Dead Space 3 was one of my most anticipated games of 2013 and, after playing through it entirely in co-op with fellow A Band of Gamer Cylinder 1024, it's an early contender for my FotY (Favorite of the Year). You can check out our co-op review on Episode 15: Full on Funk.
Based on our enthusiastic response it's no surprise that we were both excited for Awakened, the DLC that was released shortly after the full retail game. To give this DLC its proper due it would be nearly impossible to talk about it without including some full-on spoilers to Dead Space 3 . . . so readers beware!
Awakened picks up immediately after the concluding moments of Dead Space 3. Isaac Clarke and John Carver have amazingly survived the terrors of the Necromorph infection and have been given a second chance to escape Tau Volantis and return home - return to Earth. How they survived the end of Dead Space 3 - the explanation - is probably the one and only complaint that I have about this DLC. It's just not provided in much of any detail. The situation could not have been any more dire for both protagonists, and their ending (what many might consider the conclusion to the franchise) was nicely done. Although always wanting more Dead Space I was content with how things were resolved. I was ready to move on. The opening moments of Awakened changes everything.
Isaac and John may have rid the planet of Necromorphs and destroyed the alien signal that was the root cause of it all, now their primary goal is to find an available escape shuttle to leave the planet. Easier said than done, especially when a remaining cult that takes the Church of Unitology to new heights of craziness is determined to stop them.
What begins as a routine mission quickly transforms into the Dead Space reminiscent of the first game: action set-pieces are replaced with scenes of terror, human mercenaries give way to self-mutilating lunatics, and most important of all, hallucinations are turned up to 11. More often than not you are unsure of what is real and what is purely the result of the Marker's influence - and it's done to near perfection.
Having played all of Dead Space 3 as Isaac Clarke I was often left out of the hallucinatory madness that John Carver was more prone to experience. One explanation for this is that Isaac has better adapted to the Marker's influence will while John Carver is a straight up noob. Still, continuing my Dead Space experience as Isaac Clarke during the Awakened DLC I was finally able to experience this exhilarating - and terrifying - form of co-op. Similar to Carver's experiences in Dead Space 3, I was given several opportunities during Awakened to break away from my co-op partner and defend myself from my inner demons and fears - and it was wonderful. Difficult, but wonderful!
Although this review may have some spoilers associated with Dead Space 3, I won't spoil the ending of this final chapter. I will say that it changes the course of the series, provides a glimpse of where things may go (it's awesome), and immediately puts to rest all those nasty rumors that EA was closing the door on the Dead Space franchise.
Altman be Praised!