(As this DLC takes place after the events of Dead Space 3, there are some unavoidable spoilers below. They are very minor, but be warned.)
Where was this when Dead Space 3 was released? That’s an important question when looking at DS3’s recently released DLC, Awakened, and one I’ll get back to in a moment.
I had beef with Dead Space 3. It had its share of fun moments, especially (or perhaps even specifically) while playing co-op, but the shift from survival horror to a mutilation-fest was, in my opinion, a mistake for the series. It changed the character of the franchise and turned it into an average shooter, just with things that wanted to eat you instead of just shoot you (although the game had that too). The co-op made up for that to a degree and stomping the crap out of Necromorphs was far more fun with a friend, but the series still sacrificed what made it unique. And the ending was kind of dumb too.
Awakened addresses both of those concerns. The DLC is short, it can be completed in 3-4 hours or so at most, but it introduces more psychological horror. It also creates a much different and far, far superior ending than that of the vanilla offering. Which brings us back to the question: where was this when Dead Space 3 was released? Seriously, that isn’t just rhetoric, it’s a legitimate question. More on that in a bit.
The DLC picks up immediately after the conclusion of the main campaign and acts as an epilogue. It’s impossible to go into detail on the story without dropping some spoiler bombs, so this review won’t focus on that. But if you haven’t finished the campaign and view spoilers like vampires view sunlight, you may want to skip the next paragraph.
In Awakened you once again take control of Isaac (or Carver in co-op) as you attempt to escape Tau Volantis following the events of the main campaign. From the start, Isaac realizes something isn’t right. His first clue comes when he begins to have horrific visions, which are a pretty solid clue that something is off. Over the course of three chapters, you confront a cult of Unitologists that are big on self-mutilation, all while being stalked by an apparition that can’t be killed but will gleefully cut Isaac’s head off. Your goal is simple: escape without being ripped to shreds.
Your objectives are straightforward enough, and they stick with the Dead Space tradition of having you do several smaller goals to complete one big one. It wouldn’t be Dead Space if you just found a ship that was ready to go and didn’t need fuel, or an engine, or one of a dozen other things. If there were a ranking of characters that could fetch and carry, Isaac would dominate that list. Because of that tradition the game has a fairly slow start and a few pacing problems, but those fade by the second chapter.
While you act as the galaxy’s most violent mechanic, the impact of the ending and the path you take to get there becomes very important, both to the characters and to the series. The original finale was somewhat unsatisfying. There was a resolution, it just wasn’t a very good or conclusive one – even though it did have some boss heavy metal riffs during the credits to help ease the pain though. Props for that. The ending of Awakened not only has a potentially jaw dropping moment, it answers the question of what Dead Space 4 will be about – assuming there is one. Which again raises the question of where this ending was during the retail release. It’s a good enough conclusion that it may have made the overall game better.
The same is true for the gameplay. There is more of an emphasis on horror in the DLC. There are some legitimately creepy and memorable moments, and you’ll constantly be wondering what is real and what is illusion. As with the previous game though, you’ll still be able to massacre pretty much anything that looks at you funny, but the presentation will keep you on your toes.
Unlike the main game, Awakened is best played solo – at least at first. The co-op play is fun and worth experiencing, but for the story aspect it is better experienced alone. Once you’ve beaten it, then it’s worth a second play through with a friend. In fact, the co-op in Awakened offers a few tricks that you didn’t see in the original game. It isn’t better or worse than the solo portion, just different – as it should be.
Which brings us back once more to the question of where this DLC was in the first place – or more precisely, why wasn’t it included in the main game. Sure the $10 is probably part of it… Ok, maybe it’s all of it. But it’s a weird decision to essentially burn fans by holding the real ending of the game for ransom and demanding $10. Most DLCs are meant to be fun diversions to expand the main offering. This is almost an essential part of the game that was removed and sold separately. Maybe that’s reading too much into it, but either way this is a must-buy for owners of Dead Space 3.
Awakened is a requirement for fans of Dead Space 3 – or even those that played the game and didn’t like it. It offers the ending that Dead Space 3 always should have had, and it gives a taste of the fear-based gameplay that was so desperately missing from the first. In some ways it unintentionally highlights the problems of the vanilla campaign – although only on the solo side.
The co-op remains a highlight, but it doesn’t overshadow the solo effort like in the main campaign so the value of the DLC is doubled if you play it both ways. $10 is still a lot for something that really should have been in the game to begin with, but if that doesn’t scare you away, Awakened is a must for anyone invested in the story.
This DLC was reviewed on an Xbox 360 using a code provided by Electronic Arts.