Visceral Games was faced with a daunting task heading into Dead Space 3: increase the scale of the franchise’s battles threefold while doing the same with the narrative. Awakened follows suit, but to a fault. In fact, the new content so completely changes the ending of Dead Space 3 that the entire chapter is riddled with series spoilers, and renders the original ending obsolete.
Dead Space 3 provided protagonist Isaac Clarke with a new stage on which to dismember his necromorph enemies, presenting him with tight corridors that clashed with the wide-open arctic expanses of Tau Volantis, the ice planet holding secrets vital to combating the alien threat; Awakened follows in the main game’s wake, offering the same gameplay juxtaposition. Long sight lines allow frantic defensive stands against flanking Raptor enemies, but tight corners foreshadow close-quarters attacks in a split second’s notice.
These claustrophobic sections are where Awakened finds focus. There are fewer jump scares this time around, but those remaining readily accomplish their task –– they’re prefaced by a chilling plot involving an offshoot cult of the Unitologist religion. These fanatics are even more extreme than the devotees from the main game. This smaller, and subsequently tenser, story unfolds like the whims of a madman: unpredictably and surprisingly fascinating. Every sudden noise and creeping hallucination is cause to jump.
The co-op missions of the main game gave glimpses into the mind of John Carver, which was tormented by the effects of the alien Markers, the cause of the necromorph threat. Clarke delves into the loony bin once again in Awakened, much like his struggles with sanity in Dead Space 2. The sporadic fights against “shadow enemies” in Awakened cause questions to be raised between Clarke and Carver about whether they’re even alive following the destruction of the Necromorph moon at the end of Dead Space 3. A particularly effective section aboard a dank space vessel even raises concerns over the protagonists’ loyalty to each other.
Where the fast-paced plot of Awakened gains ground that the sometimes timid narrative of Dead Space 3 couldn’t, the gameplay suffers different problems. Firefights in the open fields of Tau Volantis can become repetitive and predictable when lined up one after another. They lack variety, something Dead Space 3 had in spades. However, once the fight is taken indoors, the plot and gameplay coalesce with ease.
Awakened clocks in at around 90 minutes, or two hours for completionists looking for every new weapon attachment. These ensure that, aside from the major plot advancement, you’ll walk away from the DLC with something to show for it. In spite of its narrative value, Awakened is absolutely essential for any forthcoming installments in the franchise.
More On:Dead Space 3
All of the shooting and stomping and crafting lead Awakened toward a conclusion that left me wanting more, so much so that the original game's ending seems superfluous in hindsight. There's a steady, rhythmic approach to the battles in Awakened that can become repetitive, but they succeed in paving the way for even more future fights.
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