It's everything you wish Dead Space 3 was
Overall, I really enjoyed Dead Space 3. There were points that it dragged on, but a lot of the stuff near the end in those last few levels made it up for me. Still, Dead Space 2 is my favorite of the franchise largely because of the dementia and horror focus of the game.
So I'm actually quite thrilled with the upcoming downloadable content, Awakened. I played the DLC at a recent EA studio visit and, for better or worse, I was more freaked out in the twenty minutes that I got to check out than the entirety of Dead Space 3.
Dead Space 3: Awakened (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release: March 12, 2013
MSRP: 800 Microsoft Points / $9.99
For those who have yet to beat Dead Space 3, avoid this next paragraph:
Awakened picks up after the giant Moon Necromorph crashed onto the planet Tau Volantis, where it seemed like Isaac Clarke and John Carver were both killed for their heroic efforts. Evidently the duo survives, and now has to find a way to return to Earth.
The DLC will begin on Tau Volantis, but my demo picked up as the pair were off in space looking for a ship that would get them back home. Your goal at this point is a mission somewhat recycled from the main campaign, as you have to look for specific parts to get a ship up and running before you can leave.
There are more ships this time around to rummage through, as Unitologist leader Jacob Danik's army of soldiers were waiting in space. Thanks to the events at the end of the main game, however, it's left these Unitologist in total chaos, and amongst that chaos a new leader by the name of The Voice has risen.
The Marker signal that was released on the planet was blasted out into space, and all those hit with it have been struck with a wave of dementia that's warped on so many levels. Under The Voice's control, believers of The Marker must prove themselves be letting their new leader cut off their hands and ears, as well as disfigure other parts of their body.
These new human enemies are extremely creepy. Leading up to each encounter, you'll hear them chanting a phrase before you even lay eyes on them.
"Take our hands, and we may feed you. Take our eyes, and we may see you. Take our minds, and we may serve you."
Sure, they have no hands, but in their place are these metallic claws reminiscent of Voldo's weaponry from SoulCalibur. You'll also be coming across their cut-off hands all over the ship, laid across walls and ceilings as if they were decorations. I even saw a few bowls just full of hands.
You'll still be taking on Necromorphs, and a lot of the ones I went up against were of the harder classes. And one of my favorite enemies from Dead Space 2, The Pack, is back with a new skin and new behaviors.
Other enemies you'll be facing are the ones in your head. The dementia has hit Isaac the hardest, and it's not like how it was in Dead Space 2. The dementia scenes actually happen as you play, and you'll be shooting at a lot of enemies that aren't really there. They can still kill you if you don't shoot back, but in reality it's all happening in your head.
It's a really cool effect, as the visuals get distorted, thus making it harder to keep track of everything. A lot of the dementia will involve The Voice from what I saw. I encountered him several times as he tried to hinder my progress. He can even use the stasis blast on you!
The Voice will also appear in parts of the level, just standing there looking at you. Overall the vibe felt very much like Silent Hill, which honestly was the last thing I was expecting to feel after Dead Space 3. Awakened seems like it really will be a return to the series' survival horror roots.
It's a shame then that this is just DLC, and that it will only span a couple of chapters. This is exactly what I wanted out of Dead Space 3. To be like Dead Space 2 but on a whole new level of terror.
I wasn't able to see it at EA, so I'm really curious how the dementia aspect will play out in co-op as well. Also note that your weapons and upgrades will carry over, and a lot of the items you'll find are some of the higher-tier ones that were tough to come across in the main game.
Ultimately, I know I'm going to enjoy Awakened, I'm just not happy with the mixed messaging going on with the series at this point. Dead Space 3's focus was ultimately changed to appease to a wider range of players, yet this DLC is something that I know past fans will love and will wish the last game was entirely like this.
More of this Electronic Arts, and less over saturated third-person shooter.