Review- Mass Effect 2: Arrival
Release date: 29/03/2011
Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC
Price: 560 MS Points, £5.49 (PSN)
Version used for review: Xbox 360
The release of ‘Arrival’ is a bittersweet moment for Mass Effect 2 fans. On the one hand it is the true start of the mad run towards the series epic finale with Mass Effect 3- and on the other it marks the final piece of content added to the much loved title. Arrival is the trigger for the events that will shape Mass Effect 3, building further on the very real threat of the Reaper invasion of earth while at the same time throwing in other complications that are likely to play a large part in the conflict and resolution of the series finale.
The content starts with Shepard being contacted by Alliance brass Admiral Hackett, who propositions our Commander with a rather delicate covert mission in the form of rescuing an undercover operative from capture by Batarian militia. With Human and Batarian relations on an intergalactic scale being strained at best, the Admiral implores that the task be handled with the highest discretion, or in other words, this mission is a one man show- Shepard is going alone. The mission to recover Dr Amanda Kenson introduces some minor but refreshing gameplay elements in the form of actively avoiding combat and using a stealthier approach when infiltrating the Batarian complex. Successfully sneaking into the facility while avoiding detection will earn the player achievement points while conserving that all important firepower for later encounters. Once you have found the good doctor she shares with you the confidential information regarding proof that the Reapers are coming far and fast to knock humanity into next week, and offers to share her the fruit of her research into the matter with Shepard, and it is from there that Arrival really takes off.
Arrival doesn’t offer much new in the way of major changes but this isn’t as bad thing as the gameplay itself is very much up to the high standards of the main game, and throughout my playthrough I encountered none of the usual glitches and bugs that can be often credited to DLC. The environments are original and appropriately moody, delivering a violent and hostile atmopshere peppered with some lovely claret coloured organic decorations. The Biotic players will most likely find particular advantage in the smaller spaces of the environments with abilities like Shockwave, but the solider classes are very much catered for with the plentiful inclusions of barriers and crates in intense situations.
Variety wise this is a rather linear and concise piece of content, unlike previous installments such as Project Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker, we don’t have sections devoted to driving vehicles and such but instead this is all about being a showcase of revelation and in this respect it certainly delivers. Speculation has been rife on the fan communities following the addition of DLC trophies on the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2, prior to the official announcement of the content pack, but one trophies especially has had people talking- ‘The Ultimate Sacrifice’. Arrival does a pretty good job of keeping you guessing as to exactly what this sacrifice is going to be, I personally spent a short period in the ending section believing that it would be something entirely different to what it eventually turned out to be. Without spoiling anything, while the sacrifice was certainly hefty it didn’t quite pack the punch that I had expected or hoped that it would, and not a lot of weight is placed on the moment unlike in the games previously stellar moments of placing the player in a possition of making tough decisions. That said, the sacrifice does open the plot narrative for serious political ramifications to come flying at Shepard in Mass Effect 3 which did leave me feeling somewhat worried for my space-age Wonder Woman.
The real strength of Arrival is the moments that pull the rug from under your feet, with the initial guise of a rescue mission taking a more sinister and shocking turn. Mass Effect 2’s brand of providing a real rollercoaster experience is very much at the heart of this final slice content, and this is certainly a chapter designed to be enjoyed by players who have dragged Shepard and his crew kicking and screaming through the Omega 4 Relay and back again. Playing Arrival before having completed the game leaves it making little sense and may also spoil large parts of the story for new players, but seasoned players will find that it brilliantly sets up a strong bridge to the forthcoming sequel and pushes your excitement levels back up to 11.
In short Arrival is a great piece of content in it’s own right, and while seeing as this is the swan song for Mass Effect 2 as we move onto greater ventures, I perhaps would have liked to see something a little more along the lines of Lair of the Shadow Broker in terms of scale, but Arrival does very well with what it has and is an essential buy for fans of the series looking for that nourishment in the wait for part 3. So for 560 MS Points you really can’t say no, there are plenty of fun and frolics to be had aboard the Normandy yet!