Alan Wake: The Writer Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360
Alan Wake: The Writer screenshot
Alan Wake: The Writer screenshot

WARNING: The Writer is a narrative-heavy addition of content, and discussing it without referring to plot developments from the previous games is nigh on impossible. Proceed with caution if you've yet to play Alan Wake, or its first special feature, The Signal.

Poor old Alan has been given a hard time of late. He's been labelled as pretentious, arrogant, and irritating - in addition to a host of other words that aren't fit to repeat. He seems to be especially unpopular here at VG towers, with certain members of staff frequently quoting him in derogatory tones. I'm one of the few people that defend the trendy hoody-wearing writer, hence why I've been given both pieces of DLC to review. I get it, you see. I'm in tune with it. It's like Lost in that respect, you need to immerse yourself in it to enjoy it, at which point it opens itself to joyous debate and theorising. The people that hated on The Signal (of which there were many), perhaps, didn't 'get it'. And I fear this could be the case with The Writer, too. Don't listen to them though. They're wrong.

As with the first special feature, The Writer finds Mr Wake jaunting about the depths of his subconscious; a place referred to as the Dark Place. No, not Garth Merenghi's hospital, but a selection of environments from Bright Falls, warped and twisted by Wake's dangerous imagination. While the first special feature had Barry chaperoning the writer through his nonsensical wasteland, this time he's replaced by Thomas Zane, the poet that used to live at Divers Isle. Other than dropping speculative hints about Alan Wake 2, Zane's purpose is to guide Wake to his body, which is asleep at the Cabin. The rational part of Wake's mind is trapped in the Dark Place, whilst his physical (and mentally unhinged) self is trapped in the real world. The object of The Writer is to reunite the two.

The DLC starts in the garden of Dr Hartman's lodge, with Wake looking to find a route through to his old pal Barry, who is jabbering on about something or other behind a locked gate. Finding an alternate route round, Wake is reunited with his torch (you get the heavy duty torch from the off this time) and then it's a simple case of following the waypoint on your compass. You're off to a lighthouse this time, which can be seen shining away in the distance for the majority of the game. You can take the odd detour to search for Night Springs video games (the equivalent of coffee flasks and alarm clocks), but like The Signal, it's a fairly linear affair.

The Writer takes the abstract gimmick introduced in The Signal and runs wild with it. Shining your torch on glowing words littered about the dark environments will transform them into tangible objects, like a bridge or a ladder. This mechanic is integrated into combat too, prompting you to use words like 'boom' and 'crumble' to create environmental attacks, capable of destroying large groups of Taken without even having to pull the trigger. One of the several new achievements asks that you survive the approach to the lighthouse without firing a bullet, where the aforementioned mechanic really comes into its own.

This is just one of several memorable set pieces, all of which are squeezed into a comparatively small piece of DLC. One section finds Wake moving through a rotating wheel of rooms, with apparitions of characters from the game shouting cryptic nonsense as he plods through. As it turns, gravity rolls objects that previously blocked the way, and opens doors that it once held in place. You'll jump down holes that were once skylights and defy the laws of physics by running across ceilings.

It's far more surreal than anything Wake's mind has conjured up previously, a fact that his rational mind is well aware of. His subconscious is no longer bothered about masking the Dark Place as reality, which has allowed Remedy to go to town with the physics and abstract mechanics. This allows for some interesting character development too. A therapy session between Dr Hartman and an imitation of Wake with a TV screen for a head is particularly impressive, plunging further into the depths of Wake's unstable psyche. As a character, Wake is more chilled out this time around. He has come to terms with the fact that his subconscious is running wild, and is less of a whinger because of it. His confidence is refreshing.

I'd like to describe the fight preceding the last cutscene, but for fear of spoilers I'll simply say this: the last moments of gameplay are fantastic; a whole lot better than fighting inanimate objects in The Signal (this, incidentally, is kept to a minimum in the Writer). The cutscene itself, whilst slightly predictable, is also incredibly fitting and will make Wake fans grin ear to ear with excitement. The DLC as a whole doesn't take long to complete, a couple of hours at the very most, but it's incredibly well paced, peppered with memorable set pieces, some narrative bombshells and just the right amount of combat to stitch everything together. It's much better than The Signal. Depending on the tastes of the critic, The Writer might not review so favourably (it could be perceived as a bit waffley). But as a fan of Alan Wake, hopefully speaking to other fans of Alan Wake I can tell you that The Writer is immensely enjoyable.

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12 Comments

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Eartha's Avatar

Eartha

actually it's wonderful
Posted 02:40 on 19 June 2013
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams@ El-Dev

It's perfect as well!
Haha ;)
Posted 19:47 on 18 October 2010
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev

Don't really give a pish about the game any more, but anyone who thinks Alan Wake is a style icon can be happy in knowing that Next have just the item for you.
Posted 11:37 on 18 October 2010
clangod's Avatar

clangod

I have chosen to heed the warning and not read any further as I haven't finished Alan Wake, nor have I got any of the dlc for it yet.

Looking forward to it though. Brilliant game.
Posted 04:55 on 17 October 2010
Karlius's Avatar

Karlius@ Jamin

Just completed it. All I can say is brilliant. Rounds things off nicely. :)

Got a few more achievements to do and as it's rather manageable and enjoyable I'll most certainly be after them. For me it has to be completed 100% to ensure I don't miss anything not many games I feel like that about, so far Gears 2, Fable 2 and now Alan Wake.
Posted 18:25 on 15 October 2010
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams

I'm extremely happy that they've been so clever with their implementation of DLC. The last piece was awesome, and I'm sure; from this review; that this will be just as awesome.
I'm all happy now :)
Posted 16:25 on 15 October 2010
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls

Crikey, Jamin's on attack mode this week :omg: People want games to move forward, then hate on Alan Wake for literary comparisons just so they can say "ohhh it's all so obvious, why not quote <random author nobody has ever heard of> instead!?". Shame Lost still sucks ;p

I'll prrrobbably buy this, because Alan Wake was one of my favourite games this year, and the Writer is more or less exactly what I wanted to see in DLC. 560 points is fair enough, I just hope I have enough space xD
Posted 14:29 on 15 October 2010
Jamin's Avatar

Jamin

Oh it's definitely easier. There's an achievement that asks that you complete a certain section without firing a gun, and I wasn't sure where this section was, so did the whole game like it. Didn't die all that often, and still completed it in less than two hours. So yeah, easier for sure.
Posted 14:18 on 15 October 2010
Guy_M's Avatar

Guy_M

I was quite late to the Alan Wake party, only picking up the game recently when i found it at a reduced price. I didn't really fancy it at the time of launch but having played it now it is without doubt one of my favourite games on the xbox. It's one of the few games of recent years with a storyline that actually engaged me and kept me hooked all the way through. It's right up there with The Mass Effect series in my opinion.

My purchase also proved to be quite timely because i finished the full game and then just a couple of days later, The Signal came out so i used my free DLC pass to get that too! Now i am really keen to find out how the story ends and the above review has clinched it for me, i will be downloading The Writer as soon as i get home! I am especially glad to hear you say that there is 'just the right amount of combat', i think Alan Wake is at its worst when they lay on the fighting too thick, it obviously serves a purpose but at times it does feel like it's getting in the way of the story, especially with the limited variety of taken there are in the game.

Talking of DLC, i'd like to commend Remedy/Microsoft for the approach they've taken with Alan Wake, i've never been much of a fan of DLC in the past and very rarely download it, but giving away The Signal for free with the game naturally meant i would give it a go and get more sucked into Wake's world, and now The Writer is out i am more than happy to pay a few extra pounds to see how the conlusion of the game unfolds. More companies should follow this example.

Finally, i'd just like to agree with you about doubters being utterly wrong about Alan. VG staff may refer to him as pretentious, arrogant, and irritating and you know what, he is all those things, but that is precisely why i love him!! it all depends on your persepctive!

Sorry for the massive post, i hardly ever comment on articles and when i do i tend to get a bit carried away!

One question though, what is the difficulty level like in The Writer? i found the Signal to be a bit of an unnecessary step up compared to the games itself and was hoping they would try to balance it back out for The Writer!
Posted 13:54 on 15 October 2010
scaz2244's Avatar

scaz2244

looks like im going to have to get this now and ive always been happy to download alan wake dlc as its not expensive and is the right price for add on ontent 560 points is good imo.
great review jamin
Posted 12:18 on 15 October 2010
Karlius's Avatar

Karlius

1st of all you're right, doubters are all wrong.

Secondly you have really got me wanting to play this as a massive Alan Wake fan. But I need to give it the time and set my environment right. (Darkened room and surround sound set with no possibilities of interruptions)

I have purposefully avoided any prior reviews for fears of spoilers but as always with yourself and VG there are none and were no worries that there would be.

Lastly great review I really can't wait to experience the ending of this chapter.
Posted 12:04 on 15 October 2010
dazzadavie's Avatar

dazzadavie

Great read, nice review with no spoilers, I was going to wait till payday before getting the points for this but bugger it going to download now. The wife wont be happy ;)
Posted 12:02 on 15 October 2010

Game Stats

Alan Wake: The Writer
8
Out of 10
Alan Wake: The Writer - No boxshot available.
  • Several memorable moments
  • Just the right amount of combat
  • You'll need to concentrate to follow the plot
  • Over in less than two hours
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 12/10/2010
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Remedy
Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: Adventure
No. Players: One
Rating: TBC
Site Rank: 2,969 1571
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