viewer. It’s all earned.
It’s why when the music plays, the Old Gods of Asgard rip through with their guitars and phenomenal singing, it all makes sense. It’s not forced, and players can accept it as much as Alan does as he’s walking through the stage directions, trying to remember when he performed in a musical number and if he had that good of a singing voice. It’s a moment to let go, and We Sing becomes a joyful experience that fills you with laughter and excitement about what’s to come next.
Playing Through We Sing in Alan Wake 2 is a Rollercoaster of Fun
The We Sing section of Alan Wake 2 was pure joy. I was filled with a bright light the entire time I walked through this sequence, and as I neared the end of it, I loaded it back up to the start to check it all out again. Although this was partly because I wanted more screenshots for this piece, I wanted to keep playing this sequence. Much like Alan is stuck in a loop of playing the song, I wanted to remain in it because leaving it meant returning to the Dark Place and the horrors that awaited Alan as he writes his way deeper through it.
For a player, watching everything unfold is a treat. The actors are in a medium where they usually wouldn’t expect to see themselves in a video game, and players themselves rarely get to see this. Few video games unravel the curtain for players to see the actors portraying these characters, and watching them dance, sing, and tell the story of a lead protagonist is uplifting in the otherwise bleak story of Alan Wake 2, which is why it works so well. When your story is about all-consuming darkness, preying on your private emotions and bringing those anxieties to the surface, the bright light of a lighthearted musical is lovely.
It’s even better to keep that tone and give the player a flaregun to unleash on enemies, blowing them away with an incredible guitar solo. I cannot stress enough how freeing it is to land a perfect hit against a group of enemies with a mini grenade launcher and hear the marvelous riffs from the Old Gods of Asgard. Everything about this 20-minute section is empowering, and I think the joy also happens with Alan, notably through the halfway point.
We Sing Outdoes Gameplay Narrative Expectations in Alan Wake 2
The thrill of making your way through the directed path of We Sing is something I seldom feel with many video games. Regarding other narrative games like this, such as Spider-Man 2 or God of War: Ragnarok, I enjoy the smaller plot steps where you’re pulled away from the heavier combat. There are these moments where I can freely roam around to explore the area and pick up small bits of lore and information. We Sing is undoubtedly in a similar mindset, but there’s so much more to it, and I hope other games take note of how this all fits together for Alan Wake 2 and why it worked so well.
There have been so many phenomenal games that came out this year in 2023. All of them have established mediums set within them, like Baldur’s Gate 3, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, to name a few. They respected these mediums and stayed within those expectations; in the case of Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur’s Gate 3, there was a lot more freedom and sandbox features that made them special. But with Alan Wake 2, a set narrative where there’s a little sandbox, and you’re being told a story, We Sing artistically breaks away from the expected and lets you have a good time.
The We Sing music is, from my experience, an important milestone because this moment is also a time of acceptance for Alan. We see a small glimpse of him beginning to dance closer to a drawing conclusion that occurs closer to the end of his journey in Alan Wake. This happens during the halfway point; there’s a juncture when Alan accepts the art, allowing him to go deeper. When players reach this point, they pick up the flashlight and pistol, which have not been available for the first part, and shortly after this, the real-life Alan, who is participating in the musical, dons a pair of sunglasses and gets more rhythmic with the dancing portions of the musical.
We see Alan undergo an acceptance of being in the work and a letting go that didn’t happen before this moment. The initial dancing sections featured Alan’s frantic, confused look, an appearance he had through most of the talk show sections with Mr. Door close to the introduction of Alan Wake 2. The singing has been phenomenal throughout it, but there’s almost a tone shift for Alan’s sections. As he accepts his time there, he finally reaches out to the player to unravel his time there and write the way out, developing the final chorus in the piece.
Alan Wake 2 has surprised me in multiple ways; the glee and charm of We Sing will stay with me for a long time. How Remedy Entertainment pulled this off is fantastic, and I hope it pushes the bounds with other video game developers who want to take risks like this in their story, mainly if it works.
Being silly and fun in a series story is crucial because it reminds us how we’re all humans, and even in the darkest of human stories, there’s always a light we can switch on to guide our way. Thank you, Remedy, for making me laugh.