Rise and shine

WARNING: This review contains spoilers in regards to Dead Space 3. If you haven’t finished Dead Space 3, you shouldn’t read this DLC review.

After destroying the Marker signal at the end of Dead Space 3, Isaac Clarke and Sgt. John Carver’s fates were unknown. All we knew was that, somehow, they’d survived after Isaac’s voice came across the radio calling out for Ellie conveniently after she rocketed off into slip space. Dead Space 3: Awakened is downloadable content intended to explain just what happened after the Necromoon fell from the sky and crashed back into Tau Volantis—and how Isaac’s still kicking around on that iceball.

The primary problem with Awakened is that it fails to explain anything, is full of loopholes, and asks players to suspend belief far too many times. The story begins with Isaac waking up in an ice cavern on Tau Volantis. When he and Carver realize they’re not dead, they try to figure out how they survived riding a moon into a planet like a cowboy straddling a bull at the rodeo. Isaac’s answer? Aliens. Something on Tau Volantis didn’t want them to die. Even Carver recoils at the idea and calls Isaac crazy, speaking for everyone who’ll play this mess of a tale.

Once our heroes come to their senses a bit, they realize that many of Danik’s men who were stationed on the planet at the end of Dead Space 3 are still around. So, Isaac and John decide if they can steal one of Danik’s ships, they can get back to Earth, and if they need spare parts, they can grab some from the ghost flotilla still orbiting Tau Volantis. Of course, at this point, I’m still trying to figure out how anything survived on the planet so perfectly AFTER A MOON DROPPED FROM ORBIT ONTO EVERYTHING. The ship graveyard, the men still stationed on the planet, all the ships—they should all have been wiped out. Maybe because the moon was made of flesh, it cushioned the blow? Maybe because Isaac is crazy, he’s still just floating in space on life support, and it’s all a dream? I don’t know the answer, because Awakened asks you to just take everything at face value with no explanation whatsoever.

The technical reason why nothing was destroyed is a lot more depressing than poor storytelling—it’s just plain laziness. Instead of creating new levels, the three chapters of Awakened simply reuse sites that Isaac and John have already visited, culminating back on the Terra Nova. At least the locations look a little different at certain points, especially the Terra Nova itself. Danik’s men who survived (but shouldn’t have) have a rift form in their ranks, which leads to some forming their own cultlike church aboard the Terra Nova and deforming their bodies to look like Necromorphs, even though they’re not quite dead—and causing Clarke and Carver all kinds of trouble.

Beyond the story, Awakened‘s other major flaw is that it’s short, even for DLC. If it takes you more than 90 minutes to beat this, hang up your headset because you have to admit you’re just not that good at games. Heck, the end credits are nearly as long as Awakened itself. For $10 (800 Microsoft Points), there’s just not enough value here for that inflated price tag.

Now, my review has been resoundingly negative thus far, but I’d be remiss if I failed to mention some aspects of Awakened that I thoroughly enjoyed once I ignored the flawed logic the story beat me over the head with. Unlike in Dead Space 3, there’s actually a lot of tension here. The hallucinations that plagued Isaac in the first two games return in full force; you’ll be walking along, when suddenly, the screen will flash red and enemies will appear out of nowhere, making the action far less predictable than in the main game.

The red tint may signify that the enemies are only hallucinations—but to Isaac, they’re all too real, so you have to fight them as you would actual enemies, consuming ammo and losing health along the way. Of course, if they’re not real in the physical plane, they shouldn’t drop ammo, health, and items! But the idea that Isaac’s mind is being torn through like wet toilet paper is a theme that the main game sorely lacked, and it’s a welcome addition.

For its faults, Dead Space 3 was certainly a polished experience, and that’s also the case with Awakened. The non-story-related banter between Clarke and Carver is witty and entertaining, and the idea of a crazed space cult onboard a dead ship gives the game an old-school Dead Space feel that most fans of the series have missed—and will appreciate seeing again. I loved the boss battles, new enemies, and the general feeling of not knowing what was around every corner. If Visceral could’ve somehow combined the gameplay found here with the story of Dead Space 3, I think a vast majority of fans would’ve been a lot more satisfied with the final product.

Developer: Visceral Games • Publisher: Electronic Arts • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 03.12.2013
6.5 Dead Space 3 would have been well served to include some of the thrilling gameplay featured here, but Awakened‘s convoluted narrative has far too many absurd plot holes—and is far too short—to be worth anything to anyone but the most die-hard Dead Space fans.
The Good Provides the kind of psychological horror we expected from the main game.
The Bad Very short; backtracking through old levels; too many plot holes.
The Ugly Trying to play with a solid grip on science and logic.
Dead Space 3: Awakened is available on PS3 (PSN), Xbox 360 (XBLA), and PC. Primary version reviewed was for XBLA.