Post-release DLC usually serves the purpose of sucking those extra bills out of your account that you didn’t spend on the initial game. Ever since the Horse Armor debacle, people have been a bit wary of these money grabs. Despite some horrid attempts at DLC ranging from poorly designed chapters to unnecessary upgrades, there have been a few shining examples of how to effectively add to a core premise. Coming out barely a month after the initial game, is Dead Space 3 Awakened a chapter in the saga worth visiting?
No matter how you felt about Dead Space 3, it is absolutely necessary to give this DLC a run through. If you loved the new co-op gameplay or just can’t get enough of blasting limbs off of anything that charges you, then this is for you. If you hated the lack of horror elements and wanted something more from partner play, then this is for you. And if you hated the ending for being vague and unfulfilling, then this is most definitely for you.
It’s impossible to describe the plot without giving away a few spoilers from Dead Space 3, so skip the next paragraph if you still haven’t finished that one!
Picking up immediately after Isaac and Carver destroy the moon, the two find themselves mysteriously alive and in need of a ship home to Earth. On their way to grab a ride (which will no doubt need some sort of repair done to it), they discover that the Necromorphs are still alive, and that a mass of other moons are searching for Earth. While repairing a ship in orbit, the duo stumble upon a group of Unitologists who specialize in self-mutilation. This group of crazies stands in their way as they try to piece the ship back together and find a way back home.
Although the three levels added in this DLC play out as an epilogue to Dead Space 3, they fit seamlessly into the story, for better and for worse. As with some of the final stages, the beginning of Dead Space 3 Awakened tends to drag more than the last few hours do. The initial search for a way off the planet ruins the pace, but once Isaac and Carver get into orbit, the game becomes a work of art.
It’s safe to say a majority of fans of the series were let down by the lack of scares in Dead Space 3. Luckily, it appears that they were all shoehorned into the 3-4 hours contained in Awakened, because this small campaign is much scarier than anything offered in the last game. Going beyond occasional jump scares, the psychological aspect that made the first two games exercises in terror is back in full swing. A mysterious cult leader stalks Isaac throughout the ship. He appears when least expected and the time spent evading his cleaver is some of the most terrifying in the game.
In terms of gameplay, not much has changed from Dead Space 3. Aiming, shooting, stomping and smacking is still polished to a fine degree, weapon customization is the primary mode of survival, and various text and audio logs delve deeper into the story. Although the co-op took center stage last time, single player wins out this round, providing an intense experience that doesn’t feel lacking as it did before. Whenever Carver would appear and moan about his past, solo players could never sympathize. This time around, the solo campaign is much smoother plotwise.
There really isn’t that much to say about Dead Space 3 Awakened that isn’t obvious to see. Gameplay is lifted straight from the original, including the co-op mode (albeit with a few clever twists), and fans of the series will find plenty to love here. The refocused emphasis on psychological terror is enough to reignite faith in the series for even the most jaded fan, especially since the final confrontation easily stands head and shoulders above the original fight with the moon.
Although ten bucks might sound like a bit much for a few extra levels, think of this new DLC as the final step of convergence. It makes you and Dead Space 3 one. You are part of it now. It is hungry, it is coming.
This review is based on the PS3 version of the game.