Alan Wake II Performance And Visuals: Bring Your Biggest GPU

When we saw the system requirements for Remedy’s Alan Wake II, we knew this game was going to be a PC system smasher. Of course, we already knew that—the game supports path-tracing, also known as full scene ray-tracing, and we’ve already tested that feature extensively in Cyberpunk 2077, so we’re familiar with how heavy it can be on hardware.

The important thing to note, though, is that Alan Wake II is an very different sort of game from Cyberpunk 2077, and it’s also running on a completely different game engine. Rather than CD Projekt’s REDengine, Alan Wake II naturally makes use of Remedy’s own in-house Northlight engine. Northlight had already proven that it was capable of stunning visuals in Remedy’s previous title, Control, but the developer has taken things to a whole new level in Alan Wake II.
ahti and the janitors
The game features many references and callbacks to Control.

You don’t really need us to tell you that the graphics are amazing, though; you can see the screenshots. Put simply, Alan Wake II is gorgeous, and at times, it can really look almost photorealistic. The path-traced lighting, especially in the “High” mode with its three-bounce global illumination, looks incredible, and the asset quality in this game is through-the-roof, as expected of Remedy, of course.
alanwake2 diner lightened

This early scene in a diner at late evening looks incredible.

However, a quality PC game is a lot more than pretty graphics, and we’d like to tell you all about Alan Wake II’s gameplay and story. Unfortunately, we haven’t had time to really dig into the title yet. We’ve played the first couple of hours, and it’s a slow start, but it’s a creepshow the whole way. Make no mistake: this game plays like a slow-paced third-person shooter not entirely unlike The Last of Us or one of the Resident Evil games, but it is a horror title through and through. The spooks come early and don’t stop coming, but Alan Wake II is more interested in unnerving you with psychological horror than it is with filling your pants through cheap jump-scares. It’s all so perfect for the Halloween season we’re in.

Since we haven’t played it enough to judge the game as a whole, we’re just focusing on the graphics right now, and particularly the performance thereof on a few different system configurations. We tested the game at three different presets in four different locations on a smattering of graphics cards to get an idea of what sort of performance you can expect. Follow along, if you dare…

How We Tested Alan Wake II

RT direct lighting
DLSS Ray Reconstruction enables extremely detailed shadows, like the doorknob here.

Our test system was a test bench running Windows 10 Pro 22H2 on an ASRock X570 Taichi motherboard equipped with a Ryzen 7 5800X3D CPU. That CPU was paired with 32 GB of 3600 MT/s DDR4 memory, a pile of SSDs, and a bevy of graphics cards for our testing.

Base Test System Specs: 

We used the latest available driver for every GPU, which means Adrenalin 23.10.2 for the Radeons, Arc driver 4900 for the A770, and GeForce driver 545.92. That driver pack is Game Ready for Alan Wake II, and Intel’s driver also lists game-specific optimizations for the title. AMD’s current driver doesn’t, though, so it’s possible that this might not represent final performance for Radeon owners in this game.
fullsettings

Before we get into the data, let’s take a look at the game’s settings menu. As you can see, there are a plethora of graphics options to play with, but to ensure that we got something as close to apples-to-apples as possible, we focused on using the presets. There are two types to concern yourself with: the standard “Quality Preset” that adjusts things like texture resolution and object LODs, and then the “Ray Tracing Preset” that controls the RT effects in use.

We tested the game exclusively at the High quality preset, but note that this doesn’t actually max out every setting in the game. Some options, like Volumetric Lighting and Shadow Detail, only get set to their medium value on the High preset. We left them alone, in the interest of reproducibility.

Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at some numbers:

Bringing In The Big GPU Guns First

hi alanwake2 fps chart

For our first pack of benchmarks, we tested the game with the High Ray-Tracing Quality preset at a 3840×2160 output resolution while using DLSS upscaling in “Performance” mode. That results in a 1920×1080 input resolution—not that you’d see much difference. The game looks fantastic like this, because there aren’t really a lot of long-distance views in this claustrophobic horror title, which means the loss of distant detail is hard to notice.

You will have no doubt already observed that there are only two graphics cards on this chart. That’s because the GeForce RTX 3080 struggles at this setting, and even the RTX 4080 can’t maintain a 60 FPS average without DLSS 3.5 frame generation. Fortunately there is really no reason not to use frame generation in this title. We checked closely for frame-gen artifacts and couldn’t find any, although we did find the usual DLSS temporal artifacts on a few particle effects, like these papers blowing in the wind:

dlss artifact
Particle objects, particularly distant ones, can produce a hint of temporal smearing.

Overall it’s an extremely tiny image quality issue and nothing you’re likely to ever notice. If it really bothers you, you could turn the input resolution up by moving up to “Balanced”, which reduces the frequency and visibility of these kinds of artifacts. If you’re wondering why there’s no Radeon on the chart above, it’s simply because your author didn’t have access to an RX 7900 XT(X) card at this time. However, we don’t anticipate that it would run particularly well anyway, given the extreme ray-tracing workload at hand.

Alan Wake II On More Mainstream, Affordable Graphics Cards

Let’s drop down RT settings, just a touch, as well as the GPU price tag…

chart alanwake2 rt medium updated

Our next chart bumps the ray-tracing quality and the resolution down quite a bit. We’re outputting at the most popular monitor resolution for gamers, 1920×1080, also known as Full HD. Due to the ¾ cut in output resolution, we’ve raised the upscaling preset to “Quality”, giving us an input resolution of 1280×720. Note that the GeForce RTX cards are continuing to use DLSS (including Super Resolution, Ray Reconstruction, and where applicable, Frame Generation), while the Radeon cards are using FSR2. In practice the upscaling quality difference isn’t that big in this title, particularly not at the “Quality” preset, but Ray Reconstruction definitely has its image quality benefits.
laggyshadow
The shadow cast by player character Saga “lags” when she moves with FSR2. It’s very clear in motion.

lesslaggyshadow
This doesn’t happen on GeForce cards using DLSS Ray Reconstruction.

If you ever doubted AMD’s claim that RDNA 3 is better at ray-tracing than RDNA 2, well, here you go. The RTX 3080 wallops both Radeon GPUs, of course, but the Radeon RX 7700 XT puts up a good showing here against its previous-generation predecessor, considering that card’s compute and memory bandwidth advantage. If AMD can get Remedy to implement FSR 3 with frame generation, this could be a reasonable preset for both cards.

The really interesting story here is with the GeForce RTX 4060 Ti. It puts up a better showing than either Radeon card thanks to the Ada architecture’s strong ray-tracing performance, but the card really shines when you enable Frame Generation. This latest-generation-exclusive feature allows the mid-range RTX 4060 Ti card to leapfrog the last-gen RTX 3080, and while some may insist that you can’t compare FG numbers to non-FG numbers, they certainly don’t LOOK like “fake frames” when you’re playing.

However, we do have to note one big caveat here: the GeForce RTX 4060 Ti was tested with the texture quality dropped to “High” from “Ultra”. That’s because it’s the only card in our comparison here with less than 10GB of video RAM, and this results in severe stuttering in two of our four test locations when you have the texture quality setting maxed-out. Alan Wake II is a very dark and atmospheric game, and frankly we don’t really think you’re likely to notice the difference much, which is to say that it’s certainly not going to ruin your experience. It’s still something to be mindful of, though.

lo alanwake2 fps chart

For our last batch of tests, we’ve left the resolution alone and simply set the ray-tracing preset to “Low”. Now, this is a bigger change than it might seem, because the Low preset completely disables the path-traced indirect lighting. In this mode, ray-tracing is only used for direct lighting (including shadows) and some nifty transparency effects.

Both Radeon cards turn in a perfectly-playable performance at this setting. Actually, given the slow pace of this game, we would say that the GeForce RTX 3060 12GB and our Acer Predator BiFrost Arc A770 16GB card both turn in playable performances, too. We think the ray-traced effects in this game are well worth the performance hit, so this is probably how we’d recommend playing the game on these GPUs. By the way, the Arc A770 renders this game with nary a graphical error or artifact to be found.
dressingroom
This image, captured on Arc A770, shows that the game still looks great this way.

720p input resolution with “Low” ray-tracing quality isn’t a great look for the brand-new Radeon RX 7700 XT. However, we do have to point out a couple of things. First of all, even the mighty GeForce RTX 4080 struggles to achieve playable performance in render resolutions above 1080p. Second of all, we have to remind you, dear reader, that AMD has not published a game-specific driver for this title. It’s possible that a software update could help out the RDNA 3 GPU.
saga
Alan Wake II adds FBI agent Saga Anderson as a second player character alongside Alan.

Alan Wake II PC Performance Requirements And Key Takeaways

Overall, our performance results correlate pretty well with Remedy’s recommendations. So saying, if you’re considering whether you want to pick up this game, check out the official system requirements and see how your system lines up. Just keep in mind that if you’re running an older-generation GPU from the RDNA 1 family (Radeon RX 5000 series) or the GeForce GTX 10 series, you may not be able to play this game at all as performance without support for the critical Mesh Shaders feature is abominable. Contrary to early reports, Alan Wake II will run without hardware Mesh Shaders support, but the performance is awful.
jungle
The game’s environments are ludicrously-detailed.

Alan Wake II – A Graphics Stunner With Gaming PC Brutality

Alan Wake II is one of the most demanding, beautiful and photorealistic games we have ever tested, right up there with Cyberpunk 2077, Dying Light 2, and Immortals of Aveum with all their graphical shiny enabled. However, we probably won’t be adding it to our usual test suite. That’s partially because it does not have a built-in benchmark, making data collection a bit of a chore, but more importantly, it’s because the game is currently an Epic Games Store exclusive. It’s not that we have a hate-on for EGS so much as that we simply aren’t set up to test EGS games on our usual workbenches, so this is a bit of a special case.

aiming

The core gameplay is primarily that of a third-person shooter.

With that said, it may be a slight stroke of genius to put this game on the Epic Games Store. We obviously aren’t privy to the details of Remedy’s deal with Epic, but most deals of this kind are for timed exclusivity in exchange for a chunk of cash. The original Alan Wake game wasn’t a super success, and it’s possible that this sequel would never have been made without Epic’s contribution. More than a few PC gamers are not going to be able to run this game with satisfactory performance right now. Remedy may be banking on a late Steam release next year when more folks have upgraded to current-generation GPUs. In essence, having their cake and eating it too.

deerfest
This early scene looks stunning as the camera pans down from the sky.

With that being said, we would offer that if you’re keen on Alan Wake II, there’s no need to wait for an eventual Steam release. You can snag it right now for just $50 USD. In our time with the game, we didn’t experience a single crash, hang, or even a significant bug aside from one weird time a character T-posed on us. Just make sure you’ve got the requisite 90GB of space on an NVMe SSD—load times are notably long even on a SATA SSD.