At the end of Alan Wake, gamers were left scratching their heads and wondering “what the hell was that all about?.” The first piece of DLC for Remedy’s thriller picks up directly where the game all so suddenly ended but isn’t the story concluder that some may have wanted it to be. The Signal is more of a side mission than full episode and offers a little more playtime with the finer points of the game. However, it also shines the flashlight of unavoidable truth on the less pleasing aspects, making them seem all the more annoying. Read on!
Like all episodes that preceded it, The Signal starts with a montage of key events, reminding you of the tasks you’ve done and are about to do. Wake is trapped (spoilers!) in the world of darkness after saving his wife and he’s doing everything he can do get back to her. Good old Zane – the diving suit wearing spirit guide – is on hand to help and lead you out of the darkness, into the light. The other worldly realm Wake is forced to reside is much like the reality he’s trying to return to, only in here everything is twisted. One of the first locations Wake visits in The Signal is the diner he and Alice stopped near the beginning of the game. The same scenario plays out in front of him that did so on his first visit but this time, the residents are ghostly in appearance and speak with a disturbing twang. Revisiting areas you’ve already played to find them distorted somehow is a major part of The Signal. Notable plot points in those areas are also replayed to help Wake continue his efforts for freedom. Because Remedy created such a fully realised world, going back to paths once trodden is like catching up with an old friend. So much detail was put into making Bright Falls feel like a real town that it was a pleasure to see familiar buildings again and how they differ in this world. It’s still a very creepy place to be and the great sense of tension that Remedy did so well with the full game is just as thick in The Signal.
However, the familiarity of combat is a bit of a mixed blessing. One problem with Alan Wake was that it was all too easy to become swamped with enemies. The DLC is plagued with the same problem and is heightened by the additional monster closets. Nearly every fight I got into featured the spawning of an enemy directly behind me and was something that became very frustrating very quickly. It was a shame because the feeling of shooting and use of the torch is so very satisfying that having a hindrance to that enjoyment is just bizarre. But when I did hit that sweet spot with combat, shooting flares at a group of foes and dodging attacks with mere millimetres between face and hammer reminded me of why I put up with the pain. It’s a lot of fun and combat is the real focus of the DLC since the storyline is no less convoluted. Plenty of baddies to waste and possessed objects to burn in the torchlight makes up for the obscurity.
While is was evident in the main game, The Signal really shows off how much of a jerk Wake actually is. His comedic partner, Barry, returns to help Wake the best he can and is met with sarcasm and spite. Not a nice guy. To be honest, I may have gone into the add-on hoping to make more sense of the story but came out not really that bothered about the fate of the troubled novelist. Though even is I was I wouldn’t have had anymore answers to my questions. Getting to journey through Bright Falls again and having those enjoyable moments with combat made the 90 minutes a worthwhile way to spend my time. But the cheapness of enemies and feeling like I wasn’t really going anywhere with the story soured the mood slightly. If you bought the game new then The Signal is free and a good way to spend an hour and a half of your gaming time. For those who didn’t, 560 MS Points (£4.80/€6.72/$7) is just about right for the amount of content and fun you’ll get out of it. Just about.
Entertaining and worthy of your time but still room for improvement.