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- "You know the music. Time to dance..."
- —Edward Buck
Basically, EA and “dolla, dolla, bill ya'll”. Though codecow or whatever his username is cites they submitted the “full game” in December to the manufacturers and didn’t complete the “DLC” until mid-February. Yeah, something tells me you should’ve sat on the game a little longer, son… but then you can’t, considering your publisher is EA Games.
- WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS IN REVIEW. Turn back if you don't want to be spoiled.
Isaac is still the lord of the fetch quests, unfortunately. However, the game only has one MacGuffin the player needs to acquire; the Shock Drive (or ShockDrive) that will allow them to restart the CMS Terra Nova and pilot it back to Earth. As a result, Tau Volantis is ditched quick and fast once a Unitologist shuttle is found and it’s back into space. However, the focus of the DLC limits space exploration (“ain’t nobody got time for that”, as it were). The fatigue of backtracking remains as strong as ever even on levels as brief as the ones featured in the three chapters.
Trudging through the Terra Nova, particularly a strangely intact Conning Tower, which appears to have suffered no structural damage (externally or internally) as a result of Tucker Edwards’ explosive mayhem, is still a chore. As far as the environment goes, it’s a lose/lose situation here. The design of the Sovereign Colonies ships was lovely to appreciate the first time around, but repeatedly, it creates a blandness that causes the eyes to glaze over unless you need to remember which direction you’re going in (not that you’ll ever get lost in this game).
NPCs (Non-Playable Characters) loitering the environment of Tau Volantis and the Terra Nova are un-killable. You can’t shoot punch them, you can’t stomp on them; they’ll do the job of offing themselves for you though. Like Danik’s bothersome “Brothers and Sisters” message aboard the Terra Nova (like, why. Really, why?), you must endure their irksome “They are hungry, they are coming” mantra over and over again if you decide to take a moment to spruce up your weapons at the Bench; for whatever reason they really like to sit near benches.
As far as enemies go, Dead Space 3: Awakened doesn’t take into account its own environment in relation to the nature of the Necromorphs. The Pack, the corpses of human children infected by the Necromorph, returns with a new skin and sidelines the emaciated Feeders dramatically (who become naught but hallucinations), but without a reason. There were no children on Tau Volantis’ expedition and they certainly don’t resemble aliens in any form. Stalkers, for whatever reason, also receive an upgrade from their standard forms as seen in DS2, Severed and DS3. They're bigger and bulkier but move no differently. The re-skinning of these particular characters puts forth the question, “well, why weren’t these used to begin with?” Alien Necromorphs also return, largely unchanged, so meh.
On paper, they might work as enemies --- if you weren’t playing Dead Space. As it stands they’re just as out of place as before and perhaps are better suited as enemies in the 2004 MIDWAY game, “The Suffering”; there is a great deal about them that is reminiscent of the Slayers (but with feet), but “The Suffering” executed the malformed enemies better seeing as the Slayers could kill you if you got lazy, especially if you got near latter levels.
In regards to the atmosphere, Visceral attempts to recapture the aesthetic that made their previous Dead Space games the creatures they were. Aesthetically is about as far as they get. It’s creepy to look at the bodies of the mutilated Unitologists strung up with the former appendages of their comrades, wrapped in cloth; it was creepy to watch Carr saw off that guy’s arms.
Were this the reflection of the entirety of Dead Space 3, I could probably give it a thumbs up. As it stands, this creates a stark contrast to the otherwise action shooter tone that was the whole of its counterpart. It feels less like a genuine effort and more or like the developers attempting to appease the group the players that they alienated and disappointed with the direction they took with their game.
Awakened wants us to take it seriously as some type of play on physiological-horror-drama with the question of “Is this real?” Are Carver and Isaac dead, shambling Necromorphs under the impression that they’ve been saved by aliens but aren’t aware of their newer nature?
The question in and of itself is an interesting idea and concept… were handled by someone who could deal with the kinds of themes it hints at (death, alteration and the afterlife). As it stands the game forgets about it even remotely tackling the top-heavy issue on any level whatsoever. And typically, it’s with hand waving comments like, “I stopped trying to make sense of it back on the Ishimura”; that’s pretty blatantly an indirect way of informing the player they’re not going to do anything with the question proposed besides make jokes about it. Basically, throw logic out of the window here.
Not unlike its predecessor, there is a great deal about Awakened that feels like something punched up on the fly and didn’t get a great deal of peer review from folk who poise the questions to help improvement; the narrative proposes the idea that the Brethren Moons have no idea where Earth is and want to be led to the planet by the Unitologists, Carver and Isaac. Isaac deduces that in order to prevent them from reaching their home, everyone, including themselves, has to die.
Again “Press X to die” is played up again as the only viable option; the idea itself presented a jagged hole alongside the jagged hole that reappears; if their being mucked about by with the whatever, then what’s to say they DON’T already know where Earth is? Absolutely nothing. That said, the eleventh hour arises and Isaac’s “do the right thing” plan is discarded when the developers remember they still have to tease for Dead Space 4 and declare “oh, yeah, no, they already know where Earth is.”
And what a tease it is; practically drowned out by the music in the background, Carver and Isaac’s shock-dialog is drowned out as they look upon the Earth, seemingly being wrecked by two or three planets and a forth one looms in front of the Terra Nova just in time to crash it. Watching merely begged the question: There’s an entirely galaxy out there for you to eat, you all decide to converge on Earth like it’s the planet of Reach?
Why? Because Reasons.
You only need one man-eating moon to take out a planet, guys; what you just did, that's overkill.
Anything that could logically affect them is not --- or should not --- be around to affect them. Yet, considering the dodge-around producer Shereif Fattouh gave the IGN.com interviewer, not once, but TWICE, I’m not surprised that reason the other Moons can suddenly communicate from a great distance despite the lack of connection with the dead Moon of Tau Volantis ultimately boils down to “Because Reasons”.
And let's not go into how a two hundred year old ship that's been bombarded to kingdom come by remote mines, ravaged by the wares of space and arguably too damaged to move, is how some still able function and travel through deep space. The only thing that should reasonably be functioning on that ship is the radiation because its radiation. If the Unitologist shuttle's drive was just damaged, why not use the one in the Terra Nova and replace it then go to Earth?
Randal Carr probably takes first place as worst antagonist ever, knocking Jacob Danik off the pedestal without so much as trying. Not only does he not have a presence beyond irksome mini-boss villain that’s taken one too many classes in Instant Transmission from Son Goku, he almost never appears physically enough that you begin to question why he was made into a physical character at all. He just pops at the end, hunched over and then you shoot him.
He’s not a threat, he’s a bother. The vaguely defined “New Church” formed from the remnants of the Circle is as necessary to the narrative as a slap to the head from Carver; aside from bringing into question how anyone else could’ve survived a moon falling onto a planet--- which, like a mere shard of a planet, should’ve blown it into oblivion---, the enemies that appear only serve to fuel Isaac’s magic dementia. They ultimately offer and serve nothing to the plot or story. You can remove them entirely from the game and you’d still get the same end result.
Another oddity is Carver’s sudden desire to “wanna live” and he’s reasonably got nothing left to live for besides retirement, dismemberment or a bullet to the head; his actions in DS3 slapped you across the face with how much this character wanted to bite the dust, but do it on his terms, then a post-“death” aftermath has him change his tune. While that’s not at all uncommon, here, it just feels like another reason to prolong co-op, not a startling revelation of the subconscious.
What I Liked
The things I did enjoy were primarily as a result of Ricardo Chavira’s performance. His delivery of Carver’s exasperation is fantastic, not that I needed any more convincing that Carver wanted to strangle Isaac within an inch of his life; whether or not he and Gunner Wright were physically in the same room together, Naughty Dog style, shelling out these performances, they were an entertaining pair to watch and listen interact without the burden of Dead Space 3 hanging off of them completely.
I.E., the actors play off each other quite well. Isaac is mildly more bearable here as a character; the game and narrative even seems to remember he’s an engineer/person and not the unlikable superhuman they transformed him into. Unfortunately, the performances from the primary actors are pretty much the only thing that keeps the DLC afloat, which is a shame really.
Or you know, they could end it at Awakened, but that’ll never happen. As it stands, it invalidates the every plot point of Dead Space 3: the Sovereign Colonies, the Aliens, the Codex and Alien Machine. Not in a way that gave the impression that the characters were searching for something on a false hope and knew it on some level --- the entire game repeatedly reinforces the idea that the Codex WILL knock out/kill the Brethren Chain system and it does ---, but that someone decided to rewrite everything about the ending at the last minute when EA decided grab Visceral by the ears and drag it over to the 4th voting box in the office. [a 2 out 5]
- ↑ Yes, I'm bitter about that; probably even bitterer after listening to Clever Noob lay out how DLCs are effectively lazy cop-out implements with short time development that should be used to create new games under better development timelines.
- ↑ "C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)" - Wu Tang Clan, 1993
- ↑ NeoGaf: Dead Space 3: Awakened OUT NOW (Impressions)
- ↑ YouTube: IGN.com - Dead Space 3 Awakened Developer Commentary
- ↑ Clever Noob: "Back in the day, when companies wanted to tell additional storylines, they would have to make brand new games. This forced companies to slow down and take time with their development." - Is the Gaming Industry Crashing? (Mar 11, 2013)