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Further reading, films and books that create similar stories:
Alan Wake The Writer 360 departs reality altogether as Alan sinks deeper into his own madness. While this surreal dreamworld contains some impressive set-pieces, The Writer lacks much of the compelling atmosphere of the core game.
To address this DLC I'll be openly referenceing plot and gameplay from both the main Alan Wake game and the first DLC installment, The Signal. I'm also going to presume you've read those earlier reviews and are up to speed with Alan Wake, Bright Falls and the mysterious Dark Place.
That said, let's dive right in. As of the end of The Signal, Alan knows that he's essentially fighting himself in the Dark Place, battling his own delusions and insecurities to rebuild his sanity. The Writer, then, sees the Dark Place as pure dreamscape as Alan fights his way through level after level of his own personal torment.
Although the landscape is predominantly made up of assets from the main game - conveniently for the developers, Alan's nightmares all seem to derive from his very short term memory - they're bolted together in an almost entirely surreal way. Buildings float in a smoky void, up becomes down, and shape and size are distorted and overlap.
This nightmarish landscape is reminiscent of the Scarecrow scenes in Arkham Asylum, especially in the sections where swinging lights sweep through the landscape - although unlike the Scarecrow's baleful gaze, this light is on the player's side, obliterating Taken on contact.
There are some memorably trippy sequences, and The Writer provides a fun but brief (Wake veterans will tear through it in two hours, no problems) runaround with the usual torch/gun defensive skirmishes. To their credit, the two DLC add-ons provide a great deal of depth to Wake's character, dredging through his insecurities.
My favourite aspect of Alan Wake was the atmosphere of the real world, of the mountains and forests around Bright Falls.
In taking Wake through an internalised journey, developer Remedy fulfilled there promise that the DLC wouldn't pre-empt any full sequel, and indeed he ends The Writer pretty much where he began, albeit having gone through some solid character development.
Setting these downloadable 'Specials' inside Wake's head is a neat narrative trick that means anyone who misses the DLC won't feel robbed if they move straight to the sequel, but it does leave me a little cold.
For all the supernatural elements and voiceovers delving into Alan's mental state, my favourite aspect of Alan Wake was the atmosphere of the real world, of the mountains and forests around Bright Falls. That sense of getting lost in the American wilderness at night, stumbling across isolated camping spots where radios pick-up late-night talk shows, is entirely missing from these more surreal outings.
The dreamscapes of The Writer may have imaginative flourishes, but they're just not as interesting to me as those very distinct, tangible locations in the main game.
It doesn't seem like Alan Wake has done well enough to justify a sequel, although I hope I'm wrong.
Sadly, it doesn't seem like Alan Wake has done well enough to justify a sequel, although I've been wrong before and I hope I'm wrong now.
If so, it's a shame: while the main game was far from perfect, it's one of my games of the year (and it's only because Fallout: New Vegas is looming that I'm hedging my bets with that watery 'one of').
Like Fallout 3's Capital Wasteland or Resident Evil 3's Raccoon City, I find myself itching to revisit Bright Falls and its surrounding wilderness, to experience its unique atmosphere again.
Just as it's landscapes are twisted shadows of Bright Falls, so The Writer is a weaker reflection of the core game's appeal.
If you love Alan Wake as much as I do, then you'll want to get The Writer for sheer completism's sake, and you'll enjoy playing it. But just as it's landscapes are twisted shadows of Bright Falls, so The Writer is a weaker reflection of the core game's appeal.
If The Writer really is Alan Wake's swansong, it's an enjoyable but slightly weak note to go out on, one that doesn't really showcase the property at its best. Fingers crossed that Microsoft gamble on a full sequel, and that this isn't the last we see of Alan Wake.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: