Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mass Effect 2: Overlord (Xbox 360) Review

Also on sale as part of Xbox LIVE's Deal of the Week is the Mass Effect 2 DLC "Overlord." Offering four new assignments, a new star system, two new Achievements, and the M-44 Hammerhead (added if players didn't already download the free "Firewalker Pack"), this DLC has a fair bit on offer.

Once installed, players will receive a message from the Illusive Man at their private terminal informing them that a Cerberus research station has gone silent and should be investigated. Upon arrival, players enter a facility where a battle has clearly been fought, bodies and destruction littered everywhere. After a brief bit of exploration, players are contacted by Chief Scientist Archer, possibly the only survivor in the facility, who explains that an experimental VI has gone berserk and is trying to use the station's satellite to get off world.

This VI is rather unique as it can take control of almost any electronic devise, including the Geth that appear to already be on this world (thankfully Legion seems immune). It's up to Shepard and crew to prevent the VI from escaping and to stop the compromised Geth and Mechs through a total of four Cerberus facilities.

The fifth area featured is a beautifully detailed exterior area in which players travel in the Hammerhead, moving from facility to facility. Along the way players can explore the map looking for six Data Packets, collections of research that Cerberus can later use to analyze what went wrong.

I'm not perfectly sure if the controlled Geth and Mechs are tougher than their traditional counterparts, but I must confess I found they hit harder than I remembered. I also want to congratulate BioWare for adding in a great horror element that was lacking from the core game. While this VI is no S.H.O.D.A.N., traveling through the empty halls of the Cerberus facilities with bodies everywhere and having the VI just pop up and scream at you, well, let's just say I literally jumped the first few times.

With aspects like this, I found that "Overlord" provided a nice change to the Mass Effect 2 feel, giving it a more survival-themed element that created a great experience. I also found the DLC's story very well written, ultimately coming together with strong morality and a very sad human element. Honestly, I felt really sorry by the DLC's conclusion. The music, which I also believed to be new, was also a great touch.

I've encountered two odd but minor bugs with "Overlord" that you should be aware of. The first, during the conclusion of the first Cerberus base, had Shepard randomly get locked into facing and firing in a certain direction. No matter which way I walked or moved, he continued to face a specific direction (which was comical since I wasn't in combat), and the issue resolved itself when I touched a stairwell. Another little quirk is with the Mass Effect 2 icon on my Xbox 360's HDD, under System Settings>Memory>Games. Installing Mass Effect 2: Overlord changes the core Mass Effect 2 icon in this part of my console to the Batarian face of the Mass Effect: Bring Down the Sky DLC! While having no effect other than cosmetic, it's an odd little bug.

On Normal difficulty, Mass Effect 2: Overlord took me about three and a half hours, and I must admit, I'm very, very impressed with this DLC add-on. Strongly written with great gameplay, a cool System Shock 2-ish end sequence that I will not spoil, and a survival horror feel unique to the game, this is one premium add-on that I can recommend in good faith.

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