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Review: Alan Wake: The Writer

Susan Arendt | 13 Oct 2010 13:00
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If you read my reviews, you know that I thought Alan Wake was fantastic, but its first batch of DLC, The Signal was a near-complete waste of time. The main game interspersed satisfying chunks of story with tense combat sequences, maintaining tension throughout. The DLC, on the other hand, was just one fight after another, and while the combat was well done, the lack of story elements made The Signal feel off-balance when compared to the original game. I was worried that The Writer, the final batch of DLC, would take the same approach, but it delivers exactly the ending that Alan Wake should have.

Alan is still trapped in the Dark Place, fighting figments of his imagination and trying to survive. With some help from Thomas Zane and moral support from his agent Barry, Alan is finally starting to figure out the truth about his situation. To say more would spoil a very satisfying conclusion to an excellent story; suffice to say that Alan doesn't have an easy road ahead of him.

The Writer's mix of combat and story feels very much like the main body of Alan Wake, but it's not nearly as tense. The Taken that attempt to block your way aren't things to be feared now so much as they are obstacles to overcome - they are all that is standing between you and the answers you so desperately seek.

The main game of Alan Wake had a few opportunities to use the environment to deal with the Taken, but mostly it came down to you, your flashlight, and some firepower. The Writer, on the other hand, not only gives you plenty of different spots where you can use your surroundings to your advantage, but also pretty much demands that you do. The combat sequences are intense, and batteries seem particularly scarce this time around.

The one gripe I have with The Writer is that Alan is apparently suffering from some sort of balance-inhibiting inner ear infection. There isn't much platforming to be done, but what little jumping you have to do is almost always over some kind of bottomless crevasse. You'll more than likely fall to your doom a few times before mastering Alan's particular version of jumping in a straight line. He's not a very good judge of distance, either, and should probably think about consulting an optometrist.

Once again, there are collectibles to find - this time, it's copies of the Night Falls videogame, but for once, I wasn't really compelled to track them all down. The Writer is so much about closure, about Alan finally coming to terms with everything that's been happening to him, that taking time out to hunt around for random junk seemed incredibly silly. Many players undoubtedly have felt that way the entire time, but for me, I felt like I knew less in Alan Wake, so looking around more made sense. We know that The Writer is the end of Alan's journey, so it feels far more urgent than anything that's come before it.

I'm not usually one of those people who believes that you have to play all of the DLC in order to experience the "real" version of a game, but in this case, it's true. Alan Wake is an excellent game all by itself, but with The Writer it's a complete and satisfying story. If you enjoyed Alan Wake, you simply must play The Writer and learn how it all ends.

Susan Arendt is waiting patiently for Remedy to announce an Alan Wake spinoff starring Barry. She'd play it.

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