Alan Wake – The Signal DLC Review

“The Signal” is available July 27, 2010 on Xbox Live. It’s free for those who purchased a retail copy of Alan Wake (you should have a download code), and will be 560 MS Points ($7) for everyone else

Alan Wake came out in May, and I reviewed it. Here’s a one sentence summary: it’s a visually stunning and engrossing psychological thriller, starring a writer who looks like Fox Moulder (especially while holding a flashlight), whose wife goes missing while they’re on vacation in Twin Peaks Bright Falls, a pacific northerwest town in the woods, where weird stuff is happening, like this story Alan doesn’t remember writing is coming to life in the town, and there’s dark shadowy beings trying to kill Alan, and it gets a little repetitive, and ends kind of inconclusively, but was all together totally awesome.

Alan Wake – The Signal DLC (XBox360 [Reviewed])
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: July 27, 2010
MSRP: $6.99

“The Signal,” the first DLC pack in a string of two more to come from developer Remedy later this year, picks up right where the game ended. Alan is alone, still fighting the shadowy Taken in Bright Falls, and he’s confused and misses his wife. Enter: Thomas Zane, a voice of reason in Alan’s head, and a man with a plan. Like Wake, Zane is a writer who has faced the Darkness himself. He offers to help Alan, and advises him to follow “the signal”…his phone’s GPS signal. Seriously.

You spend the majority of the 1-3 hour expansion fighting your way through different environments in Bright Falls, following the GPS signal as you inch your way closer and closer to Mr. Zane’s underwater-sounding voice. The GPS thing is a nice overarching gameplay element that ties the whole episode up into a forward-moving “level.”

The actual gameplay hasn’t changed in any major ways. There is a nice new focus on using environmental elements to kill the Taken, though. For instance, there’s an action sequence in a basement, where you can lure Taken near furnaces, and then use the flashlight to explode the furnaces for a satisfying burst of light. This is a good thing, too, because there seems to be a lot more enemies in The Signal. They attack in merciless crowds, and you’ll actually have to master using the environmental triggers in order to survive. It’s pretty intense and it’s good fun.

The Coffee Thermoses and Can Pyramids from the first game have been replaced by a new set of collectible items: 10 Alarm Clocks, and 6 Cardboard Standees. Collecting them unlocks a couple of Achievements. Speaking of which, there are 8 new Achievements in The Signal. There’s some nice replayability for a DLC here.

I think my favorite thing about The Signal, though, is the return of Alan’s dude-bro Barry Wheeler. Barry is just a ghost in The Signal, a figment of Alan’s imagination. But that doesn’t stop him from bothering the crap out of Alan, and then turning this on Alan by reminding him that it’s his imagination that created him. There’s some good verbal sparring between the two throughout the episode, and it’s fun to watch.

Another welcome addition to The Signal is the fact that there’s something approximating a Boss Fight (yeah, with caps) at the very end. This was kind of missing from the first game, and The Signal’s conclusion is a challenging, welcome change in that department.

The Signal is kind of a no brainer if you played Alan Wake. It continues to add layers to the nicely crafted story, and while it offers a couple of answers, it also raises some new questions. Are we all kind of hooked on Alan Wake’s story at this point? I feel like the whole “episodic” approach is working wonderfully. It feels like a game, and also kind of like a TV show you care about. Anyway, we’ll be sure to provide reviews for the next two DLCs later this year. Stay tuned.

Barry Wheeler
Nice new focus on environmental triggers
Cool progression in the story

Game has some of the same quirks (i.e. switching to a weapon when you pick it up)
Combat is still a tad frustrating when you continually get pummeled from behind
No new enemies

Overall Score:

Overall Score: 90/100

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