Players will encounter three main areas in the expansion, each a different incident examined by the shuttered Investigations Sector. All three emphasize what was suggested in the base game: the Federal Bureau of Control was a squabbling organization with regular instances of prisoner abuses during the previous director’s tenure. The first two sections offer some satisfyingly difficult fights and puzzles, interspersed with the expansion’s best and worst addition: the monster Dr. Hartman has become. Both new Altered World investigation areas were fun and intriguing, especially the one that explains why the FBC has a lunar lander in one of its cavernous storage rooms.
Hartman’s doubly-corrupted form is a masterful example of when to show the monster. Most of the time he’s in shadow, clear enough that you can see the body horror that results from Hiss possession and swathed in the kind of darkness that became infamous in Alan Wake. When the expansion finally reveals Hartman’s monstrous shape, the sight is unnerving, to say the least. The first few fights against Hartman gave me that distinct “He’s right behind me, isn’t he?” feeling, and often he was. His teleportation ability makes dodging his attacks particularly difficult, and it’s very satisfying when you manage to evade one of his swipes at the last second. In some sequences you can’t fight or repel him at all, leading to SOMA-style haunted house adrenaline.
Hartman avoids light, but AWE never quite reaches the novelty of Remedy’s use of light in the Alan Wake series. I found myself wishing for a gun mod that would give me something like Alan’s gun and flashlight combo. Instead, you use Jesse’s psychic Launch ability to shine conveniently placed lanterns on seething, snarling pools of darkness. Since the psychic grab was effectively developed as a tense, powerful attack, Launching with more delicacy can be fiddly.
Release Date: August 27, 2020
Platform: XBO (reviewed), PC, PS4
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: 505 Games
Jesse does have a new weapon form at her disposal: Surge is a sticky grenade launcher with delayed detonation. I used it to wail on the boss more often than for carefully timed crowd control. Speaking of crowd control, players who want more combat challenges can use two arcade machines to jump into a horde mode or survival challenge in previously visited locations.
The Oldest House itself has always been its own character in Control. While most of AWE’s locations look like the office spaces the game is known for, there are some new House features that add to the wonder and weirdness. That said, plot-relevant developments between Jesse and the other powerful entities in the House are one area in which The Foundation was far more substantial than AWE. By now, Jesse has fully embraced her role as director, but that turns out to mean she doesn’t seem to feel anything about these fights — not about defeating Hartman, not about her old favorite poet, Thomas Zane, or about potentially being a side character in a story about Alan.