An integration of the Control and Alan Wake universes is an incredibly exciting premise on paper. AWE promises this as the final DLC for Control, but the execution doesn’t meet what was possible. At the end of AWE, I felt excited about any future exploration of these universes, but underwhelmed about what I had just played.
Control: AWE is an easy premise to sell. Alan Wake, Remedy’s cult classic supernatural action game is integrated into the world of Control, arguably Remedy’s best game. There were hints in the original game that Alan Wake at least took place in the same universe as Control. AWE thrusts the Alan Wake character into the center of attention… at least initially.
The story begins when Alan Wake “contacts” the main character of the game, Jesse Faden. Alan Wake leads Jesse into a previously unexplored section of The Oldest House, which is the main explorable area of Control and is essentially a paranormal version of a Federal building where there are haunted entities and objects.
A New Foe
You soon find out that Dr. Hartman, an antagonist of Alan Wake, is terrorizing The Oldest House. He isn’t the same as he was in Alan Wake, instead being transformed into a truly unnerving dark energy manifestation that resembles a slender-esque figure. For a majority of the expansion, you will chase Hartman through The Oldest House trying to catch and defeat him.
The areas you do explore still hold the same level of detail and atmosphere as the original game. The environments in Control are truly some of the best this entire generation and while AWE doesn’t necessarily introduce anything new, they are still a pleasure to explore. There is a feeling of unease you get while exploring The Oldest House, as you never know when the ‘Hiss’, the game’s paranormal enemy type, will appear.
There are notes and audio logs littered throughout the environment and they are excellently written. In most games I eventually ignore any written item after a while, but I made sure to explore every possible corner to make sure I didn’t miss anything in AWE.
Find The Light
While a lot of this DLC is a continuation of the base game in terms of environment and enemy type, AWE does introduce a few gameplay mechanics inspired by Alan Wake. Light and darkness is a big theme in the roughly 3 hours it took me to beat the game. You will use light sources in the environment to clear out a type of dark energy that might block off something you need to access. Fans of Alan Wake will remember this as similar to the flashlight mechanic in that game. You will also need to stand in the light during a few segments to recover energy, parallel to the mechanic found in Alan Wake.
The combat mechanics are largely the same from the base game, and they are still excellent. Control is a third person shooter with a supernatural twist. Jesse wields the Service Weapon, a versatile weapon that can transform into a pistol, SMG, rifle, and more. You have the ability to use telekinesis powers to hurl objects from the environment at enemies. You can also dodge, create a shield for yourself, and levitate to rain shots from above.
The Hiss are the main non-Hartman enemy returning from the base game. They are a mix of bog standard soldiers, flying enemies, and tougher shielded enemies. They are not the most original enemies but they are engaging and present a decent challenge. Control is Remedy’s best combat to date and a large reason why AWE is enjoyable to play through.
Stumbling in the Dark
The game does falter throughout in a series of disappointing choices by Remedy. Alan Wake is present in the game, but he isn’t around very much. You see him in a few cutscenes and in game projections, but other than that he isn’t a factor in the story outside of the notes you read.
In an expansion that is roughly 3 hours, he appears for less than 10 minutes. It doesn’t give the character enough time to do anything interesting, and he mostly feels like background noise rather than an important character. It is disappointing that he wasn’t fleshed out, and the end result leaves AWE feeling more like a prologue than a substantial full fledged story.
The encounters with Hartman are also an issue. He is a terrifying character and truly makes each encounter intense, but his presence quickly becomes tedious. A majority of the time you encounter him will be a scenario where you have to connect power to a nearby light source in order to get rid of him. You cannot damage him in the dark, so there is no way to deal with him unless he is directly in the light.
This means for a lot of the game you are dashing between small sources of light in the area, avoiding the darkness at all costs, trying to restart the power in order to light the entire room. This isn’t a bad gameplay scenario by any means, but it quickly loses its intended effect. It feels like Remedy ran out of ideas with how to make Hartman an interesting enemy other than placing him in the exact same scenario repeatedly.
There are also two Hartman encounters in particular that are much harder than any other encounters in the game. The difficulty spikes during these scenarios, and they end up being more frustrating than engaging. This was an issue with the original game too, where specific encounters were much more difficult than the rest of the game. It was easy to forgive a few scenarios from a 15-hour game, it is much harder to forgive them in a 3-hour DLC.
The game ends with a very cool tease of what might be in the future of both Control and Alan Wake, and there are a lot of interesting lore pieces to absorb. I left the game feeling excited to further explore what Remedy is trying to do, but also felt like they left a lot on the table for this specific experience. This truly feels like more of a prologue than anything substantial. There was an opportunity here to make something great and it is more or less just any okay experience
Control AWE is an enjoyable game, but didn’t live up to to what was possible. The base game is a fantastic experience, and coming back to Control’s world is a good way to spend your time. Having Alan Wake integrated into the world of Control is great, but it feels like there could have been a lot more done with his character. Maybe one day we will get a full fledged game out of this concept, but for now we just have a decent experience that doesn’t live up to the premise.