X360A Review: Alan Wake's The Signal DLC
Written Wednesday, August 04, 2010 By Nate Gillick
Alan Wake may have emerged victorious in his first battle against the mysterious dark presence of Cauldron Lake, but he isn't yet free of the darkness. Picking up after the conclusion of the core game, Remedy's first DLC expansion to Alan Wake finds the titular writer embroiled in a battle against the darkness of his own mind. To survive, he'll have to follow the advice of his friends and make use of that trusty flashlight against hordes of Taken. Players can expect a well-paced narrative with the exceptional dialogue Alan Wake is known for.
The Signal kicks off with Alan inside Bright Falls' Diner, wondering what's going on and why he isn't free from the darkness. For the first third of the episode, players will be spending most of their time retreading areas already explored in the main game, which in itself is a little disappointing, although it does make sense in the context of the episode's story. Once Alan finally ventures out of the central Bright Falls area, the episode begins to find its feet.
Rather than mix things up by adding new weapons or items to the mix, Remedy has used their experience to make the environments in The Signal perhaps the most well crafted of any in the game. Wandering through the woods or an old saw mill remains as unnerving as ever, with many locations specifically designed to provide great set-piece battles. Rarely in this episode will players feel like they're wandering from one place to the next, only to be interrupted by periodic random appearances of Taken. The focus on more carefully crafted battles, and an increased emphasis on the use of the environment to defeat the enemy, are two design decisions we sincerely hope Remedy continue to play up in future Alan Wake expansions or sequels.
Achievement hunters hoping to be free from collectables after finding those 100 coffee thermoses will be disappointed, as two new collectables arrive in The Signal. Six cardboard standees of different characters can be found, each with their own amusing information on them, making them fun to find. Also in the mix are ten alarm clocks, which are every bit as pointless as the coffee thermoses, but at least their distinctive tick-tock sound makes them easier to find. The "Fast and Furious" achievement may be annoying to players trying to obtain it on the first try, as it's not clear which battle is the final one until it's over. There is however a fair amount of variety in the 250 points added with The Signal, which could be obtained in a single run of the episode, but most players will probably have to play at least twice to get through without dying, find every collectable, and finish the final battle fast enough.
Clocking in at roughly 90 minutes, The Signal provides varied set piece battles across diverse settings that are well designed to maximize the tension Alan Wake is known for. Despite the retreading players must endure in the beginning and an abrupt conclusion, The Signal provides well-polished action worth picking up for anyone who's already completed the core game.
If you've not played Alan Wake yet and want to see what all the fuss is about, then check out our review of the full retail game.