With Lair of the Shadow Broker, Mass Effect 2 finally gets the add-on fans have been waiting for. Additional characters in Zaeed and Kasumi are great, and Overlord was a decent side story, but Shadow Broker is the real deal.
The DLC not only brings back fan favorite Liara from Mass Effect 1, but features a pair of excellent boss fights and some awesome action set pieces. There’s also a handful of bonuses available after the action is over, extending and expanding upon the main game’s feature set.
Available for 800 MS Points ($10) since July 2010, here’s my review of Mass Effect 2’s penultimate DLC, Lair of the Shadow Broker.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from science fiction, it is that artificial intelligence cannot be trusted. Isaac Asimov’s 1950 collection of short stories, I, Robot, was all about robots, A.I., and Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, which above all is about the protection of humans. 2001: A Space Odyssey famously featured the not-so-friendly HAL, and recent movies such as The Matrix and Moon both star some nasty A.I.s. In gaming history, GLaDOS and SHODAN are two of the medium’s most popular villains.
So it was only a matter of time before Mass Effect featured a big bad A.I. story, and that arrives in Overlord. It was the first paid Mass Effect 2 DLC that didn’t include a new character or weapon, so at 560 MS Points ($7), the story would have to be well worth it.
This isn’t Mass Effect’s first foray into evil A.I. with the Geth and Reapers featuring so prominent in the story along with the Rogue V.I. mission in the original, but this is its first take on the traditional human menace we all so know and love.
I’m about two-thirds done with my insanity playthrough in Mass Effect 2. Insanity is the hardest difficulty in the game and beating it will also unlock my final main game achievement. The only other game I earned all the achievements on? The original Mass Effect.
So on this run I’m also playing all the downloadable content I missed the first time through (mostly because it simply wasn’t available yet). So while I’ve reviewed Normandy Crash Site, Zaeed, and Kasumi add-ons earlier, I’m now venturing into Firewalker, Overlord, Shadow Broker, and Arrival territory. General reception of these has been a mixed bag, but I’m excited to form my own opinion.
So as you can tell, Firewalker is first up. This was Mass Effect 2’s first foray back into vehicles. Mass Effect 1 heavily featured the Warthog-like Mako and built dozens of multiple square mile planets to land on and explore. The Mako was probably one of the weaker aspects of the game, but I found it pretty fun when we weren’t required to climb up 80 degree angles.
I was pretty excited to try out the M-44 Hammerhead myself, let’s see how that turned out. The Firewalker Pack is free for members of the Cerberus Network, much like the character Zaeed and his loyalty mission.
When Mass Effect 2 was announced for release on the PlayStation 3, there were a lot of questions about how it would work since Mass Effect 1 had only been released on the Xbox 360 and Windows. Not only was Mass Effect 2 the direct sequel to one of the most expansive narratives ever seen in a video game, but the game imported the first title’s saved games to keep the player’s choices intact throughout the series. How would the developers handle the complete lack of Mass Effect 1? The answer: Mass Effect: Genesis.
For gamers that didn’t have a Mass Effect 1 save to import, BioWare had selected a set of “canon” choices to at least lay down the groundwork. The default choices generally meant that players would miss out on some interesting characters, including Wrex, a fan favorite. For Xbox 360 and Windows players, they could play 30+ hours of Mass Effect to generate their ideal saved game, but with Genesis, PS3 owners could play the 15 minute interactive comic and make a few key decisions.
Yesterday, Mass Effect: Genesis was surprisingly made available on the Xbox 360 for 320 MS Points, here is my take on it.
Mass Effect began here, with its first novel, Mass Effect: Revelation. Released in mid-2007, a half-year before Mass Effect proper was unleashed on the Xbox 360 and Windows, Revelation was meant to not only start the hype for what would become BioWare’s flagship series but also begin laying down the structure of the series’ large universe.
Authored by Mass Effect writer Drew Karpyshyn, Revelation follows the video game’s background hero Captain Anderson about 20 years before the events of the first game. We also meet a few of the series’ alien races along with the Citadel Council and first game villain, Saren. An Alliance scientist, Kahlee Sanders, is also introduced and she has served as the main link between the Mass Effect tie-in novels.
I first read Revelation when it was released in 2007, and have since read the second book, Mass Effect: Ascension, which I wrote a review on afterwards. Ascension takes place between the first two games and did an excellent job hinting at what was to come for Shepard and the gang in the second game. I recently received the first three novels (Retribution was released last year) as a gift so I decided to re-read Revelation and write a review on it, enjoy.
The supposedly final piece of Mass Effect 2 downloadable content was released recently, and while Arrival bridges the gap between Mass Effect 2 and 3, Zaeed - The Price of Revenge was available at release basically as an incentive not to rent the game or buy it used. Within Price of Revenge is the game's first downloadable character, Zaeed, a gritty mercenary who can pretty much be boiled down to as Wrex the Human - scars and all. We also get Zaeed's loyalty mission, a short little romp into the history of this rather bland character.
Due to how EA set up Mass Effect 2's Cerberus Network, if you didn't buy the game new, you had to purchase separate access to the Network just to play this particular piece of downloadable content along with the Normandy Crash Site that I reviewed recently. I'm not sure if EA originally wanted every piece of DLC behind this paywall, but this is pretty much it for substantial content that the Cerberus Network required. That's a good thing.
So here's another quick review of some content I've been meaning to cover for a while. It's my goal to completely cover Mass Effect 2 before number 3 is released in six months or so.
Playing just the first hour of a game can be so boring! Take our last review, Okamiden! Ugh, text text text text text run twenty feet text text text blah blah blah. Who wants to play that? That’s right, nobody. So no more first hour reviews, instead, we’re going to jump right to the meat and just play THE LAST HOUR.
How did I not think of this before? In a typical game, where is all the fun? At the end. Where is all the action? At the end. When is boring exposition thrown out the window for actual exciting gameplay? At the end!
So no more tired examinations of pacing, snoozing through opening cutscenes, and waiting for something, anything to happen, we’re going to jump right to it. If you want to see the first hour of a game, go play it yourself. Real gamers don’t play the beginning of games, anyway.
So to reboot the site with the bang that it deserves, here’s the last hour of Mass Effect. One of the most epic, balls-to-the-outer-space-wall finales I could think of in the three minutes it took me to decide to throw away the last four years of this site in one fell swoop. BOOM!
Mass Effect 3 is coming out this year, that just feels weird to write. This means not only will I get to play the finale to one of my favorite game series of all time in about eight months, but that Mass Effect 2 related reviews and articles will just feel terribly stale. Okay, to mostly everyone they already feel totally outdated, and I understand; who wants to read about year old downloadable content? Who knows, but I like writing about it.
Normandy Crash Site was a zero day DLC available for Mass Effect 2, and is free for everyone who is a member of the Cerberus Network (which is required if you want to buy any downloadable content). It's mostly fan service for fans of the first Mass Effect, but it also serves up a surprising amount of emotion for its small package, especially to someone like me who put over 100 hours into the original.
I hope to cover the rest of Mass Effect 2's major downloadable content over the coming months, including Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker. I won't be reviewing (or buying, for that matter) the weapon or armor packs. I'm sorry, those are just lame. I also plan to re-read the first Mass Effect book for a review and read the third novel for the first time. My review of Mass Effect: Ascension has been available for a while. I have also covered Mass Effect 2's first paid for DLC, Kasumi's Stolen Memory.
When Mass Effect invaded my world in 2007, I couldn't have cared less. Sure, it was from the same BioWare that produced the excellent Knights of the Old Republic, and seducing blue women sounded like a pretty good time, but it definitely wasn't enough to put a 360 in my life. I'd grown weary of shooters of all kinds since burning out on Halo 2, and with RPG elements mashed in, it only seemed less enticing. I even gave the game a try last year on a friend's machine and didn't make it off the Citadel before losing interest.
The hype hasn't fallen on deaf ears, though. The rave reviews, rave first hour reviews, GOTY awards, and FOX News scare tactic hilarity all kept me up at night, wondering if I was missing out. EA was intent on making me give the series another shot, as they recently completed a PS3 port of Mass Effect 2. Because one of the series' bullet points is importing player-dictated narrative choices from the first game into the second, Dark Horse Comics was called in to help create a short interactive comic that fills in PS3 owners on some of the events that they missed out on from Commander Shepard's first adventure, even allowing the player to make some of the more important decisions to impact their experience with the full sequel.
As it turns out, that comic is DLC, unlockable either by a code included in the game's box or for $15. I rented the game and didn't plan on shelling out fifteen bucks for a fifteen minute comic, so I ended up going into the sequel without much knowledge from the first game. From that starting point aboard the exploding Normandy to the final trip through the Omega 4 relay, I've experienced just about everything included on the PS3 disc of Mass Effect 2 -- as much as you can in one playthrough, anyway -- as Elmer Shepard, a Vanguard of equal parts paragon and renegade, lover and fighter, savior and failure. And sometimes he forgets to feed his fish, and they die.
Greg has already written about the Mass Effect series extensively, having played both games and plenty of extra content on the 360. With that in mind, I'll try (but likely fail) to keep this brief. If you need a primer or refresher for the series, check out one of his excellent writeups. An avid fan of the series, he does a much better job of explaining the core elements of Mass Effect than I could.
Announcing the 2010 Game of the Year Awards from the First Hour! We published over 60 full reviews this year, tripling our output from last year. Of course, our writing staff has grown quite a bit also. I personally beat 30 games, undoubtedly making 2010 my most productive video gaming year ever. We also played over 55 first hours, keeping up a steady pace of one a week. We have not been lacking for great games or content this year.
This isn't your normal Game of the Year awards, we cover everything from older game of the year to worst first hour, so keep scrolling all the way to the bottom! If anything, our game of the year picks are the least interesting decisions. The writers here also don't vote on the categories, instead, everyone is welcome to submit their picks as their own definitive decision.