The Signal is the first DLC released for Alan Wake and is set directly after the events at the end of its story. As such if you have not played the base game yet you really should stop reading right now since spoilers will be inevitable and the story is worth experiencing yourself. With that warning out of the way, we start off back in Bright Fall’s diner, but something seems off somehow. Its inhabitants are slightly transparent as if not really there, the music in the jukebox is warped, and dialogue is randomly distorted. The whole scene is nearly exactly like the original game started up until we reach the restroom where Alan remembers where he truly is.
Upon remembering, the world turns violent and will do anything that it can to see him dead. This is not like the original game where you felt like John Rambo, you are now deep in enemy territory and can rarely stand your ground against the ever looming darkness. That is displayed immediately with a Taken bursting through a barricaded hole in the wall and up comes a ton more that were hiding around the diner. There is very little room to fight, and worse still is the fact that they are suited for melee combat while you are just an author that relies on a gun. You will either have to fight tooth and nail or run when possible, both being equally as dangerous since the enemy placement is far more unforgiving.
The world has no rhyme or reason anymore, what you see may not really be there and merely opening a door can lead to places you would not expect it to. It is a struggle traversing through this place with you having little idea if you are going toward the light or closer to the belly of the beast but knowing you must continue regardless. Thomas Zane will be your only ally and is your one source of hope of escaping. He gives you a phone with functioning GPS to lead you to a certain location which is where you will be traveling towards the entire DLC. Even he has little control of the events that occur here and can do nothing but try to guide you.
There is no equipment to be found, but somehow there are floating words that will spawn whatever they say if you flash your light on them. If it says “tools” it will give you supplies, if it says “bridge” it will summon one and so on. Not all words are good however, you may end up spawning enemies, traps or hazards if you are not paying attention. Even though you can spawn supplies at times, the world itself is having none of that and they occasionally spark into existence near a sloping ledge where you must hurry to gather what you can before they roll off. Every aspect of this place wants nothing more than to see you dead and as you may imagine it will not be a fair challenge to the player but man, is this a wonderful idea that easily beats out anything the base game had to offer in my opinion.
You have your flares, shotguns and all the other weapons/items that were in the original with no new additions. Some of the locations are familiar though corrupted to the point of feeling completely fresh while others simply feel straight out of a fever dream. Alan still is terrible at running and can’t go for long without needing to catch his breath which is still annoying but adds to the nearly palpable desperation you will be feeling just to stay alive. As one would expect from Alan Wake, the plot is really interesting and this is vital to the overarching story. It is not a pointless spin-off or something along those lines. In total it lasted me about an hour and a half while leaving behind many collectibles to avoid being decapitated by pursuers. The Signal is simply an amazing add-on that is well worth playing.