It’s no big secret that we are huge fans of Alan Wake around these parts. Not only have we referred to it as one of the best (or in some cases, the actual best) games of the year, but we also claimed that anyone who does not like the game is in fact, a racist murderer. Those aren’t accusations that we toss around lightly.
Naturally we were very excited for the release of The Signal, the first piece of Alan Wake DLC. I was more than ready for some more Alan Wake, no matter what form it took.
The question was whether or not The Signal would be enough of a fix for those jonesing for more Alan Wake.
The Signal starts immediately after the events of Alan Wake however I will try to avoid any spoilers here. I will say that in the end The Signal doesn’t do a whole lot to advance the overall storyline, but it’s still a well told tale that any fan of the game will enjoy watching unfold.
Many of the assets from the main game are reused here so you can expect to visit a lot of the same locations. You’ll go back to the town of Bright Falls, and of course back to the woods. There are some new places to explore as well. Besides the developers found ways to put interesting new twists on old locations, so it actually doesn’t end up feeling all that familiar.
In addition to revisiting many of the same locations, you will also be using the same weapons and items. In fact, there is not a new one featured here at all. However this doesn’t matter in the end because The Signal finds new and inventive ways to use these items.
Here there is a large focus on the floating word mechanic. This is when you encounter a word just floating out in the environment, and when you shine your flashlight on it, the matching item appears. If you see the word ‘Flashlight’, then you will receive a flashlight. It’s a feature that appeared in Alan Wake, however it’s really ramped up here and put to some great use.
One stand-out sequence has you running through the woods, surrounded by floating words. Some generate items that will help you out, however many others will spawn an enemy, or a group of enemies. So you have to tread carefully and make sure you don’t accidently create a swarm of crows while you were trying to get some more flashlight batteries. It’s a tense and well-done sequence, and it’s only one example of some of the unique experiences The Signal brings.
Now the above description may have given you the idea but I feel I should really mention this – The Signal is hard. It is harder than anything you encountered in the main game. It doesn’t just have hard spots, the entire episode from start to finish is difficult, and I was only playing through it on Normal. I don’t even want to think about what Nightmare difficulty would bring to the table. I assume it saves time and you just start the game dead. Thankfully things don’t get too frustrating, but be prepared to play through sequences a few times before you complete them.
If more Alan Wake is what you want, then The Signal certainly doesn’t disappoint. It retains all of the same great game play but finds creative situations to use it in. It should take you around 90 minutes to finish, which for the price you pay (free if you bought the game new, 7 dollars if you did not) is a pretty solid length. As with the game itself, this DLC is an easy recommendation and I look forward to the next piece, The Writer, which will hopefully be released in the coming weeks.