Control - AWE (DLC) review: Once Again, We Return

The Pitch

In addition to giving players a new slice of The Oldest House to explore, The latest expansion for Remedy’s surreal and supernatural Control is billed as a convergence event. More than just a few hours of additional story content, it looks to bring the titular lead of 2010’s Alan Wake back into the picture.  

Framing AWE as a fully-fledged crossover between the two franchises would be to give it too much credit but safe to say it escalates on the easter eggs and nods to the events of Alan Wake that snuck their way into 2019’s Control.  

For better and worse, AWE sees Remedy use the moment-to-moment gameplay in Control as the means or medium of continuing the story begun in Alan Wake. 

Cold Case

While the reappearance of Alan Wake (and his various dopplegangers) does play a role here, their involvement is mostly a bookend for the events of DLC itself. 

Most of the time you’re spending in the newly-unlocked Investigations Sector will see you hunting down and confronting the now-monstrous Dr. Emil Hartman. The power-hungry psychiatrist has become a twisted vessel for both The Dark Presence and The Hiss and needs to be dealt with before he can cause any more damage than he already has.

Like The Foundation, the Investigations Sector is structured into two wings that you have to complete before advancing to the DLCs final encounter. The twist, if you can call it that, is that many of the rooms and sequences in these wings involve using light as both a shield and a cudgel against your foes. 

Credit: Remedy

This mechanical callback to the original Alan Wake is a fun touch but relies on - and quickly loses - its inherent novelty. Relying on the limits and powers of light was central to the combat in Alan Wake but it feels ancillary here. Jesse Faden is much more capable than Wake, so you just don’t get that same kind of thrill or tension.

Where the first major DLC for Control brought new abilities and environments to the table, the second is less ambitious. One or two particularly fun set pieces aside, the newly-unearthed section of the Oldest House introduced by AWE looks -  and plays - like most of the base game. 

Now, that’s not necessarily a problem in and of itself.

Control has an aesthetic and the fact that AWE conforms to that distinctive sense of style isn’t inherently a negative quality. But adding a few extra miles to Remedy’s marathon of brutalism and banal bureaucracy honestly feels like diminishing returns at this point.

Even as someone who liked the telekinetic action of Control, AWE felt a little too much like more of the same and, while the implications that AWE brings to bear on the broader ‘Remedy-verse’ feel significant, the journey towards that final destination felt pretty forgettable.

I was willing to forgive some of these tendencies when it came to The Foundation but, sans the drastic shift in terms of environments and level design found in that DLC, it’s harder to overlook here. If the first DLC for Control was something of a filler arc, AWE is more of a mythology-builder. It’s not tremendous in its own right but it does hint at bigger things to come.

The Bottom Line

Something of an inversion of the formula found in The Foundation, AWE feels an uneven compromise that’s torn between its obligation to extend the core experience of Control and the desire to try and make good on the promise made to long-time fans of Alan Wake still waiting for that sequel. 

The final product here ends up being as procedural and straightforward in form as it is convoluted in storytelling. AWE is awash in implication but lacking in impact.

Credit: Remedy

Control: AWE is available on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.