Sunday, March 17, 2013

REVIEW - Dead Space 3 : Awakened DLC.

This review contains arguable, minor spoilers for Dead Space 3.

Many of those who love Dead Space were more than a little put off by Dead Space 3's deviation from its standards - specifically, it took the horror aspect the series was most known for and tossed it out the window in favor of some rootin' tootin' co-op shootin', and a narrative that regularly made one's skin crawl with cheesy lines instead of eerie atmosphere.

Subsequent rumors that the executives at EA had explicitly instructed the team to abandon the series' horror in favor of something "more like Gears of War" only hammered home how rightfully abandoned Dead Space's fans felt.

Well, the ten-dollar Awakened DLC wants to address that lack.  It directly continues the story of Dead Space 3, and shows that - to a degree - Visceral are still entirely capable of chilling atmosphere and legitimate scares, when they choose.  Awakened is a bite-sized bit of gaming - about an hour's worth - that sees Isaac and Carver trying to make sense of their longevity, and to escape Tau Volantis.

It recycles a lot of environments from the game proper while jazzing them up with environmental touches that lend themselves to the classic Dead Space atmosphere - but let's get down to brass tacks, here.

One hour is not enough time for a game of Dead Space's pace to establish a rich atmosphere and have it bear genuinely thrilling fruit, and the events of Awakened feel truncated and simplified to ensure the story gets itself where it needs to go while providing the bare minimum of actual content and exploration of narrative.  That said, it's fun to discover Carver has some actual character to him - far more than he ever showed in all of Dead Space 3 - and Awakened casts him as a great straight man to Isaac's rapidly deteriorating weirdo.

Y'know what Awakened is?  It's a low-ball pat on the head to folks who wished Dead Space 3 had even half of its predecessors' creepy atmosphere, intelligent writing and engaging story, as Isaac and Carver begin suffering the series' classic hallucinations and start cracking up.

It's a bald-faced set-up for Dead Space 4 - a stinging reminder of what Dead Space 3 could have been - and for ten bucks, hardly a bargain.

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