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Bringing horror out of stasis in Dead Space 3's 'Awakened' DLC

Adam Rosenberg

If there's any worry at Visceral Games over criticisms that Dead Space 3 strays too far from its horror roots, no one is talking about it. On the contrary, producer Shereif Fattouh seemed completely optimistic about the game's reception and its place within the Dead Space universe during a recent preview of the upcoming 'Awakened' add-on content.

"Whenever you release a title, you're gonna get the positives and negatives. We as a dev team are really proud of the game we made. We feel it was very true to the franchise and we're excited to put it out," Fattouh told Joystiq. "There are people that have criticisms, and that's everybody's right. For us, we put a lot of our heart and soul into the game and we feel it's enjoyable."

Fattouh's description of Awakened paints the picture of a campaign add-on that hews closer to the spirit of previous entries in the series. The 'creep factor' was indeed high in our hands-on demo, which sends Isaac back to the CMS Terra Nova's Conning Tower, after it's been overrun by a Necromorph-worshipping cult of scarification practitioners. Strange symbols and unsettling altars that mash together human corpses with Necro parts line the walls.

"We had a vision for what we wanted to make with our DLC," Fattouh explained. "The nice thing about it is it kind of married into what some of the more hardcore community guys were asking for. They didn't feel that there was as much horror as they would have liked [in Dead Space 3]."

Gallery: Dead Space 3 'Awakened' DLC (03/07/2013) | 7 Photos

"It really fit well with what we were planning to do with this DLC [in] trying to create a creepy, scary atmosphere that we still think is a big part of the Dead Space franchise and has always been a part of it."

Players can expect to encounter an assortment of new enemies – humans and Necromorphs alike – in Awakened, along with a handful of new weapon parts and upgrades. Dementia is a big theme, as evidenced during the demo by Isaac's multiple showdowns with illusory – yet no less dangerous – hordes of rushing cultists. Co-op returns as well, complete with two-player-specific scenarios; however, none of these featured in Joystiq's demo.

There's plenty of disturbing imagery as well, from the human/Necro mash-up altars to the gruesome dismemberment rituals that Isaac intrudes upon. A mysterious, hooded figure presides over these proceedings. Meanwhile, whispers in Isaac's head provide the necessary helping of "is this real?" moments. All of this connects with the series narrative in ways that Visceral wasn't willing explain in detail.

"The Dead Space universe has a lot of different outlets," Fattouh said. "We've had our graphic novels, the anime series, the animated comics themselves. The Awakened DLC definitely ties into the larger fiction of the universe. You'll see homages to Altman, who was the founder of Unitology. He plays a role in here; I don't want to get too deep into it, but there's things like that. We do see it as one, giant universe – it's not just the game, we're also trying to tell a larger story here."

Bringing horror out of stasis in Dead Space 3's 'Awakened' DLC
There's some dissonance to these comments in light recently reported EA layoffs and the publisher's rumored – but denied – shelving of the Dead Space franchise. Of course a producer from the studio is going to put the best face possible on the franchise during a preview demo, but Fattouh's words about the larger universe serve as a reminder that there's a significant investment in supporting this ongoing story.

Fattouh calls Awakened a continuation of Dead Space 3's story, "the real epilogue of some of the events that took place," as he put it. "The vision for these chapters and for this whole Awakened DLC is just to harken back to a little bit more of the claustrophobic, psychotic themes that have been present throughout the franchise. We really wanted to drive home the idea of that terror and that tension."

The story opens on the surface of somewhat changed Tau Volantis, a return to the vanilla's game's most open environment, before heading back to the Terra Nova. Fattouh promised that a fair chunk of time will also be spent in a new, unspecified location, though even familiar locales like the Terra Nova's Conning Tower feel different.

"Just like in Dead Space 3, there's a lot of [environmental] variety. When you start the first chapter of this DLC, you'll be in some of the wider open areas on the planet's surface," he revealed. "A lot of events that have taken place toward the end of DS3 are going to effect the environments that you see. On the planet, it's even more pronounced."

Along with areas both new and familiar, Awakened will feature new weapon parts and circuits to find, offering fresh upgrade possibilities.

Bringing horror out of stasis in Dead Space 3's 'Awakened' DLC
[spoilers below]

For those who have played Dead Space 3 to completion, the presence of the Necro moon carries an even bigger hint. Needless to say, Awakened shouldn't be tackled unless you completed the main story.

"It ties into the fiction of what you're awakening," Fattouh said of the add-on's title. "You got a little bit of a tease of it with the Necro moon and you kind of see how some of that ties in in Dead Space 3. As you play through the story and as you play through Dead Space 3, I think the title will make a little bit more sense."

Awakened for Dead Space 3 is set to arrive for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 at some point this month for $10 (800MS Points).

Adam Rosenberg is a writer and dudebro academic based out of Brooklyn, NY. He's a full-time freelancer who has contributed to a wide range of outlets, including G4, Rolling Stone, MTV, and Digital Trends. You can follow his and his dog's exploits on Twitter at @Geminibros.

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