Mass Effect 2: Arrival DLC Xbox 360, PS3, PC Review

You all probably know by now that Mass Effect 2 is a glittering starchild in a vast expanse of shit-brown shooters and swinger games, and the latest bit of DLC – ominously named ‘Arrival’ – gives us all a perfect excuse to warp headfirst into that wonderful, kaleidoscopic universe all over again…

…and get a wee bit underwhelmed, to be honest.

Arrival isn’t bad at all, and it stands head and shoulders above usual DLC fare, but compared to what’s come before with Mass Effect 2 (particularly the Lair of the Shadow Broker pack, which is basically the best DLC ever) it’s not up to snuff, really. It sometimes feels like an afterthought, whacked out to appease baying Shepard devotees in the months leading up to Mass Effect 3‘s release. On the other hand, it’s a little bit more of one of the best games ever, so who are we to complain?

Arrival’s basically screwed itself a bit from the off by calling itself Arrival, though. For those who completed the two games (and saw the trailer for Mass Effect 3) it seemed from the title that a long anticipated in-game event was going to happen, and all manner of bloody apocalyptic chaos would ensue, leading inexorably into Mass Effect 3. I won’t spoil anything about Arrival, but, well, it doesn’t feature any of that really. It feels more like a slightly longer, more relevant side-quest for the main game rather than a further development of the series’ plot, and as such, feels anticlimactic as hell.

Then again, maybe the events of Arrival will have a huge influence on Mass Effect 3, and I’ll be left with rachni egg on my face.

Anyway, when you leave plot expectations out, Arrival is perfectly serviceable. It’s about an hour and a half, features someone who looks like Dr Chakwas (although nowhere near as sexy, but being a frenzied wanker I’ll take what I can get) and Admiral Hackett’s back, again sounding like a sexy grandfather, courtesy of Lance Henriksen. I’d take a Werther’s off him any day.

Shepard’s on his own this time too, as due to some wild plot contrivance thrown up by Hackett (and nothing to do with the developer’s budget constraints, honest), Shepard can’t take his team with him. It’s initially a bit annoying, but once you get over it, you’re afforded the opportunity to do some solo sleuthing, as it’s possible to get through the first third of the mission without firing a shot. Although it’s born out of laziness, it’s actually a nice change of pace from the main game which, despite its general excellence, was occasionally a bit of a repetitive slog up corridor after corridor. If we’re afforded the choice to approach situations like this in Mass Effect 3 then everyone’s a winner.

When it’s not keeping you indoors, Arrival looks the part too, and the final section features a set-piece that provides the most spectacular backdrop since Shepard and his/her team battled their way up the side of the Citadel at the end of the first game, with ‘it’ looming menacingly ahead. A superficial thing for sure, but it definitely fits in wonderfully with the bullet-sleek, blockbuster aesthetic of the series.

Is it essential, though? Unsure. People who are rabid about Mass Effect will have snapped this up already. The series inspires ardent fanboyism that borders on the berserk. The developers could release a bit of premium DLC that lets Garrus fart occasionally and people would still snap it up. What Arrival won’t do, though, is convince those oblivious to the games’ high-concept charm.

Despite being arguably less than what it could (and should) have been, Arrival probably is just about worth your money. In fact, playing it got me started on another run through both games, so it’s done something right. It’s testament to a game’s strength that even a relatively lacking bit of DLC can have you going balls deep back into its world in the pursuit of alien booty. Not every game could do it, but not every game is Mass Effect.

Arrival asks more questions than it answers, but it’s left us awaiting the real arrival in November with bated breath.

Don’t fear the rea…

7 out of 10
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