Alan Wake is both a psychological horror and a tragedy. It’s the former within the text, but the latter in real life as it never achieved the attention it deserved. But it’s finally been given some much-needed life a decade later in the Control AWE DLC. Even though it contains traces of fan service, it goes well beyond that by lovingly mixing the best of both strange worlds while holding ambitious, grander implications that recontextualize the past and give hope for the future.
Despite those juicy implications, AWE is still very much Control with the same positive qualities, all of which this DLC carries over or builds upon. Combat is kinetic and balances power and ammo management to ensure that players switch up their playstyles and play aggressively. The Hiss Airborne Rangers type and sticky grenade launcher aren’t radically unique, but are welcome variables and fit right into the game’s enemy lineup and weapon arsenal, respectively.
Checkpoints are more evenly spread in AWE, too, meaning that the game’s difficulty is no longer as punishing or tedious. Backtracking to the spot where you died is almost never an issue and that cuts down on a lot of the fluff that the game was original plagued with. This is particularly helpful during the boss battles and tougher skirmishes.
This also applies to the entire experience as well as the accompanying update adds not only new checkpoints, but also a whole host of accessibility knobs that further let players tune the experience to their liking. The Multi-Launch ability is also a part of the free update and stacks up launchable objects. It is quite an expensive power, which limits its use if you haven’t banked a ton of skill points, yet its inclusion opens up more possibilities during fights. AWE doesn’t solely benefit from these game-wide changes, but it benefits nonetheless.
Filling in the missing manuscript pages
Combat is an excellent, twitchy balance to the cerebral parts of Control’s world that provoke an undeniable sense of wonder and amazement. The new Investigations Sector is about in line with the other parts of the Oldest House, meaning that it’s still completely out of line from settings in other video games. The sterile office environment collides with its otherworldly elements that are brought to live via its lore-filled collectibles and bizarre side missions.
Like those found in the main campaign, the collectibles do a splendid job of teasing the unusual in partial, out-of-context ways. This method gets the brain juices flowing since you’re supposed to do the work of mentally piecing it all together yourself. They’re brief and well-written enough to devour at every opportunity and redacted in key ways to ensure that you don’t always get the full picture. Finally stumbling onto the subjects of the collectibles is a worthy payoff for those paying attention, as you’ll know a few things about them, but not everything about them.
And that gap of uncertainty after all of that reading is what gives Control its unbeatable world-building. The incomplete version of the world allows for a sense of wonder that is refreshing in a medium where many narratives are either weak or explicitly spelled out. AWE continues that trend and makes good with some utterly out-there side objectives worth digging into that balance their absurdity with a healthy amount of comedy. AWE’s Altered Items and Altered World Events aren’t quite the best in the game — especially after the killer ones in The Foundation — but they do fit right in and are always highlights, no matter if they’re a possessed arcade machine or an impatient being that speaks only in hilarious gibberish.
Taking a page from Wake’s book
Colliding with the Alan Wake universe is what elevates AWE from just being more Control. As was hinted at in the main game, both share a universe, bound by the same weird science and unexplainable phenomena. Control adapts well to the author’s world, adopting its horror roots and obsession with light and dark.
Whereas Wake used a simple flashlight and occasional flare to cast away the darkness, Jesse uses her suite of supernatural abilities to move light around and achieve the same effect. Certain dark areas can even weaken Jesse, causing her abilities to wither within the shadows. This creates hotspots that you must quickly dash between in order to survive, sewing tension as you piece together how to illuminate the room while avoiding the terrors that thrive in the void. Playing with light doesn’t diminish what makes Control Control. Instead, it aptly displays what makes Alan Wake Alan Wake and is an efficient and effective combination of the two titles.
The story hooks are just as harmoniously conceived. Alan Wake was special because of its literary storytelling that felt as though a smooth-voiced narrator was reading the audiobook version of the game’s story to you while you played. It utilized the descriptive nature of the written form to create a more vivid tale usually only reserved for books.
Wake doesn’t narrate as much but his words do take up enough of the tale, adding more texture to the odd events at hand. It still has enough of those aforementioned gaps and is quite dense, which is where the Control half comes into play, and these two styles blend beautifully. Each method’s strengths fills in the other’s shortcomings.
Picking up the pen again
But what’s being told is just as impressive as how it’s being told. Wake’s trauma is immediately evident and seeing how he has transformed over the past decade is fascinating. However, all is not lost. Disheveled but holding onto the smallest shred of hope, his persistence and ingenuity (which both play vital roles in the story) are a stark reminder of why he was so beloved in the first place, even if he probably hasn’t showered or shaved since he last visited Bright Falls.
Those ensuing years aren’t as shrouded in mystery either since some of the collectibles divulge what happened after Wake disappeared. Interview tapes, redacted reports, and more all yield more details on the Bright Falls incident and those around it from the FBC’s perspective. This approach grounds it in Control’s side of the universe while also yielding tantalizing nuggets of information that are compelling in their own right, but doubly so for Alan Wake fans that have been starved since American Nightmare. It doesn’t require a deep understanding of the Alan Wake games to make sense, but it does greatly benefit from it, especially when zooming out to see where the breadcrumbs are inevitably leading.
Control AWE DLC Review | The final verdict
AWE is an awesome, wondrous expansion with an Alan Wake experience that appropriately weds earlier Remedy titles with Control. Reuniting with the tortured author after nearly a decade in the Dark Place isn’t just fan service as Control works Wake’s universe in there naturally while fusing it with its own style that stretches from its mysterious narrative to its fast-paced combat mechanics. The result is an piece of DLC that intelligently borrows from Remedy’s two best franchises, provoking awe at every turn while laying the groundwork for a bright, exciting future for the studio’s next suite of games.
GameRevolution reviewed the Control AWE DLC on PC. Code provided by the publisher.