Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Alan Wake: The Signal

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            The first of two currently announced downloadable content (DLC) packs for Remedy Entertainment’s Alan Wake, The Signal begins as with what had originally been stated as it’s intention; bridging the gap between the first and second seasons (read: disc-based releases). Picking-up directly where the first game finished, including the recap of previous events, The Signal fits will into that “feature episode” pigeon hole that Remedy had previously address in terms of form, but for all it’s immaculately crafted packaging, function is an entirely different matter.

            Handed a torch and a gun within moments of beginning the game and thrown straight into combat, Remedy obviously understands that it may be some months since players last visited Bright Falls, and what to bring them back up-to-speed as swiftly as possible. A familiar location therefore acts as the starting point, but beyond here it’s mostly new environments. And this is perhaps the best feature of The Signal, as while the new areas are of course constructed from reused assets, they’re just as enticing to explore as those in the original game.

            Alan Wake was most comprised of four mechanics; exploration, combat, puzzles and story progression. While the first and last basic principles are just as well placed as in that on the disc, the puzzle element has been removed entirely from The Signal. Aside from hunting for the collectables, unlocking those importantly unnecessary Achievements, The Signal is purely a linear trudge interspersed by a handful of combat segments, and while Alan Wake’s combat is enjoyable, it’s hardly firm enough ground to become the game’s principle mechanic.

            While Alan Wake’s plot may have been flawed, the premise of a writer trapped by his own written word is undeniably strong enough to warrant further exploration. The Signal seems to take the literary connection a bit too far however, turning that which was a contrived though excusable minor element of the original game and basing a fundamental gameplay mechanic on it. Barry may return to add some comic relief, but The Signal is just about as pretentious as videogames on this generation of hardware are likely to get.

            As much as stepping back into the shoes of Alan Wake feels compelling, The Signal just isn’t deep enough to be considered a intelligent use if the opportunities afforded by DLC. Maintaining the TV series mentality of the original release may certainly be the perfect way to package the expansion, but when the content fails to deliver the resulting product is simply little more than an interesting cover on a trashy Horror novel. The Signal has a lot of style, but with little substance.

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