The Mass Effect 2 DLC Fiesta
So all of the assorted end of the year video game year recaps was more than enough to nudge me back in the direction of Mass Effect 2. It was certainly enough to motivate me to finally get to my second playthrough, this time as a renegade jerk! Shoot first, ask questions maybe! Convince my teammates that the best way to overcome their personal demons is to murder somebody. Womanize the lady at the desk! And yet in spite of my newfound coldheartedness, find a way to ensure my entire time survived the endgame. (Unfortunately, Tali had too much generosity in her soul to make it out of the suicide mission alive. Nice Quarians finish last.) And this time around, I made an effort to indulge in all of the available DLC missions. Key word being “missions”, as I can’t be made to care for petty things like weapons packs or a new leather jacket for Jack. And why do I want Jack to be wearing more clothes as opposed to less?
Lets start with the freebies, the ones you get for buying a new copy of the game and enlisting in the Electronic Ar…I mean Cerberus Network ranks. . “Zaeed: The Price of Revenge” introduces you to Zaeed, a badass gun for hire with a mysterious past. You know, just like the 3 or 4 other badass guns for hire on your team with a mysterious past. His most discerning character trait may be that, in spite of being human, he’s got the ugliest mug on the Normandy. You also get his loyalty mission, which comprises of “go to this Blue Suns base, shoot dudes, blow up the base, go home.” It’s the most forgettable of the downloadable missions, but the price is right.
Unlike “Normandy Crash Site.” The last of the free missions, this has you revisiting the crash site of the old spaceship. What results is essentially a fetch quest for stray dog tags and random screenshots of the old ship. Why can’t Sheppard force the many random hands on the new Normandy to dig up those dang tags? Unless you have some kind of overwhelming nostalgia for Mass Effect 1, this is a very passable mission.
Now, for the paid DLC packs. “Kasumi’s Stolen Memory” costs 560 Microsoft points, which I’m sure amounts to about 8 dollars in theory. But you can’t buy Microsoft points in such fickle increments, so you may wind up paying the full $15 for a 1000 point set. Bloody Microsoft. This pack gives you Kasumi, an arrogant female with a mysterious past that joins your crew of arrogant females with mysterious pasts. Her loyalty mission has Shepherd, in newly-unlocked formal attire, attend a dinner party for a criminal and his generic Mass Effect 2 NPC-friends. You first have to do a bit of adventure game pixel-hunting to find the right switches that let you access a hidden area. Then the game breaks down into a third person cover-based shooter. Shocker, eh? I think the mission is barely an hour long, but I found myself keeping Kasumi in my party as a semi-regular, so I guess I got my money’s worth. Her main attack has her ambushing enemies from behind, which amounts to the most active involvement I’ve seen one in display out of a partymate.
“Overlord” also comes in at the awkward price of 560 points. Here is a series of missions built around unraveling the mystery of a rogue AI. What you’ll find is a series of gunplay sequences, tied together with more Firewalker hovercraft sequences and neon green. Overlord stands out for two reasons; the evil AI is constantly pumping his green eyes and data-mumbly voice all over the place and a series of mild cheap scares. Also, the game has that Dragon Age issue where create a moral choice about it. I feel like Overlord is too overbearing about it, having the audio logs constantly reminding the player that the makings of this AI were as unethical as baby punting. Still, for the unique visual aethestic of watching an AI take over this base with mystical green light eyes and techno-grumbling, Overlord makes for a memorable hour or two of entertainment.
The main event of this Mass Effect buffet is “Lair of the Shadow Broker”. This comes in at a full 800 Microsoft Points, demanding more of that $15 you’ll spend. Players are briefly reunited with Liara, who is on a quest to deal with the titular Shadow Broker. The end result is about three or four extended third person cover-based shootouts, and a very trivial flying car chase. This piece of DLC has some high and low points. There are two extended sequences that ask the player to sit in a single spot and gun down waves of enemies in what amounts to annoying, artificial game-lengthening. The showdown with the actual Shadow Broker isn’t so great, though the final reveal at least feels distinct. You won’t find out, for example, that the Shadow Broker is really a shriveled toothpick programmer behind a computer. And there is the kind of neat setpiece sequence of battling guards on top of a spaceship, in the middle of a thunderstorm. But for me, anyways, it isn’t a terribly long set of missions, and doesn’t quite stand out in the way Overlord did for me. Your reward for success is a lengthy series of “private” documents about many characters, and a second chance to take Liara to bed. So whether or not you enjoy Shadow Broker depends on how invested you are in the Mass Effect fiction and Liara’s cookie.
I’m not much of a loyal purchaser of downloadable content packs. It usually takes something special for me to want to pay money to revisit a game I already finished. Nothing here in Mass Effect 2 quite compares to the game-changing expansions Rockstar did with Grand Theft Auto 4 and Red Dead Redemption. Buy Overlord if you like creepy AIs, buy all of the packs if you must inject every piece of Mass Effect fiction. Otherwise, the money is better spent on lengthier, more unique XBLA games.
3 ½ stars