Wake up and smell the ashes.
If Alan Wake taught me anything, it's that writing is a dangerous profession, even more when you are in a place where things you scribble down on paper become reality! The Writer, Alan Wake's final 'special feature' downloadable content, dives head-first into Alan's psyche, delivering a solid chapter in Wake's journey to sanity.
[image1]Those who played through The Signal know how badly it all went down for Alan in the main game's conclusion. Trapped in the Dark Place after saving his wife, Alan began blending reality with his own twisted thoughts, basically imprisoning himself inside his own head. The Writer picks up shortly after The Signal, with our favorite writer beginning to understand just what is really going on. Thanks to Thomas Zane, another writer victim of Crystal Lake... I mean Bright Falls, Alan learns the reason of his entrapment all the while traveling through some pretty bizarre re-imaginings of past locations.
This might make Remedy look lazy, but The Writer reuses a lot of locations from the original game. That said, everything is used extremely creatively in this DLC. You'll still visit key locations from Alan Wake, but in a completely different context, since it all takes place inside Alan's head and through his memories. For instance, you'll be making the same trip to the power plant from the main game but you'll traverse through inside a man-sized hamster wheel. Weird, I know. Instead of having a whole lot of combat like in The Signal, The Writer is really more of a theme park ride, a strap-yourself-in trip on a roller coaster. It's easy to see some Max Payne influences in The Writer, especially those alluding to Max's drug-induced sequences.
It's cool to see the little nods Remedy makes to the original story, with Alan's interpretations and deductions of some of the supporting cast's intentions. There are plenty of humorous exchanges too, which are probably best left unspoiled. It's also funny to see how the collectibles are delivered this time around, in the form of Xbox 360 game cases for the fictional 'Night Springs' TV series. Picking up games within a game that takes place inside a writer's head? You betcha. Some of the Achievements included in The Writer will reward you for exploring every nook and cranny, while others might make you go insane yourself. Like playing through the entire thing with no deaths?!
[image2]The pacing is one of The Writer's biggest strengths but also the means to what some might consider its greatest weakness. The two hours or so that you'll spend to play through this DLC is some of the best segments that Alan Wake has to offer, thanks to the disturbing ideas Remedy has come up with to demonstrate how troubled Alan's mind is. Pardon the pun, some might just write off The Writer due to how quickly it can be completed. That argument is easily brushed off by how well the story and atmosphere are delivered. The Writer does a great job of telling what it was set out to - an extended look into Alan Wake’s story that sets up the possibility for a sequel.
Alan Wake already had an incredible story that ended with a painful cliffhanger on its own and both supplemental DLCs help fill that gap, in an engaging trip through an increasingly insane mind of a tired writer. The entry fee is might seem steep at 560 Microsoft Points but be warned, finding a way out might cost a little bit more...