Review: Alan Wake – The Signal (Xbox 360)August 4th, 2010 | Written by Josh Schwartzman | Topic: Reviews, Xbox 360
For those of you who have played through Alan Wake you probably know of the obscure and “open to interpretation” ending the developers said will leave gamers talking. Perhaps this was a brilliant marketing strategy by Remedy to release sets of downloadable content to enhance the story of Alan Wake and possibly reveal answers that so many gamers are scouring online for. While The Signal is an adrenaline filled fight to the finish, the story is as confusing as ever, and those fans hoping for some conclusion to Alan Wake’s madness might have to wait a bit longer for a concrete answer.
The Signal begins with Alan Wake entering Bright Falls and stopping at a diner to find the person who has the keys to his cabin. You might remember this scenario from before as it is the same opening as the main game, but things soon start to get weird when every person you come into contact with turns into a hologram, and shadowy figures emerge from every corner to cut you down. Thomas Zane, the mysterious figure who haunted Wake’s mind through the original campaign soon contacts Wake and tells him to follow a GPS Signal, thus sending Wake on another quest to search for clues to help save his sanity.
The story in Alan Wake has always been one of the shining spots of the game; however, it seems that The Signal throws away that concept for a more combat oriented approach. The story in The Signal is never really apparent as Wake just seems to move from one light source to the other in search of this mysterious signal. There are neat little ambiences such as typewriter words that appear before Wake that materialize into real objects, the same way Wake imagined objects to life at the end of the game, but these segments are not used as often as fans would have hoped.
TV stations however have gotten more use as players can still view shows on various television sets that help explain your current situation. These are always fun to sit back and watch as they offer a nice break away from the mayhem and allow players to truly understand the madness that has befallen Wake. In any case, Wake really does not make any sort of connection with any characters in The Signal, as most of the time is spent fighting off shadowy figures, enemies who have been consumed by the darkness.
These shadowy figures will harass you constantly throughout The Signal, but it seems that Remedy thought to make some of these segments more difficult just to mess with you. For starters, even though the game slows down to show you exactly where the enemies are coming from, you still have to deal with the occasional slash from enemies off screen and enemies who seemingly appear from out of nowhere and attack you, even when the music and atmosphere dies down to let you think the coast is clear. These moments actually seem more prevalent than in the main game, which is quite weird since Remedy seemed to remove the excellent balance and pace of the story and combat from the main game into a chapter that is heavily focused on combat.
There are some new changes to the combat however that make these moments more fun to manage than simply aiming your flashlight, shining away the darkness and then blasting enemies down. Because of the darkness that has consumed Wake, even his trusty flashlight will spawn even more enemies to fight against him at some points during combat, thus making him decide how best to tackle these tough new situations. Impressive locations also make some of the fighting lots of fun to utilize new environmental hazards and floating objects to take down enemies which adds a little more depth to the standard fighting mechanics.
The Signal is a great addition to the Alan Wake story but there is not enough here to really understand the reasoning behind it. At only about two hours long and filled with more combat than actual exploration moments, The Signal feels like a waste of potential that could have been used to further enhance the confusing ending to the story and finally answer some questions as to what happened with Wake and the darkness. In any event, fans will surely see The Signal as a step in the right direction to the next downloadable content, The Writer, which is set to release sometime later this year. Hopefully that episode will help shine some light on the mysteries surrounding Alan Wake.