Sunday, January 6, 2013

Alan Wake: The Signal (DLC) - Follow The Signal

After the release of Alan Wake, 2 DLC Special Features were released, The Signal and The Writer. Anyone who bought the game new, like me, would receive the first one for free, or else pay 560 Microsoft Points ($7). Having already beaten Alan Wake, I redeemed my code for The Signal, wishing to continue the story line and see if it answered any questions left hanging at the end. With this story extension ending a bit quicker than I imagined, here's an equally brief review.

The Signal, or Special Feature One, continues from where Alan Wake left off, with Alice Wake alive and Alan now trapped in the Dark Place. Strangely, he finds himself in front of the Oh Deer Diner from the beginning of the main game and heads inside. A sense of déjà vu hits him, as the events he sees are exactly as he remembered them from before, except now certain words are corrupted when spoken. He ends up in the back of the diner as before, but now he is able to go inside the men's bathroom. Once inside, a light appears and a voice begins to speak to him, which he quickly identifies as belonging to Thomas Zane. He explains the situation to Alan, offering a flashlight, representing the plot line, and a revolver, representing process of elimination, to help combat the strength of the Dark Place. To have any hope of escaping however, Wake needs to head for Zane's location by following "the signal." Trying to figure out what this means, Alan exits the restroom, only to see himself appear on a few scattered TV sets in the diner describing what's about to happen.

What this Episode brings to the table is actually pretty interesting. The plot is continued in a rather intriguing path as Alan appears to be going off the edge, yet still characteristically denying it. His character growth is on full display here, and the exploration of it is very welcome. However, not too much happens in terms of plot. It did introduce some worthwhile concepts, but didn't go all the way with them. I suppose that's left for the next Episode, The Writer, to fill in, but still. Gameplay, on the other hand, is another story. The Signal takes what was unique about Alan Wake and actually adds some newer elements at the right times, such as a new type of Taken that is almost completely invisible and expanding on making objects, and even enemies and plot-important events, appear at will by shining the flashlight over their representative words. Having the environment shift as well to suit Alan's psyche introduced some new elements of surprise and even a genuine scare.

My complaints however, would be length and difficulty. The Signal ends a bit too quickly for my tastes; just when I was getting into the groove, it ended and I was left to wonder why there wasn't anything more. Some of the enemy sections, while still keeping with the idea of the shifting environment, also felt a bit too difficult, or at the very least annoying, since it took me a few tries to get through one particular gauntlet intact and figure out how to do it as well (if you see it, you'll probably understand). On top of that, the final boss is almost pathetic, since it's incredibly easy to implement the correct strategy and beat it; I would have at least wanted a good challenge.

Despite its shortcomings, The Signal is a great continuation of Alan Wake and expands on a few things pretty well. Not every question is answered, but what they give you does make you hungry for more. If you haven't played Alan Wake yet, then I would suggest trying to buy a new copy to get this add-on for free, as I'm not sure this is entirely worth spending $7 you'll never get back. Make sure however that you play The Signal after the main game; it may be a Special, but continuity is still important.

After playing this, I can't wait to download The Writer to see where it goes from here.

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