torstai 19. tammikuuta 2012

Mass Effect 2 DLC Guide

Mass Effect 2 is one of my favourite video games of all time... BUT it simply wouldn't be the same without the story of the first game backing it up, or the altogether fantastic character development of Commander Shepard throughout. How BioWare handled importing a Mass Effect save file to Mass Effect 2 totally changed people's perspective on role-playing. Every major decision you made in Mass Effect had consequences in Mass Effect 2, even while the games were so different, and it's the damndest thing that every major decision you made in both games will have consequences in the upcoming Mass Effect 3. How to get the most out of the experience? There's a LOT of DLC available for Mass Effect 2 to make your Shepard's story EVEN deeper while you're heading into Mass Effect 3. This isn't your basic, run-of-the-mill downloadable content - most of it is very essential, totally belonging content that will do what most DLC fails to do... it makes the game even better than it originally was.

Since the PlayStation 3 retail includes most of this stuff by default, it's been called the greatest version of Mass Effect 2 there is - however, the PlayStation 3 version lacks one of the most important spices of the Mass Effect franchise, the option to import the very same Shepard you played as in the first game. The original Mass Effect was never released on the PS3, and it never will, since it was published by Microsoft and they never passed the rights to the game to the current publisher EA. Why? 'Cause they're bastards, that's why. When have you last seen Microsoft willingly sacrifice something except for user comfort?

This stuff is way more essential for the PC and Xbox 360 versions... but it is also very expensive. Getting every story-driven add-on for the game costs 3680 Microsoft Points, which converts to $46 and €42.80. It's quite sick - I paid €6.80 for the pre-owned retail at GameStop. However, I gotta love stupid people. The previous owner hadn't used his redeem code for the Cerberus Network bundle, so I took advantage of their ignorance and used it to end up with free stuff worth of no less than 1200 Microsoft Points. I saved almost 14 euros, and got some very essential DLC that made me love Mass Effect 2 even more than I did before, for absolutely free.

No DLC is perfect. There's always something to bitch about, and that's one of the reasons I feel obligated to take on the enormous pile of Mass Effect 2 DLC and tell you PC and Xbox 360 owners what you should definitely get, and what you should reflect on a little first. Let's start with Cerberus Network, and at least try to explain what it's all about.


"The name's Zaeed, and this is what you'll get
for downloading the God damn Cerberus
Released: January 2010
Cost: 1200 BioWare Points (PC), €14.95 (PS3), 1200 Microsoft Points (Xbox 360)

To put it simply, Cerberus Network is a DLC and news client for Mass Effect 2. To put it less simply, Cerberus Network comes with free, exclusive DLC you can't get without installing the client. Needless to say that despite of its salty price, Cerberus Network is a must-have for any true Mass Effect fan. Every new retail copy of Mass Effect 2 comes with a code for the bundle, and as I said, also some used copies that have had ignorant / stupid / uncaring people for previous owners. I was lucky enough to nail this sort of used copy, and got more free stuff than I could have ever asked for in a case concerning a game on the Xbox 360. The only question remains: would I pay 1200 Points (€14) for the content the Cerberus Network comes complete with by default? I'm not so sure about that.

The Cerberus Network first presents itself as a news channel in the main menu of the game. Take a look at the list of downloadable content after installing the client, and you will notice a lot of free, exclusive stuff will turn up. First up, is Normandy Crash Site - a small assignment that only involves Shepard investigating the remains of his ill-fated ship, collecting his dead crew's dog tags and having flashbacks that were made with some serious service for fans of the first game in mind. The actual goal of the assignment is to place an Alliance monument to the site, in memory of those who lost their lives in the intro sequence of the game. A quite cool little sidequest, all in all. No action at all, but deep dramatic value.

Zaeed - The Price of Revenge is more like it. Not only does this add-on come complete with an extra Achievement, but also one hell of an extra character for your squad - a horribly scarred, gloomy, cynical no-bullshit mercenary by the name of Zaeed Massani. The only possible problem I have with the character is that the only times you can actually communicate with him through traditional dialogue are when you recruit him, and when you take on his loyalty mission. He just utters some random comment when you try to talk to him aboard the Normandy. I'm hoping for a little more depth to his ultra-awesome character in Mass Effect 3.

The Firewalker pack was probably made with those fans of Mass Effect that loved the Mako sequences in the original game to bits in mind. Firewalker does not bring any new Achievements to the table, but several assignments involving a hover tank by the name of M-44 Hammerhead, which is like a more controllable and comfortable, lighter and airborne version of the Mako. Some of the missions are quite OK, but they're easy and boring, since most of them deal with the simple high speed navigation of multi-layered levels rather than any straight-on action. You can't save while you're flying the Hammerhead (this might turn out a problem in the Overlord DLC), and you can fail at least one of the assignments without a chance to try it again. I wouldn't pay for a stand-alone version.

PlayStation 3 owners have exclusive access to the interactive comic book Mass Effect: Genesis via the Cerberus Network, which serves as a virtual PS3 version of the original Mass Effect. They are able to make the most major decisions of the original game in Genesis, which makes it quite essential for PS3 owners... however, Genesis does not come for free for PC and Xbox 360 owners, and we have no actual use for it, it's for the most serious completists only.

Finally, the Cerberus Network naturally comes with exclusive equipment, including equipment standard for Cerberus officers and a devastating heavy weapon called an Arc Projector - don't leave home without it! In addition, there's a whole bunch of equipment that can be accessed via the Cerberus Network, once you have additional codes for them, or you've met some other criteria to gain the rights to purchase them; for example, a futuristic version of the Blood Dragon Armor for Dragon Age: Origins is available if you've got a copy of Dragon Age: Origins registered for ANY platform. I was ecstatic about this, but it's kinda stupid that you can't strip Shepard of his helmet if you equip him with the Blood Dragon Armor.

Cerberus Network is a brilliant concept... business-wise. The bundle does manage to nudge Mass Effect 2 into a slightly better, deeper direction, but a price that's the same as that of many full-length Arcade games available on LIVE is way too high.

RATING : 8.0


Now you see her... now you don't. And now
you're dead.
Released: April 2010
Cost: 560 BioWare Points (PC), 560 Microsoft Points (Xbox 360)

Cerberus has procured the services of one Kasumi Goto, a master thief from the shadows of the Citadel. In return for her help, Kasumi wants Shepard's aid in the heist of a lifetime, which she has planned for years to avenge her partner's death and retrieve a VR device which contains his memories.

Kasumi - Stolen Memory is exactly like Mark of the Assassin for Dragon Age II. The storyline is similar, it advances similarly, and it introduces a great character whose appearance is way too limited. Kasumi certainly is a member of your squad throughout the game once you've recruited her, unlike Tallis whose appearance was limited to the add-on, but just like you cannot truly converse with Zaeed, you cannot engage in dialogue with her either. However, you'll see that she's far from hollow once you get to her loyalty mission, which might just be one of the best single assignments in the whole game. It's different from all standard missions, actually it's kind of James Bond-ish; it's like a whole new side to the Mass Effect experience, and I like it a lot.

This one-hour mission is well over a half of smart espionage with just a hidden pistol at your side. The last 20 minutes comprise of some explosive gunfights in the traditional style of Mass Effect 2, complete with a boss fight straight out of Metal Gear in which Kasumi truly shows her worth. The plot is quite good, and although Kasumi's made out to be such a hollow character by her limited presence in the rest of the game, the dramatic conclusion proves BioWare could've went to places with her. What I said about Zaeed rings true for Kasumi as well: I hope BioWare "fixes" her in the next game... IF she'll be in it. I bet she will, she's that popular, and Zaeed has already been confirmed for Mass Effect 3, so...

So! 560 Points - that's a pretty reasonable price for a good, not to mention unique character for your squad, who has an entertaining loyalty mission to boot. The only possible flaws I can come up with here is the assignment's short length, Kasumi's reluctance for some real dialogue, and our somewhat limited control over Shepard's actions. Stolen Memory is a prime example of classy, minor DLC.

RATING : 9.0


Released: June 2010
Cost: 560 BioWare Points (PC), 560 Microsoft Points (Xbox 360)

An experimental VI goes rogue on the planet Aite, silencing all communications in a local Cerberus research base. The sole survivor of the base informs Shepard what he is actually dealing with: an "Overlord", Cerberus' attempt to fuse a human being with a virtual intelligence.

Let's break down some facts, first. Overlord comes with two new Achievements for your whoring pleasure, and rights to use the M-44 Hammerhead, if you don't already have the Firewalker add-on - the Hammerhead's a very important part of the mission. The mission is over two hours long; its length alone makes it a good purchase for just 560 Points. That doesn't mean it's the best DLC available for Mass Effect 2, though.

The plot reminds me a lot of Brett Leonard's movie adaptation of Stephen King's The Lawnmower Man. In the movie, a scientist attempts to enhance his gardener's low intelligence with drugs and virtual reality. Eventually the gardener becomes so intelligent and virtually omnipotent that he attempts to take over the whole research. In this plot, we need to stop a man who's been fused with a VI and has become a conduit for a kind of a computer virus. He's autistic and therefore has no standard human control over his mischeavous actions.

Running through Overlord is a bit boring. The plot's OK, but the Hammerhead sequences are forced into it and they're not too entertaining this time around, and all in all, it could end sooner altogether to save some face. The boss fight against the "VI Man" is simply enfuriating. Overlord has no space of its own in the whole plot of Mass Effect like the others of its kind and size have. Finally, Overlord comes complete with some dastardly sound effects; the VI is constantly yelling at you, throughout interior areas, in some really high-pitched computerized voice.

Overlord's a good buy for Achievement completists - one of the new Achievements is automatic upon completion, one takes perhaps ten additional minutes of your time to unlock. It's also a good buy if you've already done everything else in the game, and are looking for a good way to pass a couple of more hours in the Mass Effect 2 galaxy. Otherwise, it's by far the least interesting content the Mass Effect 2 DLC library has to offer. There are people who couldn't disagree more, it seems.

RATING : 7.5


The hottest blue chick in the history of science
fiction returns to bring us DLC perfection.
Released: September 2010
Cost: 800 BioWare Points (PC), 800 Microsoft Points (Xbox 360)

Cerberus comes across some information that might help Liara T'Soni to finally track down the mysterious information dealer known as the Shadow Broker, who has captured her drell partner, Feron. Shepard brings this information to Liara and the asari prepares for a search and rescue mission, only to have her plans thwarted by an assassin. Shepard and Liara team up once more to take down the assassin, venture deep into the lair of the Shadow Broker, discover his well kept identity and save Feron.

It's been called the biggest and best piece of DLC in the history of DLC... and it is exactly that. Is 800 Points a bit steep to you? It would usually be very steep to me, too... but after finishing Lair of the Shadow Broker, I must say I would've gladly paid more for it just to experience it. You can safely expect a lot of jabs at the original Mass Effect, all the way from gameplay elements to the plot - I bet you can get the most out of this add-on by having a romantic history with Liara. This time around, I didn't, but I still had a lot of fun, every single moment. Lair of the Shadow Broker is a mandatory purchase if you care about half of the whole story. Those who buy the game for the PlayStation 3 get this one for free on the game disc - this is the one single time I have to silently bow to those people. Well played, sirs.

I couldn't even imagine replaying Mass Effect 2 without Lair of the Shadow Broker installed. Here's the deal: they introduced this "Shadow Broker" in Mass Effect via early dialogue, and I instantly found the mysterious entity very intriguing. I was expecting to have my own dealings with the Shadow Broker later on in the game, as he/she/they was mentioned a few more times nearing the end, but the Shadow Broker was never seen or heard from again before Mass Effect 2. It was disappointing. What was even more disappointing was Liara's rant regarding the Shadow Broker in the Mass Effect 2 retail; once again we never saw the Shadow Broker. It felt like we're given a taste of a good plot, and then just slammed face first to the floor with the fact that we're probably never going to actually find out who or what the Shadow Broker actually is. Secondly, even though my first Shepard used to have a thing with Liara, the dialogue between them written for the original Mass Effect 2 left me very cold. It was hostile, distant, and it didn't go anywhere. The Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC fixes these problems. The Shadow Broker's identity is finally revealed, and Shepard and Liara's past friendship - or romantic relationship - is seriously revisited. It took me four hours to beat this baby, and like I said, I enjoyed every damn passing minute of it.

Yeah, so storywise, Lair of the Shadow Broker is simply incredible, and it's perhaps closest to the original Mass Effect style of writing you can get without copying some old idea and modifying it a little. But, it also has amazing level design on its side. A burning office building smack in the middle of the Illium metropolis, a ship exterior on a planet famous for its constant thunderstorms, that very same ship's interior, a five-star hotel, some crime scene investigation in the style of poor man's L.A. Noire and finally, a cab chase in the style of futuristic Grand Theft Auto (!) across Illium. Those who found Mass Effect 2 a tad too repetitive in the long run will be happy to know that this action-packed monster of downloadable content will constantly surprise and amaze you. It comes with a total of five new Achievements. I nailed four of them on my first run, and I'll be damn glad to take it on again with my alterna-Shepard to nail the last one, just to see the story unfold again. It's simply that good. Finally (?), the most enthusiastic players gain access to some of the Shadow Broker's files on the most important people in the galaxy, including your very own squad, as well as an alternate base of operations upon completion of the DLC pack. It packs a punch, that's for sure.

Not only is it more than essential content for Mass Effect 2; I'm guessing playing and completing Lair of the Shadow Broker will have quite an effect on different plot outcomes in Mass Effect 3, as well. It doesn't just belong here, it fills an actual gap; it's the best mission in Mass Effect 2, bar none, and simply, thus far, the best downloadable content for any game money can buy. This is why I'm giving it the first, albeit unofficial, 10 of the blog. Its actual quality is of course determined by the quality of the game itself, but I doubt I'll ever get this much out of downloadable content again.

RATING : 10 

Who's arriving? And where to? Take a look.
Released: March 2011
Cost: 560 BioWare Points (PC), €6.99 (PS3), 560 Microsoft Points (Xbox 360)

Dr. Amanda Kenson, a deep cover agent in the Alliance's service, goes missing in batarian airspace while investigating a potential Reaper threat. Admiral Steven Hackett (once again voiced by cult favourite Lance Henriksen) contacts Shepard personally and asks him to travel to the far edge of the galaxy, solo, infiltrate the prison the doctor's kept in and rescue her, whatever her intentions might be.

Arrival was more of a business move by BioWare than anything else. Arrival was set to be the stop-gap between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, a Mass Effect 2.5 if you will. The story begins as a pretty standard search and rescue mission, but ends in an ominous cliffhanger sequence which obviously paves the way for a big change in Mass Effect 3... it was later revealed that recapping the events in Arrival are what the first 10 to 15 minutes of Mass Effect 3 will be all about.

Arrival has a great story and three new Achievements for its strongest hooks, but many flaws on the side. First, it makes no sense that you can play it at any time after completing Horizon, which is pretty much the midway mark of the game. Although BioWare did their best to maintain the time setting's neutrality - for example, by removing all squadmates due to their potential deaths in the end of the game (oops, spoiler?) - there's just something oddly wrong about Arrival the whole time if you don't take it on after finishing Mass Effect 2 to the hilt first. It's out of place and context. Those who don't know what Arrival is all about might be in for a bigger disappointment than the rest...

...Who are disappointed because Arrival came after Lair of the Shadow Broker, an amazing standard. Well over a year after the original game, in fact. Gone are the twists and turns of Shadow Broker, as well as most of the interesting new insight on the A's and B's of the whole saga. It's a great teaser for Mass Effect 3, but not the best DLC for Mass Effect 2 you could imagine. Although it has some amazing twists as a stand-alone story, and at least one totally fresh (yet brief) gameplay sequence, it doesn't really stand out as a mission like Shadow Broker did. It's just like any other tunnel run of a mission in Mass Effect 2, only much longer. It's about as lengthy as Shadow Broker, it just doesn't have as much diverse content.

Pricing's definitely on Arrival's side. Those who love the story as much as I do and want to know some details of what happens next, are definitely investing their 560 Points on the right subject. Those looking for another Shadow Broker should make reservations. (NOTE: Xbox 360 owners who still haven't got Arrival installed, this is the perfect time to get it - it's on promotional sale on LIVE.)

RATING : 7.7

2 kommenttia:

  1. I have been enjoying Zaeed from the Cerberus Network, and after reading this (despite my dislike of DLC) I may pick up Lair of the Shadow Broker. It is rare for DLC to feel like it fills and actual gap the story ... without being a money grabbing day-of DLC release.

  2. What's best is that I expected nothing out of it at all, because I hadn't read any earlier reviews on any of the DLC before trying each pack out.