Written by Brittany Vincent, @MolotovCupcake
In many ways, Dead Space 3 was inferior to its predecessors, but it still valiantly forged ahead as one of what will ultimately be the year’s best third-person action games. While it eschewed classic survival horror convention for in-your-face (albeit usually generic) action, it did have its moments, namely, any time Isaac Clarke or his partner suffered from hallucinatory visions. Dead Space 3: Awakened is the first round of DLC released to further expand upon the schizophrenic shooter, and while it’s short on content, it packs an interesting wallop as an additional epilogue and surrogate survival horror section. And if you’re anything like me, that’s a good thing.
Awakened is set immediately following the events of Dead Space 3, so for those who haven’t completed the campaign, it won’t make much sense to tackle this adventure. It’s also tough to delve into without divulging at least some of the secrets that eventually unfold throughout the course of the game, but in a nutshell, Isaac (and his good buddy Carver — wait, at least we think they’re buddies now) are getting the heck off of Tau Volantis. I won’t divulge why, so for the sake of keeping things under wraps: Awakened revolves around those wacky Unitologists and their bizarre pet who wants you dead, and that abomination usually accomplishes this by way of beheading our favorite Clarke. And while it looks spectacular and all, it’s not especially endearing when you find yourself having to restart at checkpoint after checkpoint. But wait until you see that thing in action. It’s a beautiful thing, really.
Isaac once again assumes his role as intergalactic errand boy, all the while dodging the Unitologists’ mobile guillotine for the spread of Awakened, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more violent space miner. For a while, he’s up to his old tricks. Stomp a Necromorph here. Stasis one there. Kid stuff. But as you head into the second chapter after sifting through all the normal “get me gas” and “take this item there” hullaballoo, something refreshing happens: the horror comes back. For a few shining moments, namely nearing the end of the DLC, we see the true potential of what Dead Space 3 could have been in the first place. And, like we mentioned before in that review, the expansion does such a wonderful job of keeping the tension up that like the original campaign, it’s best enjoyed alone.
Most of the tension is culled from the fact that the DLC is peppered with multiple “is it real” moments by way of chilling illusions and some of the best trolling we’ve ever seen by way of video games. Sometimes, you genuinely can’t predict what you’re going to see next. And that’s Dead Space getting back to its roots. It’s stripping itself of what made it stray from the excellent path it was on, and for that reason the three or four hours you’ll spend escaping Tau Volantis is made all the more special.
The Final Word: An explosive finale that begs questions about the inevitable Dead Space 4 and a massive chunk of story that feels as though it was excised from the campaign and sold separately for a $10 admission fee, Dead Space 3: Awakened is an excellent add-on for fans hungry for more. It’s a spellbinding yet annotated tale of Isaac, the Marker, and the horrifying effects it taints all it comes into contact with. It’s pricey for what it is, but for a real ending that delivers what we asked for in the first place, it’s worth the admission price.
This review is based on a digital copy of the Xbox 360 version of Dead Space 3: Awakened, which was provided by the publisher.