Alan Wake –The Signal: review

  • Format: Xbox 360
  • Unleashed: Out now
  • Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
  • Developer: Remedy Entertainment
  • Players: 1
  • Site: www.alanwake.com

The first DLC chapter for Remedy’s suspense-horror hit Alan Wake has arrived. This next chapter, titled “The Signal,” delivers more of what made the full game so successful, but in a much tighter package. The Signal is free for those who bought Alan Wake new, and 560 MS points for everyone else.

The Signal picks up immediately where the full game left off—with the author trapped in a nightmare of his own making. Players will encounter fan-favorite Barry, as well as enigmatic author and diving suit aficionado Thomas Zane.

More Barry can only be a good thing.

The best compliment one can offer The Signal is that it delivers more of the same—more beautiful flashlight mechanics, more ammo hoarding, more dark suspense… Alan Wake was a terrific game, and in lieu of a full-sized sequel, any expansion that carries on the game’s design, style, and gameplay is a great addition. The Signal will take players through some of the same sets from the game, including the diner and the spooky forest from the first couple of chapters. For the completionists, The Signal offers two new sets of collectibles: alarm clocks and cardboard standees. And the related achievements ensure that The Signal will get at least two playthroughs, and that’s for the highly skilled player. So anyone who loved and cherished Alan Wake will find just as much to enjoy in The Signal.

This new chapter also reveals some new interactive elements that make for an interesting challenge. In particular, Wake’s flashlight now becomes the harbinger of enemies. If the flashlight beam is pointed in the wrong spot, players could find themselves surrounded by dozens of Taken. And for anyone who has played the game on the Hard or Nightmare difficulty, such a concept is spine-chilling in its own right. Remedy’s design of this particular area and the concept of making light—Wake’s only safe haven in the full game—become the enemy is brilliant.

There will be cars. And they will fly through the air.

While true fans of Alan Wake will find more than enough to make them squeal with glee and shriek in fear, there are still two very substantial problems with The Signal that could make that 560-point price tag seem high: The Signal is very difficult, and it is very brief. Early in the chapter, a large cache of ammo and supplies is dumped at the player’s feet, rightly suggesting that there will be many enemies to contend with. And there are. It is very easy to get surrounded or hit from behind, which was one of the few frustrating elements of the full game. So regardless of the abundant ammo, The Signal almost encourages one to sprint from light source to light source in the interests of survival. This turns out to be the most effective strategy. The unfortunate consequence is that The Signal turns out to be very brief—no matter to those who get it for free, but perhaps a point of contention for paying customers.

What’s more, there is no real narrative extension here. The Signal opens with Alan Wake being trapped in “the dark place,” battling insanity. And, without spoiling the chapter, things are not very different at the end. The final boss battle, too, might prove disappointing for anyone who was let down by the full game’s last encounter.

As a free piece of DLC or as a paid download for hardcore fans, The Signal is a great addition to Alan Wake. But casual players might reconsider, especially if the first game did not offer them much enjoyment.


3/5

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Written by MarkP

I am a 32 year-old father of three--twin boys age 6 and a one-year-old baby girl. Gaming is a fundamental part of our family life. We game together. We talk about games together. We shop for games together. But we also each like different things. My preference is for shooters, action games, and RPGs. I have a degree in English. When I'm not playing games, I'm reading or writing.

One comment

  1. I was umming and arrhing over whether to bother downloading this or save the code for a lucky second hand buyer ….. Then I see from your caption that Barry reappears and my mind is made up….. 🙁

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