Remedy have crafted plenty of outstanding narrative-driven video games in their time (with Control actually being a fine example of that), but Alan Wake has always been the one that stood out to me the most. The mysterious story of a crime-fiction author suffering from writer’s block, who decides to try and rekindle his creativity by visiting the town of Bright Falls but then somehow ends up in a thriller of his own when his wife ends up missing, was certainly a high point of the developer’s back catalogue and one that many gamers (myself included) have been itching to see more of.
Imagine how bloody brilliant it was to see these events referenced in Control then, with the stories of both games interconnected in a newly established universe that looks to brings Remedy’s titles together. Control: AWE, the final piece of DLC for the game, is the first cog that ties them together properly, with protagonist Jesse crossing paths with Alan Wake himself and uncovering the mysteries that connect Bright Falls with The Bureau.
The core gameplay experience of Control: AWE will feel familiar to those that played through the main campaign, with not much changing as far as your abilities or the environments you explore are concerned. This was actually a little disappointing, especially since the connection to Alan Wake could have opened up so many different possibilities – instead, players see similar locales to those they already explored throughout the Bureau previously.
That’s not to say that there isn’t some freshness to the experience though, with new elements introduced to its boss battling that really utilises the Alan Wake lore in a meaningful way. The main foe you face off against in Control: AWE is Dr. Hartman, a psychiatrist studying the effects of Bright Falls’ Cauldron Lake that first appeared in Alan Wake (and survives unscathed) but that ends up falling victim to its vicious Darkness this time around.
Anyone who has played Alan Wake will remember there’s only one way to defeat this darkness: by using light to stop it. This means you’ll spend your time using whatever lights you can find to keep Dr. Hartman at bay during your many encounters with him, with Jesse’s telekinetic capabilities and some quick-thinking required to keep him from tearing apart the Bureau. It’s a really neat concept and one that’s implemented in a clever way that feels befitting of both Control and Alan Wake’s core gameplay mechanics. It’s a real credit to Remedy that they managed to capture the vibe of both games together so perfectly and it really makes me excited for the potential that the new shared universe has.
There’s also a new grenade launcher to use that sees its ammunition stick to enemies and your surroundings (which is as fun to use as it sounds) whilst an additional enemy type will also keep you on your toes. There’s also the new ‘Arcade Plane’ that brings with it a horde mode, time-trials, and new challenges based around the main game, giving players a fresh way to approach previous events and re-visit some of their favourite moments. Admittedly, it’s not a mode I’m too invested in myself (I’m here for the new content), but it’s still a nice addition that’ll give gamers more ways to approach Control’s finely crafted gameplay experience.
One thing that’s worth noting is that gamers who haven’t played Alan Wake probably won’t appreciate Control: AWE quite as much. The DLC is littered with references to the Alan Wake game, its events, and locations, whilst things such as the collectibles you find and side missions are all interconnected too. The same goes for the ending, with the conclusion of the roughly two-hour story offering the sort of tease that’d excite Alan Wake fans but not necessarily those who are unfamiliar with his adventure.
That’s not to say that those who haven’t played Alan Wake won’t necessarily enjoy it, but they might not appreciate it quite as much and could even find themselves underwhelmed that it doesn’t offer a bit more variety when compared to the main game outside of the constant Alan Wake references.
Control: AWE offers an enjoyable two-hour romp that fans of Alan Wake are sure to love, even if it doesn’t make the most of the source material in all elements of its design. Sure, battling Dr. Hartman and the darkness is great, but I’d have loved to have seen a bit more of Alan Wake’s world woven within the experience too.
Still, with its brilliant blend of gameplay mechanics and countless nods to Alan Wake, Control: AWE really is quite special. It might only really appeal to those that played Alan Wake before, but, as a big fan of the title myself, it has left me very excited for the future of Remedy’s shared universe.
Publisher: 505 Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PC