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Dead Space 3: Awakened Impressions

Dead Space 3’s ending is designed to leave gamers hanging. It establishes a sense of closure for troubled hero Isaac Clarke, but what comes next is left intentionally hazy. It’s the kind of tease that people scoff at or obsess over. We usually don’t find out the answer to this kind of mystery until a sequel is made years later. In some instances, the series doesn’t return and we never get a resolution.

In Dead Space’s case, we only had to wait one month to figure out what Visceral Games was teasing. Dead Space 3: Awakened is a narrative expansion that picks up right where Isaac Clarke’s tale left off. The introductory sequence delivers a surprising twist that even Clarke and John Carver, his partner through Tau Volantis' snow-covered Hell, have difficulty believing. This setup sucks some of the drama out of Dead Space 3’s final moments, but produces an even bigger tease to think about and a more dramatic conclusion for the series.

One of my favorite aspects of the Dead Space games is Clarke’s evolution as a character. He went from being in the wrong place at the wrong time in Dead Space to the mentally anguished lead in Dead Space 2 to the grizzled veteran who had had enough in Dead Space 3. In Awakened, he’s pushed back a step. His nightmarish hallucinations return and are more pronounced than we’ve seen in the past.

Carver, who is also gripped by insanity, knows just how messed up Clarke is. In one sequence, Clarke believes he battled a handful of necromorphs, but Carver tells him that none of that happened. According to Carver, Clarke was just standing there motionless. The two quickly agree that they have to get the hell off of Tau Volantis. Unfortunately for them, the path to freedom leads to The Circle, a crazed group formed within the church of Unitology. The Circle's worshiping methods are disturbing, exacted by a leader who quickly establishes himself as one of Clarke's most menacing of foes.

While most of the firefights Clarke has with The Circle and the necromorph threats follow Dead Space 3’s formula of overwhelming him with swarms of enemies, hallucinations are used to add an element of surprise to most encounters. Foes blink in and out of reality as shots are fired, and Isaac may suddenly find himself surrounded after taking one step in the snow. This element of uncertainty amplifies the horror and intensity, and makes an already short experience feel even shorter.

I completed Awakened in just under an hour and a half. Outside of waiting for elevators and doors to open (which happens way too much in Dead Space 3), this expansion races out of the gate and dashes toward its big cliffhanger finale, rarely pausing to give Clarke a breather. All of Dead Space 3's notes are hit here, too. Clarke scales a wall with a grappling hook, uses stasis to slow a giant contraption's rotation so he can reactivate it, manually fixes a few doors, has the chance to upgrade his weapons and armor, and it wouldn't really be a Dead Space game if he didn't fly around in space for a few seconds.

Most of the environments are recycled from the core game, but Visceral uses them effectively to deliver a fascinating new adventure for Clarke and Carver. Here’s hoping the studio doesn’t leave us hanging for very long again. The next chapter looks like it’s going to be insane.

Awakened is one of Dead Space 3's better chapters. I like where the narrative takes us – even if it does hark back to an old idea. The unrelenting action is also a great fit for this brief tale.

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