It was the start of a new decade and video games were wreaking havoc across North America. The Raincoat and Origami Killers were on the loose, couriers couldn’t make it to New Vegas without being ambushed and in Bright Falls, Washington, Alan Wake was having a lousy vacation. It was so bad it ended with him taking a writer’s sabbatical that would last for the next ten years.
And now he’s back (kinda, sorta, maybe)! Wake has returned to the light as the focus of Control’s new DLC titled AWE, the second following Foundation released earlier this year. AWE cements what Remedy constantly teased throughout the base game, that the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC) operates on the same plane of reality as that of its 2010 adventure game. It’s a delicious, extremely prioritized premise that many Remedy fans can revel in, even if it’s to Control’s own detriment.
Prompted by a new voice on the Hotline, later identified as the aforementioned missing writer, bureau director Jesse Faden makes her way into the Investigations Sector, a previously sealed portion of the bureau where Altered World Events (AWE) still masked in mystery were prodded, poked, and probed. But it was sealed for a reason, one that still stalks the sector where light is limited and darkness itself takes a tangible, terrifying form. Guided by Wake’s whispering, Faden must arm herself with the light and take control of the sector, deploying her skills and abilities as the darkness and discover the truth of what happened in Bright Falls all those years ago.
I played Alan Wake for the first time during the buildup to AWE’s release. While it’s Stephen King-esque approach to storytelling shows its age when compared to current, more sophisticated video game drama, it’s a very suspenseful outing full of fun gameplay, the progeny of what we enjoy from Remedy today. The game’s ending, abrupt and somewhat lackluster, could also be redeemed with an extensive expansion of the universe as is promised with AWE.
Side note: I also played American Nightmare. Yes, it’s very fun. No, it’s framed as an episode of Night Springs and is therefore not event canon. RIP comments section.
AWE delivers tenfold on that promise. Control is now overflowing Alan Wake lore. Everything from the scenery and the characters, to the primary antagonist and every piece of paper you find strewn across the sector, makes reference to the Bright Falls incident and its aftermath, all the while spoiling very little about the 2010 game. This is achieved via the FBC’s in-game process of classifying the information and it’s a stroke of coincidental genius.
At the same time, Alan Wake’s trademark tactic of revealing plot events and descriptions before they take place is here deployed via Control’s established distribution channels. It’s a match made in heaven and it delivers an extra layer of suspense to what is already (at least for me) a game dripping with atmosphere and is very scary. You can tell Remedy threw everything they could at getting this crossover to work, and it’s wonderful to see unfold. I very much hope to see Jesse and Alan team up at some point. The co-op potential of that? Yes, please.
As per the previous expansion, AWE adds a completely new sector to the FCB complete with tornado-spun office space, MC Escher hallways and the odd spot of fungus that needs to be cleaned up (Ahti’s still on vacation). Appropriately, there is a large emphasis on darkness. Many of the vast warehouse-sized rooms are poorly lit and the service tunnels you traverse are more claustrophobic than ever. The overall aesthetic is on-brand with some neat little details and diversions. Said diversions are some of Control’s best moments, as you run janitorial errands, send chain mail, and even looking for someone’s ‘head’ turns out to be loads of fun.
But about that darkness. You would imagine that in addition to the core mechanics of Jesse’s gunplay and telekinetic abilities, there would be new additions relative to the threat of the shadows. Some kind of light ability that would then play heavily into the environment. The expansion disappoints in this regard, as odd map obstructions that take the form of an oozing blob of black are dealt with by simply hovering and shining a flashlight over them.
Major enemy showdowns task you with to maneuvering through the dark as you try to find the light switch. There is a new form of gun in the form of a glorified grenade launcher, and provided you have enough ability points to spend, you can gain the ability to launch multiple projectiles at once. But that’s about it. You’re left thinking that Remedy could’ve done a lot more than this, especially when a major criticism of the previous Foundation expansion was that it didn’t switch up the formula enough. If you agreed with that, then AWE will leave you disappointed.
There’s also disappointment with the way Control completely neglects its own story. The bureau is still dealing with its Hiss problem. In fact, it’s difficult to establish what role the Hiss play in relation to Alan Wake’s darkness dilemma. Jesse’s brother Dylan is still in a coma upstairs. And with the exception of Panopticon caretaker Frederick Langston’s random thoughts coming through an elevator loudspeaker, none of Control’s other main characters are to be found in AWE. Alan Wake is here, and I’m very happy to hear from him, but not at the expense of the rest of the game. At the end after a very intense final showdown with the enemy, some kind of new expansion or sequel is dangled on a baited hook. I have no idea what it is exactly and I’m still excited, but Control’s standalone canon is too good to be ignored like this again. Hear my words, Remedy.
AWE does add a very good quality-of-life feature though. In the Investigations Sector, one will eventually come across a retro arcade machine. An Object Of Power (OOP), allows players to revisit previous missions of the game and engage in some battle challenges (the prize of beating them is that very snazzy Extradimensional suit Jesse’s wearing in the screenshots). It was an absolute blast to replay the Ashtray Maze and I just hope they add the missions from Foundation ’cause I wouldn’t mind a ride on the Swift Platform again too.
Remedy delivered on its promise with AWE and I can’t get enough of Control and the new DLC even if it does offer the same experience as before. The gameplay still kicks ass, the setting continues to be the definition of creepy, and the appearance of Alan Wake is a sweet addition that it is fabulously written into the greater universe. But like the original 2010 game, you’re feeling a bit dissatisfied at the end and wondering if there’s supposed to be more.
Last Updated: August 31, 2020