The final DLC expansion for Control is here, giving fans a much clearer connection to Remedy Entertainment’s Alan Wake franchise. Revisiting the game for the AWE expansion brings a strange sense of nostalgia after reviewing it last year. While The Foundation builds up from what the base game offered, AWE takes a different approach. It builds a bigger sense of mystery and makes the player dive deeper into darkness; literally. Using Alan Wake’s core mechanic of using light to flush out the darkness, AWE continues both stories in an interesting way.
As mentioned, this DLC firmly establishes the connection to Alan Wake. While Jesse herself never meets the famous writer, she receives visions of him throughout her journey. These visions have Matthew Porretta reprise his role in a lot of cool sequences too. Interestingly enough, Alan seems to be aware of Jesse as well, though we won’t spoil that connection here. Taking place after the events of Alan Wake, the vision of Wake leads Jesse to the Investigations Sector of the FBC. In this sector, we find Dr. Emil Hartman, a psychiatrist from Alan Wake, but now in a strange and twisted form created by the Hiss and other forces, using the cover of darkness to survive. Jesse, now tasked with taking Hartman down, has to pursue him throughout the sector.
The Investigation Sector itself will feel pretty familiar looking. While The Foundation gave a very different environment, AWE utilizes a lot of the familiar offices and corridors we’ve seen. What makes it different is how Jesse must use light to explore and eliminate the darkness corrupting the sector. That being said, the sector makes great use of some of the space it adds. This is particularly in the rooms where you’ll fight Dr. Hartman, which mostly comes down to turning on the lights. Despite multiple fights, each battle consists of a different strategy, and the setting for each battle offers a unique experience. One of my favorites involves a certain famous conspiracy theory, which helps to build the world of Control more.
While the locations don’t mix things up too much, the expansion does still offer a few new features. As part of the free update that launched with it, players can now obtain a multi-launch ability. Now you’ll be able to hold up to three items at once, which can come in real handy. Perhaps even more notable is the new Surge weapon. Whereas the previous DLC gave new location specific abilities, AWE grants Jesse with a new sticky grenade launcher. While it’s not required for any part of the expansion, it is nice that we can use it in the rest of the main game too. Planting a grenade on an enemy and detonating it remotely feels right at home in Jesse’s arsenal.
Aside from the Surge weapon, players will end up playing with a lot of portable lights here. There are lumps of darkness and even plants that will need some light shined on them to complete optional missions. In the battles with Dr. Hartman, you’ll never use these lights, and you’ll instead power up generators to light up an entire room. During these sequences, dark areas will drain Jesse of her energy, and you’ll also become vulnerable to Hartman’s attacks. Staying in the light is essentially crucial for survival, so it creates quite the challenge sometimes. Despite the use of light and darkness though, it feels a little underwhelming here. It honestly could’ve gone much deeper to make a more unique experience, but ultimately, it just feels like more Control. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.
Speaking of more Control, AWE also offers a new arcade mode. This gives players three unique scenarios. One acts as a survival mode where Jesse must take on waves of enemies. Another one is more of a time attack, where you’ll need to eliminate 50 foes before the time runs out. Finally, there’s the boss challenge mode, which allows players to take on harder versions of previous game bosses. It even allows players to go through and replay the Ashtray Maze, which is good because this expansion doesn’t quite have a moment to match it. Completing these arcade challenges can grant some cool rewards, including the Extradimensional suit.
It’s great to see the Alan Wake connection grow, and the mysteries of the oldest house are always a delight. While the AWE expansion doesn’t do much to change the core mechanics of the game, it does offer a new area to explore, a new weapon, and a delightfully demented antagonist. I would’ve liked to see more creative usage of light and darkness, but thankfully the gameplay was already a strong foundation. At least we were able to revisit an old friend in Alan Wake, even if not directly. It does seem like AWE is more of a tease to something bigger though, especially after seeing the ending. We can’t wait to see what Remedy cooks up next for this universe.
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