By TAN KIT HOONGintech@thestar.com.my
Alan Wake returns with its first DLC, The Signal. Is it worth the download?
IT IS just too bad that Remedy's Alan Wake didn't do better in terms of sales - it is certainly one of the game highlights of the year.
I blame it on the fact that it's a new intellectual property (IP), and that it was released at about the same time as the sales juggernaut that is Red Dead Redemption.
Be that as it may, if you haven't already picked up the game, you should certainly give it a try.
The latest DLC (downloadable content) for the game, called simply The Signal, has just appeared on Xbox Live and for those of us lucky enough to have bought early copies of the game, the 381MB download is free using the coupon code included in the box.
Wake up, Alan
The Signal picks up right where the main game left off - if you haven't played the main game yet, I'm giving a spoiler alert right now so you can stop reading if want to avoid spoilers.
Still here? Alright here we go.
Right after the events of the main game, horror writer Alan Wake finds himself literally trapped in the darkness, trying to write himself back into reality.
Before he can do that, however, he has to escape from a shadow world created by his own mind.
While it looks much like the town of Bright Falls where the events in the main game took place, this town is darker and more twisted, and only inhabited by shadowy representations of the people you've met.
Being DLC, The Signal itself isn't very long - you'll probably be done with it in under five hours - but it does introduce a number of new gameplay elements which greatly enhance the gameplay experience.
For example, Zane, the first writer who fell prey to the Darkness, helps Wake throughout the game by placing words in this nightmare version of Bright Falls.
These words literally float in space, and when Wake shines a torch on them, these words become real objects - for example when you shine a light on the word "tools," you get extra ammo and other goodies.
Conversely, if you shine a light on the word "enemy," a real enemy materialises.
This makes for some pretty compelling gameplay situations - in one level, you have to walk through a minefield of words, some of which will give you ammo, while most others will bring forth a horde of enemies when you shine a light on them.
Another cool level gives you words like "fireworks" and "bomb" which you can then lead enemies to and detonate them by shining a light.
There's also a GPS phone, which gives the gamer a small map with a blip on the screen that shows you where to go.
While similar to the direction arrow that showed you where to go in the main game, the constantly shifting world of Wake's mind occasionally causes the GPS to go crazy.
This is used to alert you when you are stuck in a particular arena where you have to defeat all the enemies before you can progress or to intentionally confuse you about where you need to head to next.
Other than that, all other gameplay elements remain the same - you need to shine a torch at your enemies break down their defences, then shoot them with your gun to destroy them.
Overall, Alan Wake: The Signal is a fun addition to the game and since it's free for most of us, it's well worth the download.
Even if you don't have the download code for it in your copy of the game, it's still worth forking over the 560 Microsoft points for the DLC.
While the game is more of the same, the minor tweaks to the gameplay has made for a more challenging playthrough than the main game.
My only complaint is that in the end, The Signal does nothing to advance the story of Alan Wake.
If you played through the main game, you'd know there are a lot of loose ends to tie up and The Signal does almost nothing to address this.
Pros: Tweaks make for more challenging gameplay; still lots of fun.
Cons: Takes only about four to five to finish; does not advance the main story.
ALAN WAKE: THE SIGNAL DLC
Third-person shooter for the Xbox 360
(Remedy Entertainment/Microsoft Game Studios)
Price: 560 Microsoft points (free code included with original game)