Stay in the light!
The first in the series of downloadable content for Microsoft Game Studio’s ground-breaking psychological thriller ‘Alan Wake’ is here. ‘The Signal’ continues the saga of the troubled writer as he struggles to find answers in the eerie town of Bright Falls.
Previously on Alan Wake…..Picking up almost immediately where the main title of Alan Wake left off, the first DLC episode, in what promises to be a long running series of downloadable content for Microsoft and Remedy‘s stunning psychological thriller, ‘The Signal’ arrives for the gamer and fan’s of the title with much to live up to, considering just how well the game was received by reviewers and players alike. Will Alan continue to tread boldly in the brilliant light of his trademark torch, or will the downloadable content for one of the year’s top titles leave the troubled author fumbling around aimlessly in the darkness? GamesMediaPro aim to find out in this the review of ‘The Signal.’ Read on to discover the fate of Alan Wake.
Considering that the shelf for the survival/horror title is looking somewhat scant at best of late, it was surprising then that Microsoft and Remedy Studio’s should decide on breathing new life into the asthmatic spluttering chest of the ‘Old Man’ of gaming genres. In an era where the first person shooter seems to be king, and the increasing encroachment on videogaming of the MMO, we commend the efforts of the developers to reignite the game type by giving the ailing health of the genre a much-needed ‘shot in the arm’ by creating and releasing one of the best and most original titles of the year in ‘Alan Wake.’
The original title was welcome return to the more serious side of gaming and was, thankfully, aimed at the more ‘mature gamer,’ as opposed to the younger audience and the online multiplayer . When we first received our copy in the post from Microsoft we were optimistic, to say the least, that our favorite of all the gaming genres was once again getting the attention that it deserved by some of the best developers and writers in the business. Did it disappoint? Not in the slightest! And the fact that the review team here awarded the title a well deserved ‘Perfect 10,’ is indicative of the sheer gaming pleasure that was felt by all in the office who were involved in the games review.
So when that coveted little code arrived, via the beautiful people over there at Microsoft, for the games first episode in its promised DLC you can only begin to imagine the arguments that ensued in the office regarding who would get to input the code on their profile to review the downloadable content? Such is the enthusiasm and love for the game. So we begin this review much as the DLC for Alan Wake ‘The Signal’ itself does with the recap. Previously on Alan Wake….
….for those who have not beat the original title we suggest that before you go any further in this review that you play the game in its entirety before you attempt to read this article as there will undoubtedly be a few ‘spoilers’ in here that may well detract from your experience of the game should you read on. With that out-of-the-way we shall continue with the review for those that have completed Alan Wake-The Game.
Now that you have survived your encounter with the games main protagonist, and discovered that you have, in fact, substituted your sanity as forfeiture for the life of your beautiful young wife, you find yourself once more in the familiar surroundings of the diner from whence you began your original adventure into Bright Falls. There behind the counter stands the same blank-eyed waitress, whilst cackling in the corner by the jukebox sit the aging rockers that you met in exactly the same scenario only a few days earlier. But there is something strangely different, something is not quite right with this picture. It is then that you notice that the though the setting and the characters are, indeed, the same figures and location, they are merely shadows and shimmering images of their former selves. hollow and fleeting like wisps in the forest.
Tasked almost with identical objectives as you were in the gamings tutorial, you push on through your ghostly surroundings as you stumble through the vapours in the diner towards the mens room, where you are greeted this time by a booming voice that emanates from the restrooms public mirror. Here you receive your instructions as the detached voice fills you in on your situation, and how you are best to resolve the matter if you ever want to make it out of this pit of insanity in one piece.
Using the games familiarity to return Alan to places where he has visited previously, and yet now must return to them to this time save himself is, in our opinion, a mark of genius. The settings and storyline take on a whole new meaning and with a new perspective as you must fight through the dark once more, this time with your sanity as the prize. Because the storyline of the title takes place in the nightmarish surroundings of a mind clearly struggling to retain its grip on reality, it gives the game the opportunity to remodel the familiar locations, as the darkness tries to claim the mind of the writer for its own. Previously visited areas are recognisable only because of the settings main features, as the darkness has ruined and deformed the area’s in its bid to claim the troubled penman.
The storyline itself is as good as anything in the previously enjoyed six episodes and, as a matter of fact, is probably the chapter where the game takes its darkest twist yet? Being that there is no real physical form for Alan to do battle with, the writer must use alternative forms of his previously used weapons to fight his enemies. For example it is in this episode that the torch truly becomes the weapon we always knew it could be, against the dark demons that lie in wait at every turn for the challenged author, and his pistols and rifles are altered so that the no longer require the normal ammunition that put paid to his foes in the original game.
The lightning and mood of the episode are one again ideally suited to the title as you find yourself in oppressive settings, the impending nightmare of unseen enemies lurking in the shadows sends tingles all along the nerve endings as you struggle to stay alive inside the hell that the developers have created for you so superbly. The lighting is claustrophobic as Alan continually has to feel his way through tracks and buildings never knowing what is around any given corner or lying in wait for him behind every door. Its worth noticing, however, that although the area’s that Alan has been to before are once again available for the writer to explore, there are also new environments for the author to investigate as he attempts to put the pieces together and solve the mystery that lies behind the town of Bright Falls.
With new collectibles and additional achievements also thrown into Remedy’s ‘melting pot’ you will discover a whole host of new plot twists that will give you clues as to the future episodes of the series, as well as maybe some answers to previously open questions. Alan Wake is a thoroughly enjoyable title from start to finish, and it is a credit to the developers and the games’ writers that they have continued the DLC in much the same vein as they began with in the original episodes. The quality of the writing is blatantly obvious to the gamer in the way that you really do find yourself becoming totally immersed and involved with the character. The way that Remedy have managed to bring together all the finest attributes of the horror genre, whether it be from the movies or the written word, and manged to incorporate them all into a videogame, is a true testament to the stunning level of quality that runs through every line of coding in this first-rate title. Not to forget the way that the developers have successfully utilised the serial format of other popular media. Every episode culminates in the stereotypical ‘cliffhanger.‘ Yet every cliffhanger leaves you yearning for more, and drumming your fingertips on your controller like a maniacal percussionist as you impatiently await the next downloadable episode in the smash hit series.
So, does Alan Wake : The Signal continue the titles’ success story in the same manner that its predecessor did? Absolutely, and then some. ‘The Signal’ is a sizzling addition to the series of spine chilling episodes that would not go unnoticed alongside horror classics from Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker should their literary works be translated into videogames. First rate entertainment from the new ‘Masters of Horror and Suspense’, the one and only Remedy Studio’s.
Graphics: Carrying on from where they have left off, Remedy Studio’s have put as much effort into the downloadable episode that they have in their original six feature episodes from the main title. The atmosphere is almost tangible as you stumble your way from one chilling situation to the next, throughout a maze of stunning renders patrolled by fantastically crafted and highly detailed NPC’s and characters. 9
Gameplay: Cracking stuff from the award-winning developers and writers as once more we find ourselves in the shoes of the troubled author as he struggles to hold on to his sanity in a hellish nightmare of chilling proportions. Truly great suspense, coupled with challenging gameplay and served with a side dish of terror. 10
RePlay Value: There is obviously so much downloadable content planned for Alan Wake, and so much of the story that has still be told ,that we have yet to even get to the end of the first playthrough. But there is no doubt in our mind’s that Bright Falls will be a place where we will be returning to in the future. 10
Presentation: Considering that the survival/horror genre is the ‘Daddy’ of all the gaming types as far as we are concerned here at GamesMediaPro, we are thoroughly impressed by all we have seen so far from the author. Alan Wake is quite simply the best that the genre has had to offer for many a year, and we have yet to get started with the title really? So deep is the storyline that this is one game that could literally run and run, and we hope that is exactly what Remedy and Microsoft have planned for the corking thriller. Everything about this game spells hit. The storyline, the characters, the atmosphere, the content, the plot twists the list is endless and we hope that the list of episodes for this gaming Tour De Force is too. Quite possibly the greatest game of the entire year for us here at GamesMediaPro. 10