Mass Effect 2: The Arrival – DLC Review

Title   Mass Effect 2: The Arrival DLC
Developer  Bioware
Publisher  Electronic Arts
Platform  Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Genre  Action RPG Third-person shooter
Release Date  March 29, 2011

When there’s something strange, in the solarhood, who ya gonna call? Reaperbusters!!
An invisible machine, sleeping in your head, oww, who ya gonna call?? Reaperbusters!!

Aren't you in Killzone??

Well maybe I won’t be winning any awards for my proposed Mass Effect 3 theme tune based around a remix of Ghostbusters, but that release date  still seems an eternity away, doesn’t it? Bioware agrees, and so in order to ensure us fickle gamers don’t go running off and completely forgetting about our favourite game of 2010*, they have released the final DLC for Mass Effect 2. Probably to avoid getting their heads around how on earth they will import previous Shepard iterations for yet another time and keep it relevant!

Named simply ‘The Arrival’, the premise behind this DLC is that the Reapers are coming. Now. Once more Shepard must do what the rest of the galactic council cannot, and stop the impending destruction of the known universe.

It had been 203 days since I last guided Shepard’s hands and infiltrated the lair of the Shadow Broker, my favourite of the DLC releases, and I was eager to see what Bioware had packed into this in order to have me spamming the Mass Effect 3 pre-order button of my favourite online games retailer. Tentatively, I took my Shepard on a familiarisation tour of the Normandy. Everyone was at their posts as expected but sadly had nothing new to say to me, not even a “Cor blimey, where the hell have you been?” and so I decided to read the new notification that had arrived at the console. Promptly, I was thrown into the DLC and given details and co-ordinates for the mission ahead. This was where I encountered my biggest disappointment. I’d be going in alone, yep they’ve just gone and cut out my carefully preserved crew-members – there were no additional interactions that I could elicit from them and the entire DLC is performed without any of your crew as sidekicks.

Arriving at the DLC destination I scanned the planets in this new galaxy, perhaps an Easter Egg or something lay in waiting?…no. There was one resource-rich planet and a couple of mediocre ones but nothing more, not even a cheeky resource hidden in the asteroid fields or a rescue mission. It was okay though, the epic main mission probably didn’t require such filler. I donned my favourite equipment and armour. Being a lady (it’s the only way to play Shepard) and the most battle-hardened, kick-ass person in the galaxy, I went with the pink outfit. In fact I did the same with my male Shepard playthrough, I didn’t like him and I think he knew about the armour choice because he was always fidgeting when left to stand for a bit. Anyway, I stepped off the shuttle into a cut-scene with some rain, and lightning and began the task ahead of me.

One hour and thirty seven minutes later I was done. I won’t lie, its a short one. For the 760mb download, I expected something with a little more substance. What was missing far outweighed the few positives. For instance, the enemies looked like something from Killzone with the funky helmets but they all seemed to be humans. I get it, it’s an Alliance undercover base, but does that mean apart from three dogs and a couple of mechs every enemy has to be one of two, maybe three, different types of enemy? Most of them are unshielded and easy to take down. There are also ammo recharges everywhere, more than I ever remember being anywhere else in the game. This is probably due to the fact you are mostly alone for all combat situations but the thrill of the battles in the main Mass Effect campaign are those ‘oh shit’ moments when you spot a Krogan or two entering the fray and have wasted your awesome guns on cannon fodder.

The battles throughout the DLC, apart from one particular achievement rewarding section, were small skirmishes with around three to five mostly generic enemies at a time. I even knocked up the difficulty to see the effect that would have but it didn’t really add anything extra apart from having to stay in cover more. The whole point of team-mate tactics, effective use of skills and such are dumbed down or not present to the point it’s not really any fun and you are just grinding out a dull, corpse-ridden path to the next objective.

The cut-scenes were great, certainly, and the areas looked a little different to other places in the game but still retained that Mass Effect feel. That, sadly, was where the fun ended as the parts spent outside and in caves were so brief I almost forgot they were in the DLC and the internal sections were mostly just corridors. I know Mass Effect 2 was generally a corridor-led design but this just seemed to be so blatant that it didn’t even bother with the offer of the illusion of choice or space to manoeuvre.

But it wasn’t all bad; one of the announcements was ‘new research options’ and, despite looking, I only found one additional piece of research and that was for heavy weapon ammo. Oh no, wait, that’s not good either. Who wants more ammo after they’ve completed the main campaign and all the other DLC? Something clever to import into Mass Effect 3 would have been better, an un-lockable piece of equipment for example. Sadly this also seemed to be just a lazy stunt to cover up the fact the ‘content’ part of DownLoadable Content wasn’t up to scratch.

Only happy when it rains...

Perhaps there are some nice new gameplay mechanics, powers or something interesting to show a cheeky preview of the next game? Alas not. There were some basic puzzles added to try and add spice. You get to work through a maze of gas pipes, turning a wheel to divert flames (on a replay I actually only altered one gas pipe and managed to go straight through… not exactly taxing), there is also a point where you need to find a way to escape a room you have been locked in with all other exits sealed off. I won’t give you the solution here but I doubt you’ll still be stumped after ten seconds of looking around. The bypass mini-game makes an appearance but it is nothing different to what has gone before.

The plot tries desperately to pile on urgency and a sense of looming disaster. Mostly by throwing numbers of people and countdown timers at you but, because you’re just running down corridors with no option to cock it up by going down a wrong turn, it fails on almost every count. The only possible area that could elicit some form of ‘against the clock’ anxiety is if you were on a difficulty level that requires so much time in cover that it would elongate the battles to a point where time constraints would matter. Again that is also only at certain points, and most of the time during the DLC there is no time pressure. Sadly, for all the plot effort, the total lack of real options in dialogue, path-finding and the lazy enemy implementation make you yearn for the end of the universe more than wanting to  save it.

Simply put, I followed the corridors, I killed the people, I made the limited dialogue choices available and I completed the DLC.

*According to just a few awards and gaming sites.

  • Its nice to give Shepard a run around
  • New location graphics, albeit brief, are a welcome addition
  • Admiral Hackett gets a face. He has a facial scar too!
  • Lazy DLC
  • Shorter than short
  • Ultimately a bit of a non-event
  • The so-called new research was hardly worth mentioning
  • No team mates

The Arrival was short, too short, and in reality it didn't have me on the edge of my seat with a cliffhanger to be resolved at the beginning of Mass Effect 3. All it did was reiterate events you already knew were occurring: the Reapers are coming. It felt good to take my Shepard out once more and teach many generic guards a lesson in death, but ultimately this DLC did not deliver. Short, linear, limited choices, predictable, everything the final piece of an award winning game should not be. A lazy effort and one that has, if anything, made me worry about what might be happening with Mass Effect 3. I am not clamouring for that pre-order button anymore and I'm fairly certain that I've just wasted 560MS points.

Last five articles by Stu



  1. Edward Edward says:

    I just finished Mass Effect 2 onMonday night, with all the DLC I’d got on sale during Christmas. I have to admit I wouldn’t have paid full price for a single one of the DLCs, and from the review I’d probably be getting the Arrival just so I can get the achievements.

    Shame that, but it sounds like par for the course, really; Kasumi’s stolen memory had some cool moments but was beaten in an hour and Overlord was the same thing. The only one that was any good was the Shadow Broker because it let me patch things up with Liara even after I went and bonked Miranda, and it was an at-least interesting story. Bioware can make a good game, but apparently not a good DLC. =[

    Good review though, Stu :D

  2. Ste says:

    Pink armour?

    What an utter waste of money. I don’t expect DLC to be a whole other game within a game but I expect it to give up more than a hour and a half’s worth of play time. Fuck me that is pretty disgraceful. I shall avoid this. Thanks Stu you’ve saved me a couple of quid there.

  3. Stu Stu says:

    @Ed – Yeah probably a wise idea to steer clear, this really does add very little to the overall plot & game imo – but they are very easy achievements to get.

    @Ste – What’s more troubling to an enemy than the hero of the universe coming at you with a shotgun at full-tilt but fully outfitted in a pink armour set? Not much, I’d bet! It’s one of many shock and awe tactics I employ when saving the galaxy, I am not a SPECTRE for nothing! ;)

  4. Ben Ben says:

    Can’t help but think that for all their praises Bioware approach DLC the wrong way. Rockstar are a great example of a company that can do quality DLC.

  5. Samuel Samuel says:

    Bioware’s DLC is consistent, you have to give them that much. I mean, the original Mass Effect DLC was released broken, so was the Dragon Age Origins DLC, and the Dragon Age 2 DLC too. It’s a short step from broken to just crap.

    It’s a shame. I loved the full game when I reviewed it last year. The gulf in quality between their games and their follow-up support is staggering.

  6. Lorna Lorna says:

    I really need to get my arse in gear and actually play a Mass Effect game, what I won’t be doing, however, is spending any cash on the DLC – sounds as bad as the Fable stuff.

  7. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    That “only happy when it rains” image is really freaky… I get that she’s got water streaming down her face but it looks like she’s one of those dodgy waxwork models from the crap Tussauds!

    To be honest, I’m not surprised that the DLC was disappointing. I can’t think of many DLCs that have impressed me since I started with the 360; at best, they’ve either been a hokey excuse for getting a few quid out of you and extending the gameplay for another few hours and, at worst, they’ve been the Fable II DLC. Yeah ok, Knothole Island looked pretty when it snowed, I’ll give them that.

    Out of all the DLC I’ve played, I’d say that Point Lookout for Fallout 3 and Knoxx for Borderlands have been my favourites. They added the most time to the games out of any other DLC and gave me the most satisfaction. The rest for those particular games were still pretty good (except Claptrap for BL and Zeta for F3) but, for the most part, DLC ends up being a waste of money for me.

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