Sunday, August 14, 2011
Mass Effect 2: Arrival (Xbox 360) Review
The final DLC add-on for Mass Effect 2, entitled "Arrival," went on sale recently as part of an Xbox LIVE Deal of the Week, and I decided to pick it up and complete my collection.
Even at a sale price of 50% off I had reservations about buying it as Mass Effect 2: Arrival received a fair bit of negative press reviews, however despite this I decided to go in with an open mind and see how Shepard's final mission ends the sequel's adventure.
One of the cool attractions for this add-on is that we finally get to see Admiral Hackett, voiced by Lance Henriksen, a character who's been ever present in the franchise but only heard up until now. Once the add-on is downloaded and as soon as you fire up your last save game you'll receive a message that Hackett needs to speak with you about a rather sensitive topic, so Shepard will always take this call in his/her quarters.
Apparently a close friend of Hackett's, an Alliance scientist and operative named Dr. Kenson, has been taken prisoner in Batarian space. To make matters worse, she's got proof of a pending Reaper invasion and Hackett needs you to spring her ASAP.
This Assignment will not become available until the Mission on Horizon is completed in the core game, but like most Mass Effect 2 "quests" you can tackle this at any point you choose. Unlike most Mass Effect 2 Assignments, however, you need to do so solo.
A few rare Assignments in Mass Effect 2 saw Shepard tackling a simple task or two alone, but it's rather regrettable that Shepard has to take on this final adventure on his/her own, especially one that has him/her coming face-to-face with Reapers themselves. Hackett gives Shepard a political reason for not involving his crew, but really, it's nothing more than an excuse for the developers to design a solo stealth mission.
And when all is said and done the stealth mission isn't that bad. It's also not that hard. It also doesn't need to be played as a stealth mission. If you want to run and gun your way to the good doctor, feel free, but there is an Achievement for being all sneaky like.
Once Kenson is rescued, the add-on's story takes a different direction, a Reaper related direction that I won't spoil for you, but the remainder of Mass Effect 2: Arrival is really like a basic third person shooter. There's a brief little scenario that's unique or innovative, so credit where credit is due, but really there's nothing new or special in this add-on that you haven't experienced better elsewhere in the core game.
The storytelling itself is good, at least, and I did enjoy the overall narrative, however the entire add-on took me only two hours to playthrough, about two and a half on Insanity, and I've beaten it now three times; once for all my Shepards.
The enemies you encounter are all recycled and are quite predictable, and surprisingly Mass Effect 2: Arrival features absolutely no new weapons or armour. What you get is three Research upgrades available and some extra resources, nothing to jump and shout about and nothing you truly need.
While I fully expect a few of the decisions you make to have an impact on Mass Effect 3, and as I mentioned the story is pretty good as it conveys a nice sense of urgency and is coupled with some great new music, it's still very hard to recommend at full cost due to its short length and sparse/basic content.
While Mass Effect 2: Arrival isn't horrible, it's a few hours of mainly mindless entertainment, there's nothing essential here and it's quite the shame Mass Effect 2's final add-on isn't up to snuff along the lines of what we saw in Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker, or even Mass Effect 2: Overlord. Personally, I think Mass Effect 2: Arrival would have been perfect as a free release via the forgotten Cerberus Network; short, simple, basic entertainment. Instead it's released as a premium add-on and fails to impress; it's just kind of there.
I know BioWare can do far better than this, and let's hope they don't forget that while developing the conclusion to what's otherwise an excellent game franchise.