Friday, 22 October 2010

Alan Wake: The Writer DLC

After The Signal, Alan Wake returns in The Writer in it's final downloadable content package to clear some stuff up ... or if anything to make it all less confusing.

I don't know what it is with Alan Wake, but when I saw The Writer had been released I got really excited. Seeing as I thought the main game was average, these new chapters seem to appeal to me more and I don't know why. Instead of doing the same thing again and again one after the other, after a break the return to the gameplay and story feels like a strange 'coming home' of sorts. Except this is one strange home.

Alan is progressing through his memories more and we see the blurred line between the conscious and the subconscious. Forums are going wild for what this all means, who Mr. Scratch is and trying to assemble a linear narrative for it all but essentially they're missing out on something painfully obvious in this metaphysical nightmare. It's completely self-aware. It knows that the player is engrossing himself in this world and yet forgetting that essentially, none of this exists, that perhaps YOU are Mr. Scratch, playing with this character, controlling him. You think you're Alan, even though you're obviously not Alan - something the story keeps telling you. It's a smart, clever, post-post-modern way of looking at gaming that is different from films or a book. Films, books, TV programmes are PASSIVE, what Alan Wake draws attention to is the fact that you are the protagonist, that it is YOU deciding what happens, how far you want to take this etc. that you are interacting with this and as much as your character isn't Alan Wake, neither are you.

It's this jumbled up complexities that has put off a lot of reviewers, but what they don't understand is that this is quite a bold, enjoyable gameplay experience. In fact, this DLC chapter is one of my favourite chapters of the whole Alan Wake saga, perhaps my most favourite, because we are completely in the darkness. This is a horrible, strange nightmare where his dark memories are brought up, where the cabins turn around and around, where his house becomes some weird folding Inception style maze, where boats float through the sky and all the while making it fun to play. You can read so much into this if you want to that it could drive you mad, or you could just simply choose to play the game and still enjoy it. Luckily, it caters for both. It might be about an hour or two long, but it's enough to keep those fellow Wakers happy.

Story wise, Alan is just trying to get out of this nightmare with Thomas lending a hand, but at the same time confusing things further. The story is brought to a conclusion somewhat but essentially setting it up for a sequel, one which looks like he must try and write himself back to reality. It's an interesting concept of what is real, what isn't real and the idea of existing. Why are we watching someone trying to create a story where he can get back to the real world, when this isn't the real world anyway? Alan Wake is clearly a troubled man and I'm actually looking forward to seeing where it goes, I'm just not hoping for much of a conclusion.

DLC Rating: 8/10

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