Mass Effect 2: Arrival
With the Bioware team furiously developing Mass Effect 3 this year (hopefully hitting a late Fall release date), the last portion of the Mass Effect 2 downloadable content hit the Xbox Live Arcade this week in the form of Mass Effect 2: Arrival (also on the PS3 and PC). The last time we saw a mission pack for Mass Effect 2 as about 7 months ago with Lair of the Shadow Broker, so you will have to dust off your ME2 discs if you still have them. This pack is priced similarly to Overload, so you can pick it up for 560 marketplace points ($6.99).
Unfortunately, it's clearly evident from the start why Bioware waited so long to publish this DLC. In short, it's easily the weakest DLC mission pack. It kicks off with Admiral Hackett requesting that Shepard goes to free a lady scientist by the name of Dr. Amanda Kenson. Kenson has some interesting information regarding the Reaper invasion, but it's not going to come easy. Kenson is being held captive by the Batarians and Shepard is going to run into a huge firefight to get her out of there. This sounds like a great setup, but it veers off the rails quickly.
For a game that prides itself on fighting with a squad, Bioware scraps that completely to stretch out the mission as long as possible with solo fighting. The mission is about 50% longer than it should be because you constantly have to wait in cover to clear each room, over and over again. It's also incredibly linear and leaves nothing to the imagination for exploration. In addition, the DLC abandons conversations and choices for the sake of the action. It's as if Bioware looked at everything that worked incredibly well in Mass Effect 2 and said "Screw It! Let's do the opposite!" Perhaps their EA overlords used a poorly constructed clone ray to create a Bizzaro Bioware B-team to design this mess.
There is a choice at the end of this debacle, but it's purposely useless for the sake of Mass Effect 3. Arrival expands out the achievements in Mass Effect 2 by three more and they are fairly simply to knock out. You get one for simply completing the pack, another for surviving five waves of mechs in the first act and the last for reaching Dr. Kenson with alerting the guards to your presence. The last one is the most creative task and requires a bit of thinking to get past the first set of guards. I'm not surprised that they didn't include two achievements for the moral choice, only because it's pointless.
There's one really graphically stunning moment in Arrival that I won't spoil, but the majority of the mission is fairly low-key, linear and occasionally buggy. There are a couple nasty clipping issues with Dr. Kenson's character model and she looks a bit strange for a human, even with all the alien life in ME2. Beyond that, the visuals looked pretty clean on the Xbox 360 and are definitely up to par with the original game.
Lance Hendrickson reprises his role at Admiral Hackett as well as all the usual suspects for the main characters. However, the amount of dialogue in the DLC is extremely low due to the limited amount of conversations; very unlike a Bioware product. There are, however, audio logs in the area to keep you occupied as well as a barrage of gunshots ringing around your ears. Unfortunately, Bioware did a poor job on the volume control via the mixing board and some of the dialogue will get you reaching for the remote to turn down the shouting.
The true travesty of the whole narrative is that you end up exactly where you started at the start of Arrival. Bioware only offers up the illusion of morality as they cannot change the coming threat of the Reapers and it cheapens the entire ending in a very insulting manner. This is certainly not the way you want to remember Shepard over the coming months while waiting for Mass Effect 3. Players are looking at about 90 minutes of playtime with this DLC pack, heavy on the action and light on the dialogue. It definitely feel overpriced compared to the experience in Lair of the Shadow Broker and can easily be skipped without missing out on events that lead up to ME3. However if you are a Mass Effect 2 junkie, you might find a sliver of entertainment value in Arrival, assuming you love fighting solo and don't give a hoot about the story arc.