Dead Space 3 ‘Awakened’ DLC Review: Short, Not At All Disturbing
This might be some of Isaac and Carver’s best dialogue from a single-player perspective. The pair have a few good lines to one another and some solid interaction that shows not only that they’ve come to trust each other, but that the situation is wearing on them differently than it previously was. That’s because both Isaac and Carver are seeing things — and often different things at the same time. It’s similar to the established mechanics in co-op throughout Dead Space 3, but there’s a little more of it, which is a nice touch. Isaac and Carver’s interactions with things that aren’t there occasionally make for the better moments of the DLC, and a few very fun fights and interactions.
The trouble is, there’s not nearly enough of it. In fact, the entirety of Awakened feels a little thin and recycled. You’ll pass the same crazy, muttering Unitologist soldier on several occasions (or at least, you’ll hear the same voice coming from all of them), you’ll tromp through the same buildings, and you’ll eventually return to the Terra Nova, the big ship you worked through back in the first portion of Dead Space 3. If you went through the Conning Tower side mission, you’ll see that entire level over again, with some additional stuff. What’s more, the core gameplay is (obviously) unchanged, but by now, you’ll likely be so powerful that no monsters pose any real threat. I played through the DLC on Hard mode and squashed everything that came at me with little difficulty.
Awakened has its ups and downs. The insanity moments can be fun and tense, and back are the Pack from Dead Space 2 to swarm over players. A couple of set piece battles are a good time, but on the whole, this feels like mashing a little bit too much of Dead Space 3 together into a DLC pack that lasts maybe two or three hours if you play it once alone and once with a partner.
And it never manages to hit the level of horror, or even the more specific “disturbing” vibe, touted by Visceral. Once back in orbit, Carver and Isaac encounter a new Unitologist cult of crazies who are into mutilating both themselves and others, and you’re treated to a couple of (the exact same) necromorphs or humans trussed up in doorways. While the atmosphere is thick, it never amounts to anything, with the cult leader remaining a faceless non-threat and the cult popping up in a haze of maybe-hallucinations. That those hallucinations still drop crafting materials when they vanish is…weird.
My biggest problem with Awakened is its completely disjointed narrative, most of all because it has so much potential. With both Isaac and Carver unable to trust what they see, a whole cult of Unitologists calling an audible on their religion, evil moon necromorphs seemingly prying into Isaac’s mind, a return to the destroyed flotilla and Isaac’s own question of whether the protagonists have actually become necromorphs, there were some incredible ideas that could have been explored in this DLC. Most of them are ignored or used for a dumb bait-and-switch plotline.
The very fact that Awakened exists at all undermines the entire story and conclusion of Dead Space 3, effectively making this a “true” ending you have to purchase after the fact. What’s more, Awakened’s narrative even undermines itself with its twist, and makes you wonder why you had to play through this portion at all; the motivations of the antagonists (it’s a bit spoilery to name them outright) make zero sense, and so their actions don’t make any, either.