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Alan Wake: The Signal DLC Review

July 26, 2010 | Posted by Todd Vote

The first batch of DLC for Alan Wake is here in The Signal. The Signal picks up right at the end of the main game. As a matter of fact, at the end of the main game, you may remember that things were a bit weird, with actual spelled words appearing in front of you, and having to shine your light on them to get the word to disappear and the item the word is describing to show up. This little mechanic is further explored in The Signal, as Alan is now trapped inside his own mind apparently, and his words for the novel Departure have apparently become jumbled. This is what explains the text in place of actual imagery.

Without giving to much away from the main campaign, I can say that The Signal picks up right where the main campaign ends, and we have Alan apparently trapped in The Darkness. Alan has to follow a GPS Signal that is sopposed to be left for him by Thomas Zane. You may remember Zane as the diver in the Big Daddy Bioshock suit from the first game who would pop in from time to time to help you out. If the messages are to be believed, it is Zane who is trying to draw Wake out of the Darkness.

But the Darkness is not giving up that easily. It has a few new tricks to draw you deeper inside instead of clawing your way out. For instance, every once in a while you will come across these TV’s that have Wake talking about something that is just about to happen to you in game. Sure enough if you see yourself on TV talking about cars and trucks flying at your head, cars and trucks are going to fly at your head. In addition the words you can light up from the end of the main campaign play a big part in the gameplay elements of The Signal. These words, while they may seem like they are only there to help, can also cause you a fair amount of grief.

For instance, from what I noticed, touching the words themselves will harm Alan, if you touch them before changing them to the item they represent that is. Secondly, just because the word tools appears, it doesn’t mean that tools are all you will see. From my experience a lot of these words act as triggers to release more of The Taken (people controlled by the Darkness). So choose the words you illuminate carefully.

That is not to say that all the words are bad, several come in handy and introduce another new element to the gameplay. There are words like fireworks and BOOM. Fireworks will shoot up a mini display right above the word and any Taken that are in the area are immediately made vulnerable. The word BOOM is probably the neatest new addition, as letting a group of enemies gather around this word then hitting it with your beam from the flashlight will cause just that, a BOOM; instant Taken soup. Other words that you will come across include flare, which will drop a flare for you. Flash, which will drop flashbangs, and recharge will drop batteries for your flashlight.

There is no more hunting for pages of a manuscript to get the story of what is going on, instead there are memory words to use. These memories are from the main campaign for the most part, and are sometimes even used to open the next area you need to travel to. It’s a pretty clever mechanic, the words, and I found myself wondering why they weren’t used more in the main game. They certainly add something to the gameplay, and keep things interesting.

The one problem I kept running into with The Signal was the lack of any new revelations storyline wise. There is a story here, and you get the gist of what you are supposed to do, but things are never really given a clear direction. Alan thinks one thing, Barry thinks another, and Zane offers yet another perspective. The game never really tells you which is correct. That tends to bug me a bit, as I am the type of player who likes a clear cut story with a beginning and a clear direction. That is something we are never really given with The Signal.

The 411:
The Signal is a satisfying addition to the Alan Wake experience, and has me eagerly waiting on the second DLC episode The Writer which is coming soon. If you enjoyed Alan Wake The Signal offers a few twists on the original gameplay that will keep things interesting for you. Clocking in at about 3 hours worth of gameplay, it is well worth the 560 MSP asking price. You can download The Signal starting on the 27th. Check it out.

+ New gameplay mechanics
+ New licensed songs

– Wish the new mechanics would have been in the original game.
– Lacking a bit in story

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Todd Vote
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