Let me just preface this review by making a statement; Do not play Dead Space 3: Awakened unless you have completed the main game first! The story driven DLC carries on from the end of Dead Space 3, meaning it is rife with spoilers. I made this mistake, loading up the DLC mistaking it for a standalone story and now I am plodding through the rest of the main campaign knowing exactly how it ends. I will also say that I will do my best to avoid main story spoilers in this review but there may be minor ones so read on at your own risk.
Okay, so here we have Dead Space 3: Awakened, the first story driven DLC for EA’s shooter come horror franchise. Having survived the end of the main story, Issac and co-op partner Carver find themselves stranded on Tau Volantis, believing the Necromorphs to be done once and for all. Of course they aren’t, or there wouldn’t be much to do, so the pair set off on a mission to salvage a way back home and off the doomed planet.
Ignoring the controversy that EA stirred by announcing this DLC had been in development months before the full game released, leading many to question why it was not included on the disc at launch, the mini campaign tries to take a more psychological approach to the horror aspect, as opposed to the shock horror tactics often used by the main campaign. Cult leader Danik may be gone but the ‘religion’ of Unitology (Marker worshipping crazies) lives on. In fact, the followers are going to such extreme lengths to prove their worthiness that they are cutting off their own arms and attaching blades instead, in a misguided effort to make themselves into necromorphs.
Despite its attempts to be more frightful, the DLC in all essence is no scarier than the main game, which is a bit of a let down, given EA’s promises that it would bring the horror back to Dead Space. There is some more blood stained writing on the walls, so weird hallucinations and a few creepy text and audio diaries to get through, but most of it is the same ‘enemy pops out of vent’ scares that the series has become accustomed too.
The gameplay is also a bit of a let down as well, taking you through many of the same areas you plodded through in the main game. The 2-3 story takes you back to the surface of Tau Volantis before boarding the Terra Nova once more for some limb removal and part salvaging. The level of map recycling is really quite shocking, and you will quickly begin to notice that you a traversing the same hallways you did in the main game. Even something as simple as a new fresh setting could have helped this DLC no end. Aside from a few hallucinations and a new boss, who in all honesty is a bit of a dud, the DLC does very little to stir the pot from the main game. There are no new puzzles, and the combat is the same surgical limb removal process it has always been. Even the new items given to Issac are just MK-II variants of the ones found in the full game, which handle exactly the same but have slight buffs to damage, reload speed and so on. It really feels like an optional mission that was devised for the main campaign that was then held back so it could be released at a later date.
Given that Awakened takes place after the events of the main story, the ending is important to round off the overall story. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that anyone annoyed by Mass Effect 3’s ending last year will be left equally frustrated. The finale manages to obviously set the way for future iterations, whilst not answering any of the outstanding questions left by the story.
DLC is a way for developers and publishers to experiment with new ideas without ruining the main game. Take Assassin’s Creed 3’s recent Tyranny of King Washington, for instance. Unfortunately, Awakened does not do this. It sits far too safely in its own protective bubble, scared that anything remotely new will break the game. The locations are the same, the enemies are the same and the shooting is the same. Awakened is not a terrible experience, but given what EA promised, it is a let down. If you loved Dead Space 3, you will enjoy this as well. Just do not expect to be blown away or experience anything you have not seen or done before.
Dead Space 3: Awakened is available on the Xbox Marketplace for 800ms or on the PSN store for £9.99. You can check out the launch trailer below.