Review by bbears
"The best episode yet."
Alan Wake: The Writer is the second DLC for the horror third person action game Alan Wake. The original was an atmospheric adventure that was limited in scope but had a compelling narrative that kept you interested. It had an ambiguous ending though begged for more content. Developer Remedy didn't disappoint and released the the first DLC Alan Wake: The signal. Unfortunately that content was lackluster and didn't go anywhere or answer any questions, what most people wanted at the conclusion of the main game. This second DLC is a direct continuation of the first expansion however it is both more original and gives the game a proper ending. It has it's flaws and this bite sized content is overpriced but if you enjoyed Alan Wake then picking up The Writer is worth your time.
The Writer has the same assets and engine that ran the original Alan Wake so has all the strengths and weaknesses of the that game. Namely the amazing lighting engine and environments contrasted by poor textures and character designs. Some environments are recycled again but you will see a lot more new territory this time around compared to The Signal. Despite the familiarity of everything the developers did a great job of creating unique set pieces and being very imaginative. You are still stuck in Wake's mind so you will frequently find the world all jumbled up or exit one room and find yourself in someplace completely different. The sound design is also very similar to the previous content. The great sound effects and all the voice actors return.
The control set up for The Writer is the same as the original game. The original had a few odd design choices like the sprint button placement. The biggest issue of Alan Wake though returns in this DLC, the camera. The camera is free third person perspective controlled by the player. Frequently in the action sequences, especially when doing the flashy dodge maneuver, the camera will find the most inconvenient spot to find home. But now not only do you have to contend with the camera during combat but also during the new but poorly implemented platforming sequences. The interface in Alan Wake was clearly never designed for platforming and depth perception is a big problem in these sequences which are cool but quickly just become frustrating.
Alan Wake: The Writer picks up right where the The Signal left off. This DLC is however much better written and has a sense of direction. Alan Wake is still trapped by the dark presence in his mind, but is now aware of it. Thomas Zane now plays a bigger role in the story and kind of replaces Barney as you sidekick. Throughout the DLC he leads you onto a lighthouse where you must find a cabin. The Writer is much less action focused and tries to convince the player that you really are just going insane. This is told in a great and convincing way, better than even the main game. However, the Wake's narration actually becomes a hindrance this time. A lot of story has to be read between the lines and having Wake state the obvious constantly ruins some of this and breaks immersion.
The Writer plays largely the same way that Alan Wake did. A third person action game where you are always dual wielding a flashlight and one weapon. All enemies, even inanimate objects (which become quite animated), are surrounded and protected by a shadowy shield that must be destroyed with a light source. This is where the flashlight comes in as way to destroy that shield and then use a firearm to finish them off. The combat is overly repetitive and thankfully is less of a focus this time around. The visible narration that was in The Signal becomes an even bigger focus this go around. Shining your light on these floating words drops whatever they were describing into existence. This is used heavily and almost feels like an artificial way to increase the length of the game as it only slows you down and doesn't add anything to the experience. The new platforming sections are great in concept but playing them felt more like a chore. Very little of the gameplay in The Writer is actually enjoyable and feels more like an interactive story.
Alan Wake: The Writer is again oddly priced at $7. This is way to expensive as the DLC can be completed in under ninety minutes with almost no challenge. In fact expect to make it through with out dying once. Achievements again are also pathetic and there are no worth while collectibles or manuscripts this time.
Alan Wake: The Writer is one of best episodes of the whole Alan Wake experience despite all it's faults. If you enjoyed Alan Wake then this DLC is worth your time even if you haven't played The Signal. However try to find it on sale as $7 is too much for a hour and a half of content.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/10/12
Game Release: Alan Wake: The Writer (US, 10/12/10)
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