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This review was submitted by Katie Williams. If you’ve played The Signal, or just want to ask Katie more about it, leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Alan Wake: The Signal (360)
The Signal is here! The first episode of downloadable content in the Alan Wake franchise picks up where the title character’s ambiguous and tormenting journey left off; Alan’s disturbed subconscious is now beginning to bleed into the physical world.
Welcome back to Bright Falls: Revisiting the town in a new light (quite literally) doesn’t feel like a rehashed adventure at all; now beginning to deteriorate away in the Darkness, this once-innocuous rural town is more menacing than ever before. Town planning: Level design is excellent. Those strange, glowing words are back, and this time they can play a significant part in combat, too (words like “Boom!” can weaken and knock back enemies in a spectacular burst of light). The level designers did some creative things with light sources, using them to exacerbate the player’s growing fear of the dark.
An old friend: Barry Wheeler, arguably one of gaming’s most hilarious and well-written sidekicks, is back, and fans will be pleased to hear that he is given a prominent place in the episode’s story. Expect more amusing banter about Alan’s mental state and Barry’s allergies, affording you a small smile before you are once again engulfed by… The terror, the terror! The episode delivers more of the anxiety and mounting terror that the game is so well known for. Alan’s faltering mental state is manifested in this frightening version of Bright Falls, forming a haphazard playing field rife with dangers. The game also plays on the player’s notions of what is ‘safe’; at certain points in the game the flashlight, Alan’s shield against the Darkness, can now create further threats to pursue him.
Sound: The characters are perfectly voiced once again. Alan’s slowly maddening subconscious, portrayed on the numerous televisions that you will come across, will appeal to those who enjoyed the Night Springs television show and Pat Maine’s radio program. The ambient sound is flawlessly-timed for maximum tension, and the episode finishes with another fitting licensed song.
Even more obnoxious than before: The brazen product placement is back, disrupting player immersion like no other.
Gameplay versus story: While still enjoyable, combat outweighs plot development this time around, which can occasionally make defeating the unending hordes of Taken feel a little mindless. Supplies are a little too plentiful, which lessens some of the thrill of defeating enemies and sprinting towards that next Safe Haven.
Short and sweet: The Signal feels like a very condensed serving of the Alan Wake experience, and most players will have it finished in under two hours. Diehard fans of the original game’s narrative will enjoy the continued atmosphere and characterisation, but only if they’re not expecting much elaboration of the original game’s plot.
Free for those who bought a new copy of the game, this episode is well worth downloading. And if you don’t have the free download code, it’s still worth the 560 MSP price tag, especially if you are hungering for even more intense combat in Alan’s twisted world.
Reviewed by: Katie Williams
You can have your Reader Review published on Kotaku. Send your review to us at the usual address. Make sure it’s written in the same format as above and in under 500 words – yes, we’ve upped the word limit. We’ll publish the best ones we get and the best of the month will win a Madman DVD prize pack.