Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mass Effect 2: Firewalker Pack Review

Earlier this week, BioWare released the Firewalker Pack, free DLC to all Cerberus Network members, and it's the largest and most robust of the free DLC released since Zaeed - The Price of Revenge.

A ship with Cerberus ties has been brought down, apparently by Geth, and this vessel was carrying two very important Cerberus scientists as well as the Hammerhead assault vehicle. Dispatched via a message received on your Private Terminal, Shepard and crew head out to find the wreckage and try to determine exactly just what happened.

Anyone who's played Mass Effect certainly remembers the Mako, the land based vehicle that you explored uncharted worlds in. It could scale walls, magically right itself when flipped upside down, and featured pathetic handling. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate the Mako with a vengeance, and consider it to be one of this single worst game vehicles designed for this generation. So I'm going to assume that whoever designed that piece of junk didn't design the Hammerhead, because it's actually fun to use!

Once your shuttle drops you off at your first location, you almost immediately find the Hammerhead, and unlike the Mako, it's very simple to control. You move around with the Left Stick, look around with the Right Stick, boost with the Left Trigger, fire missiles with the Right Trigger, jump/hover (limited) with "A," and scan items/recover resources with "Y." For the life of me I can't recall if "X" did anything, but it doesn't matter, as the Hammerhead moves and handles smoothly, and that means it's gets Juxtapose13's personal thumbs up!

The Firewalker Pack features a grand total of 5 Assignments (side quests), each a little different from one another, and all of them almost exclusively focused on piloting around the Hammerhead. There is some combat against the Geth where you get to blast the snot out of them with your guided missiles (not the most accurate weapon, but you can saturate it to compensate), and unlike the Mako which required Omni-Gel to repair and featured shields that would take forever to recharge, so much so that if they were fully depleted I could go get a beer, drink it, go for a 10 minute walk, come back, and _still_ be waiting for them to fully charge (this is not an exaggeration, I actually did this on Virmire. I. Hate. The. Mako.), well, the Hammerhead uses the standard health regeneration system used by the core game, making it easy to get back into fights.

Most of the Assignments take place on fire-based worlds (thus the DLC's name), and they have wonderfully designed areas for you to hover around, boosting and jumping from platform to platform. Items you need to scan are easily spotted by glowing yellow circles, and resources in less obvious places are marked the same way, so keep your eyes peeled! There is also a very limited amount of traditional ground exploration, but there's no ground combat at all or additional Squad comments, so for each mission it truly doesn't matter at all who you bring with you. Additional voice acting for the DLC comes in the form of the Hammerhead's VI, but that's it.

Overall, the Firewalker Pack took me about 3 hours to complete, with time also taken up for scanning and reading the description of the new planets in the new clusters the DLC opens up. Mass Effect 2's Firewalker Pack isn't the biggest or baddest DLC ever released, but it was great fun, completely free, and it features a vehicle that wasn't an exercise in frustration like the Mako.

Well done BioWare, well done.

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