Review by Sombrero_Shadow

Reviewed: 07/28/10

The Signal stands as one of the best Episodes in Alan Wake & one of the best Single Player DLC on the Market.

I’ll start off by ensuring this review will do it’s best to avoid all spoilers involving both the main game and The Signal. However, to describe the Signal involves a few select spoilers from the main game since it takes place right after the games ending, so we recommend if you want to avoid all spoilers to avoid reading this review until you have completed the game.

Alan Wake’s first DLC also gives us our first insight to the direction the series will be taking after the first game, or as Remedy likes to call it, “The First Season”. This you can either think of as an epilogue of things that have happened or a prelude for things to come. And lets just say this is far darker and twisted than anything in the main game, and as a result this single episode manages to be scarier than the whole game. While some may have not fully believed all the “madness” Alan talked about in season one where it sometimes felt he was exaggerating just how insane things were, during the struggle and madness of The Signal there was not a single time when playing I doubted how crazy this all was. Without spoiling too much, this episode will make you think over what the game taught you; Your flashlight is suddenly the enemy, objects you used as sources of information become sources of madness… This downloadable pack proves how much life still exists in the game mechanics that began to become a bit repetitive and stale towards the end of the main game.

The battles are also spiced up. There isn’t so much a constant stream of enemy attacks as more condensed fights between some story progression that actually take on whole new concepts that are both clever and fun. If you didn’t enjoy the battles in the first game you will not enjoy them here, but The Signal definitely has the most fun fight sequences between the episodes currently. Whenever it be in a valley of flashing light-post to a monster derby car fight, there are a ton of new twists on the combat sections to keep them fresh. Still the basic mechanics of the fights are the same and while I thoroughly enjoyed them and felt more kick-ass in this DLC than I did in the regular game (nothing screams awesome like bursting into a barn being chased by two monster trucks only to blow up some barrels and do a 360 in the air and skid to a stop while your chasers burn) I can definitely see how this wouldn’t change a person’s opinion on the fighting in the game if they didn’t like it to begin with. To note the final battle in this DLC felt more like a final boss than the final boss in Alan Wake did, though still different than what many gamers consider “Bosses”.

It is also worth mentioning the game does not have a selectable difficulty. The episode is just a tad shorter than the other episodes (though with much more packed into it) but the difficulty sits up there with being the toughest episode in the game. You’ll likely die more in this episode than you did in a game’s regular episodes, and while the difficulty sits in a nice spot with getting progressively tougher as you get further in (the enemies at the beginning take the number of hits as enemies on Normal difficulty do, which shifts into Hard, and then shifts towards the end into Nightmare), it would of been interesting to see a full Nightmare difficulty in this mode. The game also takes you through areas you’ve been to before but with new paths and ways around them, keeping it fresh and not feeling like a retread so much.

Even with more gameplay and focus on variety, the fighting is well mixed with both the bizarreness and story in The Signal. The funny thing is The Signal does not actually push the story any further than it was at the games ending. Without spoiling too much, The Signal really expands on Alan Wake as a character and the events of the game rather than pushing the story forward, though this lays heavy hints on where the series is headed. However what may disappoint some people is that this actually raises more questions than answers, and in tradition of Alan Wake it ends on a Cliffhanger. While this was kind of inevitable since this is but part 1 of 2 of a special feature (the second part, The Writer will release later and take off where The Signal left off) this will leave you wanting more and the thought that more won’t exist for maybe a few months can be daunting. However don’t let that discourage you, they packed a whole ton of cool things I won’t spoil into this episode, the story is still very interesting and expands many elements and further explains what happened in the ending exactly, all of the characters appear but in ways you may not expect, and Barry manages to be funnier than ever. It’s a good sign when something decidedly darker still knows not to take itself too seriously.

The music stands out even more in this DLC with new tracks that are even creepier and more haunting than ever and another wonderful and unexpected song to finish off the episode.

The Signal I firmly believe will become many gamers favorite episode in Alan Wake. I can even say those who weren’t too keen on the game thanks to repetition or some issues like controls or lip-syncing should give it a spin; The Lip-Syncing has been fixed and the controls have been refined for The Signal. Though the game released only two months ago it feels like Remedy really listened and many of the issues people had with Alan Wake have been addressed in The Signal. At the end of this you may feel yourself thirsting for Alan Wake more than ever. Whenever using the Redeem Code that came in the game box to get the game for free or for 560 Microsoft Points, the price is definitely worth the admission and the future of Alan Wake seems stronger than ever. While a bit short it is definitely worth the price of admission with new gameplay twists, new story, and manages to be scarier and one of the best episodes in the game.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Product Release: Alan Wake: The Signal (US, 07/27/10)

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