On the surface, ’80s-infused sci-fi action and surrealistic survival horror have little in common. Looking at Alan Wake 2 and RoboCop: Rogue City, you might never guess that they have some strong similarities. Both games revolve around law enforcement and investigation. In one you play as a superhuman cybercop bringing justice to Old Detroit, and in the other, you play as a troubled FBI agent wrestling with the supernatural in Bright Falls. The mechanics of crime scene investigation are similar enough that two important questions arise. What sets each game apart, and in the end, which does investigations better?
Investigations in RoboCop: Rogue City
Despite your Auto 9 and other impressive weapons, gameplay in Rogue City revolves around more than just RoboCop blowing bad guys to pieces. Throughout the game, you have many opportunities to investigate various crime scenes and piece together what’s happening. Whether you’re investigating a drug den or the dump site of a murder victim, your approach is always the same. You use RoboCop’s enhanced vision to scan the environment, highlighting in green any nearby clues. You then hold down the interaction button to scan them, providing you with some contextual information, such as which direction footprints appear to lead. It’s a simple, familiar process that you repeat for every clue.
Part of the problem is the simplicity of the cases. There are plenty of sidequests to keep you busy in Rogue City, but none of them are particularly deep. After scanning a few fingerprints or a suspicious package, the investigation is neatly wrapped up for you. There’s no real thought involved, and no deduction required. Unfortunately, having the number of undiscovered clues on prominent display trivializes investigations, as does the ability to highlight clues from a distance. Rogue City often feels like you’re just marking off items on a checklist rather than participating in a real investigation. There’s no real sense of discovery or accomplishment because everything is handed to you.
Investigations in Alan Wake 2
Alan Wake 2 is split into two parts. As writer Alan Wake, you navigate the nightmarish Dark Place, and as FBI agent Saga Anderson, you investigate the small town of Bright Falls. Unsurprisingly, much of Saga’s work involves analyzing clues and putting together various mysteries piece by piece. On a superficial level, the process of gathering evidence plays out much like it does in RoboCop. You wander around collecting notes, blood, and other clues to piece together. It’s what happens next that sets Alan Wake 2 apart.
Once you’ve gathered evidence, you can travel to the Memory Place, an imaginary location that embodies Saga’s thoughts about each case. Here you can pin photos and notes to a board in classic detective show fashion. It’s this mechanic that massively separates Alan Wake 2 from RoboCop: Rogue City. In comparison to Rogue City, cases in Alan Wake 2 are sprawling. It can take hours of gameplay before you solve one, compared to mere minutes. Why does that difference matter so much? Because it gives you the time and space to analyze, speculate, and deduce. In short, you get to do actual detective work.
Which Game Does Investigations Better?
There’s no question: Alan Wake 2 does investigations better than RoboCop: Rogue City. There are a few reasons for this beyond what’s already been said. Part of it is a matter of atmosphere. Scouring ill-lit and creepy locations for clues, unsure of their nature or whereabouts, builds authentic tension in Alan Wake 2. Saga’s conversations with her partner, Casey, give a rhythm and realism to Bright Falls that simply isn’t seen in Old Detroit. Your investigations feel fuller, not simply because they’re longer and more complicated but also because they don’t feel like glorified fetch quests. The NPCs all have emotionally significant stories to tell, so when you help them, it feels like you’re making an actual impact.
RoboCop: Rogue City and Alan Wake 2 aren’t the same kind of game, and they don’t have the same kind of goals. The former is a fast-paced FPS over all else. Investigations exist to give you a breather between shootouts, allow our cybernetic hero to play investigator for a while, and pad the game’s runtime. Alan Wake 2 is a survival horror game that’s as much about understanding and surviving trauma as it is about killing monsters. Investigations are the heartbeat of the plot. They give it rhythm and keep it alive. If you can only put on your detective’s cap for one game, Alan Wake 2 is the easy choice.
Alan Wake 2 is available for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S.