Mass Effect 2 DLC Review (PC/PS3/360)

January 27, 2011

PC, PlayStation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360

Many of you might be excited to play Mass Effect 2, especially those fortunate PS3 owners who now have their shot at saving the universe. Some of you might still be skeptical of all the hype. So if you’re still on the fence (even after our review of the game), perhaps the myriad DLC (or downloadable content) will encourage you to step into Shepard’s N7 shoes. Fortunately, many of these add-ons are included with the PS3 version of the game; the ones that aren’t are relatively cheap and well worth the cost.

Cerberus Network

The first one players are likely to notice is the Cerberus Network. New copies of Mass Effect 2 come with an access code that can be entered for access to the Cerberus Network. The main benefit here is free downloadable content, giving access to new weapons, armor, and even new missions and henchmen (Zaeed being the prime example). Cerberus Network also provides in-universe news stories on the main menu when you start up the game. This doesn’t have any real impact on the game, but gives players a new avenue of immersion into the Mass Effect universe.

PROS:

+ Free with purchase of a new copy of Mass Effect 2

+ Provides many free add-ons, with more on the way

+ News stories add a fun level of immersion to the story

CONS:

– Players who purchase a used copy of Mass Effect 2 must purchase a new code to access Cerberus Network

OVERALL: 8.0 / 10

Zaeed: The Price of Revenge

One of the best add-ons featured in Cerberus Network. The main draw is the addition of a new squad member: Zaeed Massani, a seasoned mercenary soldier with a troubled past. He makes an excellent general-purpose front-line soldier, with the ability to use assault rifles and sniper rifles. Hiring him is just the beginning, though – you can secure his loyalty (and a unique bonus power) by offering to help with an old “friend” of his. His story is one of hatred, revenge, and redemption, and will test the player’s ability to balance their moral choices with the consequences. The add-on also allows players to collect a new heavy weapon – a flamethrower. This should help give players some added short-range punch, especially against armor and organics. Finally, the add-on allows players to earn new trophies and achievements. Who doesn’t love that?

PROS:

+ New squad member is useful, and his unique ability is fun and helpful. Voice work is excellent as always

+ Loyalty mission story is engaging and gripping, with moral choices that can change its outcome

+ Flamethrower fills a combat niche some classes may lack

+ Free with Cerberus Network access

CONS:

– Zaeed’s conversation on the ship is limited and less detailed than other squad members

– Loyalty mission uses recycled music from the game

OVERALL: 9.0 / 10

Firewalker Pack

Another Cerberus Network offering, this serves mostly to introduce the Hammerhead vehicle to players, a long-awaited feature for non-PS3 players. Also included is five missions which serve to get players familiar with the vehicle. However, these take a backseat to the Hammerhead itself. The tank may be familiar to players of Mass Effect 1, since it’s very similar to the game’s Mako rover vehicle. It can hover, jump, and most importantly, fight. The missions will give you a good opportunity to get used to the vehicle’s controls and combat abilities. The Hammerhead itself looks great, and fits in with the Cerberus theme of sterile whites and sharp edges. The vehicle also features light-up meters on the boosters that indicate the ship’s jump capabilities. While the tank is great for exploration, combat is a little more tricky. There is no damage indicator, so the only way to know you’re close to death is when your tank is on fire, when it’s usually too late. The tank also only has one weapon, which makes combat fairly standard and routine; fly in, shoot your enemy while dodging its shots, and hope you don’t take too much damage in the process. All in all, it’s hard to complain about a free add-on, but those who are more strapped for time may want to save this one for later and enjoy the richer content first.

PROS:

+ Introduces the Hammerhead hover tank, adding a new dimension to gameplay

+ Free with Cerberus Network access

+ Players can find a research project and a cabin decoration

CONS:

– Missions do not fit in well with the overall story

– Little reward past use of Hammerhead tank

OVERALL: 7.0 / 10

Normandy Crash Site

This one will likely appeal more to players of the first game, enabling travel to the location where the original Normandy crashed. Players will be able to reminisce about previous locations and people on the ship, as well as find the dog tags of the original crew to return to their families. Most importantly, players can find Shepard’s original helmet, which can be displayed in their cabins.

Unfortunately, this add-on doesn’t have much for hardcore gamers, even for fans of the original game. If you want a new ornament for your cabin, that’s about all you’ll get out of this add-on, other than a few experience points and resources. Otherwise, your time is better spent elsewhere.

PROS:

+ Helmet provides new ornament for the captain’s cabin

+ Mass Effect 1 players will feel some nostalgia

+ Free with Cerberus Network access

CONS:

– Very little reward for the time invested (15-20 minutes)

– Not much to offer to new players

OVERALL: 6.5 / 10

One final note: the interactive comic included with the PS3 version is available to Xbox 360 and PC owners for free on the Cerberus Network, under the name Mass Effect: Genesis.

Now to the premium DLC. These aren’t free, but I’ll let you know which I think are worth it.

Kasumi: Stolen Memory

Like Zaeed, this add-on adds a new squad member to the crew – Kasumi Goto, master thief. A tech expert, she brings a lot of tactical options to a combat situation, including a very cool cloaking ability which allows her to sneak up on an enemy and knock them out for a time, or kill them outright. Her loyalty power is unique as well, but the real star of the show is her loyalty mission. You are tasked with helping her with the ultimate heist – a digital device that holds the memories of her former partner, in the possession of a dangerous (and wealthy) arms dealer. Players will have to infiltrate the dealer’s mansion, gain access to his vault, and escape. The mission is a nice change of pace from the main story, requiring the player to use their head as much as their trigger finger. The character and mission ooze style, with a soundtrack that ranges from subtle electronic cues to powerful horns and percussion and violin flourishes during the mission’s combat sequences. The entire experience excites and entertains, and rewards the player in many ways. While the mission is great on its own, it also opens players to new achievements and trophies and a brand new weapon – the Locust SMG, an accurate alternative to the Tempest and Shiruiken. And you might be surprised at how this all ties in with the rest of the galaxy…

BioWare clearly took criticism from Zaeed to heart, and while Kasumi’s shipboard dialogue is random, it’s much deeper and entertaining; from stories of her past heists to her opinions of the crew, you’ll be stopping back in her quarters between missions to hear her thoughts. Her character and voicework are superb as well. Though there’s a price tag associated with this DLC, it’s well worth every penny; I find myself doing Kasumi’s mission before anything else on each playthrough.

PROS:

+ Kasumi is a valuable party member, and her loyalty mission is incredibly entertaining, with exciting implications at the end

+ New SMG is a boon to classes without access to an assault rifle

+ New achievements and trophies

+ New musical score is incredible

CONS:

– Not free

OVERALL: 9.5/10

Overlord

This mission pack takes players into the depths of a Cerberus experimental facility. Apparently, they’ve been experimenting with using VIs (or Virtual Intelligences, sophisticated software designed to carry out tasks) to combat and control the Geth, sapient AIs bent on wiping out all organic life in the galaxy. Unfortunately, the VI went rogue and has taken over the facility. Naturally, you’ve been asked to investigate and bring order back to the facility.

This mission pack brings back the Hammerhead, the hover tank featured in the Firewalker Pack, and thankfully Bioware has polished the experience, forcing players to use all of the tank’s abilities to explore the terrain between Cerberus bases. Players can also earn an achievement or trophy for ferreting out 6 Cerberus “Data Packets” hidden in the field. Upon reaching each base, players are treated to diverse environments rife with exciting combat as they slowly begin to unravel the mystery behind the incident at the research facility. And the ending is a real surprise, testing the player’s moral compass. It’s a little disappointing that the add-on doesn’t give any tangible reward outside of the missions, and the story doesn’t have much consequence tied in with the overall plot of the game, but it’s still a fun diversion and well worth your time if you enjoy combat and a good story.

PROS:

+ Intriguing story spans 2-4 hours for most players

+ Hammerhead tank makes a return and is better than ever

+ New music fits the story well and helps to intensify combat

CONS:

– No extra content outside the missions makes price hard to justify

OVERALL: 7.5 / 10

Alternate Appearance Pack

This add-on provides alternate outfits for 3 squad mates – Thane, Jack, and Garrus. Unfortunately (and there are a few of these), the outfits all look like a failed 80’s clothing style, they have no impact on the gameplay (except for distracting you during combat – a bad thing), and you’ll have to pay around $2 USD for them. It’s disappointing to see such excellent content offered for free to most players, while content such as this has a price tag with it, as small as it is.

PROS:

+ Alternate costumes are…interesting?

CONS:

– No positive effect on gameplay

– Costs money

OVERALL: 0.5 / 10

Lair of the Shadow Broker

I saved the best for last. Many players may remember meeting with Liara T’soni on Illium to assist with some data mining and hacking to hunt down her nemesis, the Shadow Broker. Players of the original game will remember her as a valuable party member, and the Shadow Broker as something of a gray entity with a shady reputation (no pun intended). Regardless, Cerberus has given data to help Liara with her hunt, and she’s finally ready to strike. You’ll follow her through the streets (and even the skyways) of Illium and the titular lair itself. The add-on’s true strengths are its superb story-telling, excellent musical score, and gameplay innovation. Liara serves as a new party member who will accompany you during her hunt, bringing plenty of biotic strength to the field, including a unique bonus power, Stasis. Players of the original may remember this talent as a great crowd-control ability, and it makes its return in LotSB. Players who complete the mission can even select it as a bonus talent using the Advanced Training research project in the Normandy’s lab. Additionally, the add-on has a great pace, transitioning between exploration, combat, and even a high-speed car chase. It also provides some unique scripted battles, making the boss fights feel truly genuine. The pack is also full of achievements and trophies (5 in all) and contains a few items to spruce up your cabin. And if you previously had a relationship with Liara, this add-on may appeal to you even more…

LotSB will even reward you after the mission is over, providing several useful tools, such as a terminal that lets you refund and spend your squad mates’ talent points, as well as one that helps you find planets rich in the resources you need! I won’t ruin it all, but LotSB is an add-on that’s surely worth the time investment.

PROS:

+ Excellent story and musical score; Liara’s story is a gripping one with plenty of exciting combat and other scenarios

+ Opportunity to continue a relationship with Liara

+ Plenty of achievements and trophies

+ Lots of bonuses after the mission’s completion

+ Car chase is exciting

CONS:

– Liara is only a temporary squad mate during the mission

– Car chase is too short

OVERALL: 9.0 / 10

Weapon and Armor Packs

BioWare offers a lot of weapon and armor packs for Mass Effect 2. Some are free with Cerberus Network access, while others are premium content requiring a purchase. They all bring new dimension to the game and give a lot of good combat options. Rather than review them individually, I’ll give a broad description here.

The additional weapons offered are the Incisor Sniper Rifle (from the Aegis Pack), the Mattock Assault Rifle, the Geth Plasma Shotgun, and the Phalanx Heavy Pistol (from the Firepower Pack), and the Eviscerator Shotgun (from the Cerberus Weapon and Armor add-on). There is also the Arc Projector, from the Cerberus Network (and therefore free). Each weapon offers a unique, and in some cases brand-new, combat experience. For example, the Phalanx offers a laser sight instead of a crosshair, the Arc Projector lets you unleash chain lightning on your foes, and the Eviscerator offers a longer-ranged alternative to the traditionally point-blank effectiveness of other shotguns.

The armor offerings are the Cerberus Assault Armor (from the Cerberus Weapon and Armor add-on), the Capacitor Helmet, Archon Visor, and Inferno Armor (from the Equalizer Pack), and the Kestrel Armor (a modular armor set from the Aegis Pack). Each of these armor sets fill in a particular niche or theme, and aside from looking great, can also help certain playstyles. The Kestrel Armor is especially noteworthy in that it contains upgrades that are helpful for any class or playstyle. Even better, they can be mixed or matched with other armor pieces to specialize your bonuses. The Capacitor Helmet and Archon Visor also help to bring unique bonuses to the helmet slot.

These weapon and armor add-ons may carry a charge, but for such a low cost, the extra combat options they offer are well worth the cost.

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About Argus9

Jonathan ‘Argus9′ Zisser has been an avid gamer for over 20 years. His early years of playing the NES with his father helped springboard his interest in gaming, and has eventually matured into an avid following for the gaming industry. Studying Computer Engineering at Stony Brook University also gave him insight into the more technical side of video games. A passionate writer as well, Jonathan loves conveying his experiences and opinions by creating engaging articles as often as possible. More often than not, he tries to break down today’s industry and write editorials that make his readers think.

View all posts by Argus9

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