It’s been a long 10 years for Alan Wake fans — myself included. Like its protagonist, supporters of Remedy’s cult classic have been kept in the dark over the franchise’s future. A canceled sequel, alongside creative director Sam Lake’s desire to only revisit the character when the time was right, were all we had to go on until recently.
The announcement of an Alan Wake-centric expansion — AWE — for Control, Remedy’s action-adventure title, then, was music to my ears. AWE didn’t just confirm that Remedy’s rumored connected universe — an MCU style universe where Remedy’s games co-exist and cross over with each other — but it seemed like it would scratch my Alan Wake itch.
While AWE satisfied that craving, it ultimately fell short of my lofty expectations, especially given the high bar Remedy set with the base game and Control’s first DLC expansion.
Wake up, Alan
AWE finds Federal Bureau of Control (FBC) director Jesse Faden looking into Wake’s disappearance. After she receives a Hotline message from the famous writer, Jesse heads to the Investigations Sector — a region of the Oldest House, the FBC’s headquarters, that has been closed for years. As she seeks to uncover the truth behind the Bright Falls Altered World Event — an incident that involved Wake — Jesse is stalked by a monstrous entity that might hold the clues to Wake’s disappearance and the Investigation Sector’s abrupt closure.
From the get-go, Remedy isn’t shy about honoring its 2010 psychological action-thriller. Case files about Bright Falls, its townsfolk, and events involving Wake are scattered throughout the sector. Cutscenes, meanwhile, offer a glimpse into Wake’s world in the Dark Place. Judging by his disheveled appearance, he’s still struggling to escape even after the events of his own game. AWE knows how to tap into the nostalgia that fans have for Alan Wake, and each throwback had me smiling amid the expansion’s spooky atmosphere, intriguing puzzles, and serious combat scenarios.
Surge into the light
Speaking of combat, Control’s difficult firefights and boss battles return in AWE. A new enemy type — Hiss Airborne Rangers — shoot you from above, and their levitation powers enable them to dodge your own supernatural attacks. With rank nine foes present too, skirmishes can be overwhelming, and it can be easy to get gunned down if you aren’t alert enough.
Luckily, Jesse has some new upgrades of her own. Surge, a new Service Weapon mode, fires sticky grenades that can be attached to Hiss soldiers or the environment. Up to three grenades can be fired if you’re zoomed in — you only shoot one if you aren’t — and setting them off among a group of enemies is very satisfying. Each grenade feels meaty and packs a punch, but you will need more than three to take down AWE’s toughest enemies.
An upgrade to Jesse’s Launch ability, which allows you to telekinetically hold and throw up to three items at once, is a joy to use. You need to acquire eight ability points to unlock it, however, which is a shame as you can complete AWE before you have the chance to do so.
With the Darkness from Alan Wake bleeding over into the Oldest House, shining light on it is the only way to destroy it. AWE is full of lights for you to telekinetically grab and, alongside Control’s ray tracing technology, it feels like you really are burning this black, oozing substance away.
As fun and nostalgic as AWE is, there are some concerns. For one, the lack of variety in its boss battles was disappointing. The Shaded Dr. Hartman encounters are creepy and enjoyable to begin with, but I grew tired of running into him by the time AWE’s main boss fight arrives. It would have been fun to take on another Alan Wake foe — the tornado or Mr Scratch, anyone? — which would have given AWE more variety at its endgame.
The Altered Item side missions were not as difficult as those that have come before either. Each one seemed like ticking steps off on a list, and I felt little in the way of personal accomplishment by using my own ingenuity to complete them.
It might seem harsh to criticise Remedy over these elements. The majority of AWE’s development was conducted remotely due to Covid-19, and they were under time constraints to release AWE for Control’s one-year anniversary. I would have been happy, though, for them to take longer to improve these areas, even if it meant missing that deadline.
AWE gets Remedy’s connected universe off to a solid if unspectacular start. Control fans will enjoy more of the same content as before and, while Alan Wake fans may be slightly disappointed with this reunion, there is something to be excited about. Namely, an Alan Wake sequel, which is clearly teased at the end of the expansion.
This is only the start for Remedy’s connected universe and, based on AWE, I’m optimistic about where it will lead. If, in another 10 years, I’ve witnessed Jesse, Alan, and other Remedy protagonists fight side-by-side, I’ll look back on AWE as the start of something special. As it is, AWE is a fun romp that teased much but, in other circumstances, might have offered more.
7 / 10
|+||An enjoyable expansion that sets up Remedy’s connected universe|
|+||New powers and weapon ability add new elements to firefights|
|+||Alan Wake is back. What more could you want?|
|–||Greater boss variation wouldn’t have gone amiss|
|–||Altered Item side missions feel a bit too easy|