Control AWE DLC Review: It's An Ocean After All
In the first expansion for Remedy's 2019 award-winning New Weird shooter Control, players learned much more about the origins of The Oldest House. But with its second and final DLC, AWE, Remedy sought to do something much more ambitious.
If you've been following the Control storyline by now, you know it exists in a shared universe with Max Payne, Quantum Break, and most importantly, Alan Wake. While the studio doesn't own the rights to the two foremost franchises, they've already teased major plans for tying its two IP, Control and Alan Wake, together in ways that haven't been done before in games.
To that end, AWE is a remarkable success, bridging some of the gaps between the two series, but not without creating several more mysteries along the way. The future of Remedy is brighter than ever thanks to this impressive, dark DLC.
Control AWE DLC Review: It's An Ocean After All
Though many think of it as the "Alan Wake Expansion," AWE actually stands for Altered World Event. The DLC focuses on three of these mind-bending events across its six hours with a satisfying emphasis on the events of Alan Wake, which themselves are categorized as an AWE within the Federal Bureau of Control.
If any of that makes sense so concisely, you're likely among those that are already deep into the lore of Control, and thus you're precisely the kind of person that should consider this final expansion a must-play.
While it's certainly still a Control game first and foremost, as an Alan Wake superfan, I was joyously stunned to see just how strong the connective threads run to Remedy's 2010 thriller. From the very first room you enter in the all-new Investigations wing of The Oldest House, nods, teases, and full-on answers about the lingering Alan Wake mysteries are strewn all over.
As Jesse Faden, it's your job to uncover a new threat, called The Third Thing, lurking in this previously closed-off wing. The monster design is extremely inspired, creating a creature that is one part wendigo and one part slenderman. In an almost reverse-Nemesis style, Jesse will spend the DLC chasing this creature out of the shadows in various sections of the Investigations wing, eventually trying to corner it for a final showdown.
As this monster is enshrouded in both the Hiss of Control and the Dark Presence of Alan Wake, battles focus a lot more on light and dark, reminiscent of the 2010 game, and Remedy's proprietary Northlight engine really shows off through these lighting effects.
Control is more impressive than ever.
The singular slip-up of the DLC is its reuse of staging and enemy combat concepts when battling this monster. Tending to ask players run light to light with different obstacles along the way before hitting it with debilitating floodlights, it's funny to see that by bringing the Wake connections to the foreground, Control has suffered some of the same repetition problems as its predecessor.
But these ludological concerns ultimately don't bother me that much because the dose of story within AWE is, well, awe-inspiring. Every note, every scene, every revelation pulls players deeper into what the team is now (finally) publicly calling the Remedy Connected Universe.
If you've been clamoring for more answers regarding Alan Wake, this is the singular most important piece of content Remedy has put out since the game's original launch. More than the This House of Dreams ARG, more than the nods in Quantum Break, even more than the game's XBLA semi-sequel Alan Wake's American Nightmare.
AWE is the gaming moment fans have been waiting for.
Control AWE DLC Review — The Bottom Line
- Vital, exciting story developments further connecting the RCU
- Fun, almost nostalgic use of light versus dark gameplay
- A stunning setup for what's to come
- Boss battles rehash similar showdowns several times over
I've never seen any two games, once considered separate, coalesce so wonderfully as these two games do within this DLC. Yes, we knew from the base game that they shared a universe, but the admissions written into the story in AWE are world-changing for everyone: Alan, Jesse, and the world as a whole.
Few story expansions carry the narrative weight of AWE. These are not merely Easter eggs. This is everything. And it's glorious to watch it all unfold.
Outside of story, you know what to expect. This expansion is more of what you loved of Control, and even people who haven't played Wake will get a kick out of the new wing to explore and new enemy types to defeat. There are also more side missions here than in the first expansion, The Foundation, and in fact, more than I anticipated.
Many of them offer a few more satisfying glimpses into the weird world of the FBC. It all comes alongside a free update that adds new abilities and tons of new accessibility options too, making the new Ultimate Edition worthy of its name.
AWE is built with Remedy's biggest fans in mind, and it's they who will most appreciate this final chapter (for now) of one of last year's greatest games. There's so much more to discuss but the details would be full of spoilers. To put it simply, fans of the studio simply have to play AWE.
A decade ago, Remedy told us "it's not a lake, it's an ocean." Today, those tides are more apparent than ever.
[Note: Remedy provided the copy of Control: AWE used for the review.]