Some of you folks out there—myself not included—cried foul at the supposed drastic turn that Dead Space 3 took from the franchise’s previous entries. True, there was cooperative play that, in theory, could soften the isolated horror that had become the series’ trademark. Thankfully, the optional use of the hard-bitten soldier John Carver did little to take away from Dead Space’s trademark space horror. Then there was the concern of the game now taking place on the frozen tundra of Tau Volantis, which was an oddly open replacement for the games’ usual claustrophobic corridors. Again, this changed little as a sizable portion of the game was set in dank, dripping hallways, full of those nasty Necromorphs who were enthusiastic about reducing you to component parts. Even when you get down to the surface of the planet, most of your time was spent in dimly-lit research labs and imposing ice caverns…you know, like Dead Space.
Well, it looks like your complaints, as groundless as they were, were taken to heart by EA and Visceral, and they have released “Awakened,” a DLC pack for Dead Space 3 that gives you so much horror that it more than makes up for the supposed lack of it in DS3. Some minor spoilers for the main game will be present here, so tread carefully if you haven’t completed Dead Space 3.
“Awakened” picks up mere moments after the conclusion of the main game, with Isaac and John both somehow surviving the destruction of the Necromorph-powered moon that orbited Tau Volantis and trying to find their way back home. This unfortunately, leads to plenty of backtracking through familiar territory as you essentially pull a U-turn and reroute yourself through plenty of familiar environments in order to get the hell off of the cosmic ice ball and back to Earth.
Of course, with Unitologist leader Danik left dead on Tau Volantis, a natural power vacuum had to be filled, and the religious extremist—a term that’s truly terrifying when applied to Unitology—named Randall Carr has called his fellow zealots to help stomp out that meddling Isaac Clarke once and for all. How extreme is Carr’s cell of Unitologists? So extreme that they mutilate themselves to look like Necromorphs, essentially cutting out the waiting period for a Marker to do its thing. Hands are replaced with knives, heads are hidden in cloth sacks…it’s pretty unsettling to see people wanting to be the Necromorphs, which were already terrifying enough in their painful reworking of human anatomy.
The other dose of fear comes from the unexpected return of Isaac’s full-blown Marker-fuelled dementia, which leads to some moments of surreal delirium as Isaac tries to sort out what’s real and what’s not, which is always an ugly proposition in the world of Dead Space.
If there’s one minor complaint to be leveled, it’s that there’s not really all that much going on in this DLC. True, there’s the nastiness of Carr and his crazy fundie underlings, and there gore-soaked terror is even more apparent than even the first game, but it’s over all too quickly. The human enemies aren’t as difficult as their “true” Necromorph counterparts (a few shots drops most of them like a sack of potatoes), and there’s a disappointing lack in other new stuff. There are a few new weapons parts, but no new RIGs to be seen, which is a real disappointment. I may be a grown-ass man, but sometimes playing dress-up with Isaac is just as much fun as dismembering Necromorphs.