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I admit, the first time I heard the title of the first Alan Wake DLC I immediately flashed back to the end of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman starring Michael Keaton where Commissioner Gordon (played by Pat Hingle) and DA Harvey Dent (played by Billy Dee Williams) are having a press conference to comment on Batman’s actions against the Joker. Dent says that Batman gave them a letter saying should evil ever rise again to strike against the good citizens of Gotham, to call him. Alexander Knox (played by Robert Wuhl) immediately asks, “How do we call him?” and Gordon steps in and yells “HE GAVE US THE SIGNAL!”
Okay, so great childhood movie moments aside, Alan Wake’s “The Signal” DLC picks up right where the main game ended. Serving as the seventh “episode” of the game, it opens up refreshing our memories with the “previously seen on” trailer utilized through the main game and explains exactly what happened at the end in case we weren’t too sure. Alan has succeeded in saving his wife Alice by destroying the darkness’ avatar in the long deceased Barbara Jagger, but in the process has trapped himself within the darkness. Now, in a twisted and constantly shifting dark mirror of Bright Falls, Alan must find a way out of the darkness before succumbing to the encroaching madness while also figuring out what new presence Alan is fighting against that is using shadows of his memories to try to steer him off the proper path.
In order to keep Alan from losing his way, a familiar friend from the main game will immediately intervene upon the start of the new episode. BATMAN! No, sorry, couldn’t resist. Thomas Zane, the first writer who fell victim to the temptations of the darkness, returns in his light bulb decorated diving suit warning Alan he is walking a dangerous path and imparts onto him a new flashlight and a cell phone (chock full of Verizon product placement just like in the main game as well). Zane orders Alan to follow the phone’s GPS signal (hence the title of the DLC) to a safe haven in the darkness where they can discuss events up to this point and try to work out a way for Alan to escape. It is here that Alan begins to square off against some familiar foes as well as some new obstacles as he tries to escape the darkness and unravel the mystery of why he became trapped after saving Alice.
If you enjoyed Alan Wake the first time, then this DLC will only prove to suck you back into the enthralling story with another twist ending that will have you counting down the days until the story’s conclusion DLC “The Writer” is released in September. And if you thought the enemies were difficult before, “The Signal” only ramps up the intensity by throwing more at you in this single episode than were probably in the entire main game. Luckily, some of the twisted and unusual areas you stumble across in the dark mirror of Bright Falls have some environmental helps that can even the odds and help you save ammo.
Added into this DLC is a dynamic you saw in the darkness at the end of the main game where typed words were floating in the air and if you shined your light on them, they came into reality. Now though, instead of simple scenery, you’ll need to rely on this dynamic to help find extra ammo, batteries, and maybe trigger a few traps for the possessed shadows looking to drag Alan into eternal darkness. Of course, the words can also be used against Alan as sometimes “enemy” or “possessed” are floating around as well and this can make your life even more difficult if you’re not careful with your flashlight during a fight. Could the words be a way of Thomas Zane and this mysterious new presence battling each other over Alan? Maybe we’ll find out in “The Writer”.
All in all, the only downside to this DLC is that it is only about the same length as any single episode from the main game and should not take most gamers more than 90 minutes to blow through. There is some replay value in that the DLC does include an extra eight achievements worth 250 possible Gamerscore and they will most likely take you two or three playthroughs to collect them all, but aside from that, those just obsessed with the story won’t have a lot to come back to this for. Then again, for a DLC that was free to everyone who bought the game brand new means I can’t really complain about the lack of product. As of now though, “The Writer” looks like it will cost users 560 Microsoft points (about $8) in September so if you want to get the full ending of Alan Wake, it will cost you a few extra bones in the end.
With the same great voice acting and graphics and more of the tremendous story that can’t help but suck you in, I don’t see how anyone could not want to download this free DLC. As for “The Writer”, well, you’ll just have to stay tuned here for our full report. Same Alan Wake time, same Alan Wake channel! I couldn’t help myself.