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Alan Wake's The Signal Review: A Short Dash

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Psychological thriller Alan Wake hit the Xbox 360 a few months back delivering a taut, deftly-written experience that straddled the line between television and video game.

The disc-based game was broken into chapters that open and close as if they're television shows, and the game itself wrapped with the sort of cliffhanger expected in a television series' season finale. The Signal is the next chapter in the game, promising to drop the protagonist, writer Alan Wake, back into the thick of a nightmarish Bright Falls, struggling against familiar enemies.


Can a single episode push the story enough to make it worth the time and, if you only own a used copy, the money?


Free For Most: It seems rare these days for a developer to give something to gamers. That's not exactly what Remedy Entertainment is doing here, but it's pretty close. People who bought the game new and held onto their freebie code don't have to pay a penny for this add-on. People who bought the game used can pick it up for 560 Microsoft Points. Not bad for an hour or so of gameplay.


Refresher: This latest addition to the travails of writer Alan Wake kicks off with a succinct summary of the full game, delivered in a series of short cut scenes with a voice over. Even those of us who completed the game that first day will find ourselves quickly sinking back into the fiction of the game. There are some nice new additions to the game, some clever design, but mostly it's an hour-long reminder that the series has a lot of loose ends to tie up.


Slim Pickings: While I loved the mechanics of gun-play and flashlights in Alan Wake what really sold me on the game was its sharp story, probing examination of the main character and fun plot twists. Unfortunately this extra chapter relies a bit too heavily on gameplay and not enough on story. There is a neat little vignette here, one that manages to both move the story forward and also still leave you dangling at the edge of a metaphorical cliff, but it's not nearly as satisfying as I had hoped it would be.

Free? Absolutely! Even $7 is worth the price for fans of the game. What I'm less willing to put up with is the wait between chapters. Come on Remedy, either deliver these faster or give them more heft.

Alan Wake's The Signal chapter was developed by Remedy and published by Microsoft for the Xbox 360 on July 27. Retails for 560 Microsoft Points unless you have the code that came with a new copy of the game, then it is free. A download code for the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through the entire chapter in a bit more than one hour.


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