Dead Space 3 & Awakened DLC Review

Dead_Space3-MainCast

The Main Cast in Dead Space 3. Ellie Langford and Isaac Clarke are both returning to the series, but the rest of the cast is new to stopping the threat of the Marker’s influence

After the disappointment of Aliens: Colonial Marines, I was desperately looking forward to a sci-fi game that was actually FUN with characters I was emotionally invested in. Dead Space 3, while taking a different path then it’s predecessors, is still quite an enjoyable experience on the whole. There were many new elements to the franchise I enjoyed, and a few I didn’t. However the former is the minority here, as the game totally washed away the sour after taste that was A:CM. Like many games in a trilogy of series, Dead Space 3 should not stray from the tried and true formula of its predecessors, but instead try to add new gameplay elements, graphical enhancements while still attempting to scare the hell out of you. But after two aggressively creepy entries in the series and with the main protagonist essentially batshit crazy until the end of the second game, how do you follow something as intense and creepy as that? Many people have complained Dead Space 3 was nowhere near as good as the first two entries, was largely forgettable or even went to far as say as the game just downright lacked any innovation in the series. I beg to differ.

It’s true, the game is nowhere near as scary as the first two entries and Isaac really doesn’t hallucinate any crazy shit anymore but then that would render the finale of Dead Space 2 pointless and create a completely non cohesive story. Instead, DS3 aims to be more action-oriented and in that it succeeds in spades. Killing and dismembering necromorphs has never been more fun and with the additions of the Weapon Bench (pictured below), which expertly demonstrates Isaac’s engineering skills and how apt he is at crafting the ultimate badass gear.

Dead_Space3-WeaponBench

The Weapon Bench and the parts you find scattered throughout DS3 are your best friends in crafting the ultimate weapon to dismantle the Necromorphs.

Instead of purchasing pre-constructed weapons from a store using credits, you now find spare resources after killing enemies and in safe rooms. Also, the addition of the Scavenger bot (a little robot companion you can set down in a specified area determined by a redundant, vocal transmitter to help collect more spare resources not visible to the naked eye) makes it easier to create weaponry ideal for your purpose. I also like the fact that all ammo is now universal, meaning you don’t have to worry about keeping 4 or 5 different types of ammo in your RIG’s inventory for a weapon you may never use, especially if you don’t have the credits to purchase it. Ammo can be picked up from fallen enemies or constructed using scrap metal. Weapon parts, upgrade circuits (much like the circuit nodes in the previous entries) can be used to upgrade your weapons damage, rate of fire, clip size and reload speed. I found that Semiconductors and Tungsten were the most precious of the resources as they were the most scarce but by 2/3 of the game you should have enough to craft any weapon you want, whether it be from blueprints that you acquire as you traverse the different chapters or blueprints a co-op buddy can share with you of their own creation, and vice versa.

The Co-Op addition of the game, despite many people arguing that it is a detriment to the game’s overall survival horror feel, I felt was a great addition. My only complaint, and this is a huge one with me since I still prefer to game with my friends in the same room making for more of a fun and intimate experience, is that Co-Op is online only! I’m not sure why local Co-Op wasn’t added, maybe the developer just didn’t have enough time or pressure from EA to add Co-Op half-way thru the game’s development cycle stagnated the addition of local Co-Op being added. Whatever the reason, it’s absent from the game and just creates the speculation that gaming is becoming more and more of an isolated activity instead of gamers getting together, spending afternoons and evenings together fighting off alien hordes in the same room, on the same couch with plenty of munchies to go around. Either way, Co-Op is a welcome addition to this particular entry in the series as it adds an layer of dementia to Issac’s Co-Op partner in the game, Sgt. John Carver who lost his family at the hands of the fanatical Inner Circle represented by the Unitoligists. Playing as Carver in Co-Op mode will offer you a different experience since he is not immune to the Markers Signals and you will experience different cut scenes and optional Co-Op missions with Carver in tow. It adds to the replay value of the game as after beating the game on single player you can now go back and play a different campaign with a Co-Op buddy as Carver. As Carver, you will experience hallucinations, although not as creepy as Isaac’s hallucinations from the two previous games. Your primary human antagonist is the fanatical religious “leader” of the Unitologist’s exclusive Inner Circle group, Jacob Danik, although he is more of a zealot often referring to mankind’s research of Marker technology as perversion of something sacred and calling Isaac a “filthy heretic.”

Dead_Space3-JacobDanik

Jacob Danik, pictured above with Clarke, considers him nothing more than a persistent threat to Convergence and follows Clarke and his comrades throughout the entirety of the game to ensure his demise

So not only are you dealing with the Necromorph threat, but you also are dealing with crazed followers of Danik’s inner circle hellbent on stopping you anyway possible. So yes, there are human enemies in DS3 but they don’t detract from the overall experience. In fact, I would argue they only immerse yourself in the game more as many times when the Unitologist soldiers begin to attack they are often over run by Necromorphs, showing the desperation and level these nut jobs are willing to go to stop you once and for all. The only disappointing aspect of DS3 is in the story itself. The game starts of quite interesting, establishing new characters and reuniting you with your old flame, Ellie Langford. However, Robert Norton, current commander of the USM Eudora who orchestrates your escape with his crew and Carver grows increasingly jealous in the midst of the mission after realizing that you and Ellie have had a romantic past, since Ellie is now the object of his affection. Yes, a love triangle basically ensues and setups the betrayal that typically occurs within EVERY Dead Space game to the point where it’s almost a fucking parody. Really, how many times does Clarke get betrayed in this series, albeit mostly by females. Norton grows increasingly hostile and aggressive towards Isaac as the game progresses until a “twist” occurs (aka the betrayal). Anyways, after the betrayal occurs you are then relentlessly pursued by Danik’s Uni soldiers in the later chapters of the game. And let me say this, playing the game on hard and exploring every crevice, nook and cranny I could and playing through all the optional missions that were available my game completion time clocked in at a little over 40 hours. For a 3rd person, sci-fi action horror game that’s quite a lot of content packed into this title. For most, the game can be completed in 25 hours or less if you don’t take the time to try and gather as many resources as possible, look for all the logs and artifacts and not play thru all the optional missions. I found the game much more rewarding trying to complete the back story of the characters that had come and gone on the flotilla (ie the Terra Nova) and on the bunkers, dig sites and research labs of Tau Volantis. The audio log discoveries of how the necromorph type “Creepers” (pictured below) were born by listening to Sam Ackerman’s accounts are quite disturbing. Furthermore, General Mahad’s logs of initiating a Section/Level 5 quarantine measure and the information the game dished out about this particular protocol via logs and filmstrips I also found quite disturbing.

Dead_Space3-Creepers

The new Creeper form of Necromorph, which disturbingly is created by former Tau Volantis S.C.A.F. soldiers and researchers eating the flesh of dead necromorphs during a severe food shortage. They generally hunt in packs and can be confused via the use of distractions such as sound.

Another addition I loved in DS3 was the more frequent use of Zero-G sequences. I can’t describe the feeling of being suspended in the unconfined frontier of space, free-floating around the graveyard of the S.C.A.F. flotilla, my first impressions were of awe. It is quite a spectacle to see Isaac and Carver blast through space using their suit’s thrusters and magnetic boots to attach and walk across the derelict space crafts surfaces. There is much to be explored in these areas of the game, including ALOT of spare resources, logs and artifacts. I recommend spending a good deal of exploration out in the Zero-G environments between the USM Terra Nova, USM Greely and the other ship (Brusilov perhaps?) because it’s a lot of fucking fun floating around in space blasting necro’s and reaping the rewards of hidden resource depots. Also there is no need to worry about your air supply, as there is plenty of oxygen tanks floating around to replenish your air reserves. So if you like to explore, DS3 offers plenty of opportunities to do so.

Dead_Space3-ZeroG

One of the many Zero-G portions of the game. Their fun to explore, beautiful to look at and offer a bevy of additional resources to be scavenged.

Summary:

Dead Space 3 has been getting somewhat of a bad rap. The only fault of the game, besides it lacking in creepiness, was its weak story through-out most of the middle portions of the game. Don’t let the initial lack of Isaac’s hallucinations fool you, this game is still as tense as ever. There are several parts in the game that have you trying to weave your way between the afterburners of a ship prepping for flight while 3-5 regenerators  (the necromorphs that can’t be killed and relentlessly chase you through several parts of the level int he game) consistently pursue you. Or how about the 20-30 Creepers that try to tear you to shreds in different parts of the laboratory. You only see one or two at first, followed by some bizarre clicking sounds then when they sweep in full force and bombard you, you hear the malevolent shrieks and whooping noises of these creatures. Quite disturbing indeed. Make sure you craft a weapon that has an upper tool which fires ammo rapidly and a lower tool that fires a stronger blast, decimating or knocking back close-up encounters of enemies when you’re overrun (and this will happen frequently, especially if you play on hard mode or anything above hard).  I found the Negiotiator weapon that came with my Limited Edition to be extremely useful after modifying the lower tool from a shotgun to a precision-tip seeker rifle and adding statis coating to each of the rounds fired. It became one of my more handy weapons that I crafted in-game, although it was originally preconstructed. The other minor gripe I have is that the boss battles leave something to be desired. The original Dead Space set the bar for sci-fi horror battles and has proven a tough act to follow. The most complete boss battle is with the Snow Beast, an arachnid type of Necromorph that frequently pursues you throughout different chapters of the game. The Nexus “boss” battle is little more than an over-glorified copycat fight from Dead Space’s original end boss, The Hive Mind. While the final boss battle in concept sounds and looks extremely cool, almost like something you would see in a God of War title, the execution could have been better.

Dead Space 3 is another fine entry in the series that relies more on action than horror and consistent scares to add to the gameplay and create something different. The bombardment battles with the sheer number of Necromorphs still makes this a panic-inducing and tense game, regardless if Isaac isn’t hallucinating. This game feels more like an Aliens title than Aliens: CM ever could. From the soundtrack, especially the music in the zero-G scenes, the music sounds as if it took its cues directly from ALIENS. The cool and badass technology mimics something you would find in an ALIENS film and the scary, horrific Necromorphs are only second to the Xenomorphs themselves in creepiness and imposition. And the Co-Op, whilst not local, is the icing on the cake. Playing with a friend really is a lot of fun. Dead Space 3 is another fantastic entry in a series that deserved a complete trilogy. Personally, I can’t wait for another entry in the Dead Space saga, maybe from a new characters point of view? A prequel perhaps based on the formation of the church of Unitology and Micheal Altman discovering the original black Marker on Earth, cause of the first Necro outbreak? Now THAT would be something I would love to play.

FINAL SCORE:    4 / 5

DEAD SPACE 3: AWAKENED DLC          COST: $10

AVAILABLE THROUGH: Xbox Live Arcade or Playstation Network

Dead_Space3-Awakened_1

DS3: Awakened picks up exactly where DS3 left off.  Stranded on Tau Volantis, Isaac and Carver now most journey through the decaying planet to the UMS Terra Nova and find a way home but they face a new threat: A new fanatical religion left-over from Danik’s Unitologists that revere the Necromorphs in an extremely twisted way

DS3: Awakened is unfortunately what I believe to be the only piece of story based DLC that will be available for DS3. Awakened picks up exactly where DS3 ended, as Isaac and Carver find themselves somehow alive on Tau Volantis after their battle with the Brethren Moon. They both believe that at first they are dead and Isaac even contemplates that they may be Necromorphs but Carver’s no-bullshit attitude quickly dismisses Isaac’s incoherency and speculates that the Alien Machine may have somehow saved them or resurrected them from death (the story is ridiculous, but then again the ending of DS3 did leave open the possibility that Isaac was somehow still alive). So suspend all your disbelief and join Isaac and Carver on another wacky 3 chapter adventure to try to get the fuck away from the crazies and return home!

As depicted in the image above, your main nemesis is the even more fanatical cult leader Randal Carr. A former Unitologist of Jacob Danik, he summons all remaining ground forces to the Terra Nova to become part of a special sect that reveres Necromorphs as some kind of holy, divine symbol a la the Markers. They even go so far to self-mutilate by cutting off their hands and attaching razor-sharp shards of knives, shivs and other pieces of metal where their hands/digits once were (almost like Edward Scissorhands) to make themselves a spitting image of the reanimated horrors. If you missed the “Am I Crazy and is this real or just a fucked up hallucination” feeling from Dead Space 3, you will be happy to know that this expansion contains all of that and more. The first chapter jumps right in with the hallucinations by flashing an image of Robert Norton, your former deceased “comrade” talking to himself on Tau Volantis, before the game jumps back to reality and shows that Norton is really just a reanimated Necromorph Slasher. OK, yeah that’s definitely a little fucked up. It starts to get even more disturbing as you make your way through the S.C.A.F. compound (including some new areas) only to find some of the remaining Unitologists sitting indian style, swaying back-and-forth repeating some very disturbing shit. There are also new text logs to further illuminate the story of what the Unitologists saw and felt after the Brethren Moon fell from orbit, crashing into Tau Volantis and dashing their hopes by helplessly watching as Convergence failed.

Since you are still encountering Necromorphs however, Isaac and Carver deduce that the Moon had time to signal to the other Brother Moons where the new marker signals were coming from…. but more on that later. After fighting your way through what can only be described as severe hallucinations (and if you don’t fight back you will be killed) you and Carver find a Uni ship that needs a shockpoint drive and figure out that the last remaining drive is aboard the derelict relic spacecraft the Terra Nova. Carver even yells down to you after witnessing you fighting off the hallucinations of Necromorphs and barks out to you: “You were just standing there!” to which Isaac replies “What?! You didn’t see them?!”

If you ignore the ridiculous theory behind Isaac and Carvers “resurrection” (it was ALIENS man!) presented by the story then this DLC pack is actually a nice 2-3 hour addition (I played it on hard mode in single player) to the main campaign and actually features a boss battle that was more frantic, dramatic and tense than ANY of the boss fights in DS3 alone. The conclusion of the campaign builds on the whole insanity and dementia of Isaac and Carver to a boiling point that I won’t spoil for you here, but let’s just say it was a very nice element and deepens the strained relationship between the engineer and EarthGov soldier. Whether you play single player or via Co-Op, Awakened offers new story elements that offer some awesome battle sequences. And bringing back the hallucinations adds a layer of depth and psychological horror that was sorely missing from DS3, even though Isaac is supposedly cured of that affliction via DS2’s storyline. However with newly awakened Brother Moons working as a network that initiate and intensifies the Marker signal, I can only assume that re-exposure to the Moons or Markers is causing these hallucinations ten-fold.

Besides the obvious inconsistencies between the story continuity within DS2’s storyline and DS3’s ending, the ending to Awakened leaves you on a HUGE cliffhanger. Since Visceral and EA have not revealed anymore story DLC packs for DS3, I can only assume that this is the last and final hoorah for the Dead Space series on this current generations crop of consoles. Since the DLC leaves you on such a ridiculous cliffhanger, I am sincerely hoping they either

A) continue further and leave this as an opening to Dead Space 4

OR

B) this finally puts an end to Clarke’s story arc in the series and allows for a new character, whether in  a sequel or prequel to continue the Dead Space saga

Personally, I prefer option B. I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Clarke and his often disposable companions in this trilogy, but I believe it’s time for some new blood in the Dead Space saga to continue to make the story compelling and convey the sense of terror and survival horror like the first incarnation of the game did so well.

SUMMARY:

Awakened is a DLC pack that continues the story about as much as it can push it without being total and utter gibberish within the Dead Space 3 narrative. The hallucinations make for some excellent “what the fuck” moments and really make you question if what you are fighting is indeed an actual physical threat or just a disturbing manifestation within your own mind. The new enemies are an interesting blend between human and Necromorph worship and go way past the borderline of a cult and into the realm of pure craziness, being the fact that they must “build a new church not of brick and mortar, but of flesh and bone” (don’t quote me on that exactly) by dismembering their limbs in reverence of the Necromorphs.  I didn’t like the fact that so much of the add-on content were reused parts of the Terra Nova’s interior, albeit with a much more glamorized, redecorated interior.  I felt like I had treaded through these parts sooo many times before, and that’s because I had from previous chapters and optional missions from DS3’s story. More new environments instead of rehashed ones would’ve been a much welcome addition to this add-on pack. Awakened is not for the casual sci-fi horror fan who may already own DS3. This is for pure hardcore fans of the series and if you simply cannot get enough of Dead Space, Awakened will be a welcome addition to your DS collection. I thought for the 2 1/2 hour journey Awakened offers back through the depths of Isaac and Carver’s disturbed psyche was well worth the price of admission and the battle finale is something that will have you chanting YES! YES! YES! WHY THE FUCK WAS THIS NOT IN THE ORIGINAL GAME!?!?! I only hope that EA and Visceral continue down this road for the next incarnation of Dead Space….if their even is one…

FINAL SCORE:    3 / 5

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