When compared to the original Mass Effect, which featured only two downloadable add ons, Mass Effect 2 has had a wealth of content within the first 6 months of its release. As one of EA’s flagship “Project $10” titles; games that give out $10 worth of free downloadable content to people that buy the game new, Mass Effect 2 has been key in testing out this new strategy.
We here at The Newb Review felt that writing a review for the free DLC was futile, seeing as the only thing it will cost you is time and hard drive space. That is, unless you pirated the game (shame on you) or bought it second hand (you fiends).
All you need to know about Zaeed: The Price of Revenge, The Normandy Crash Site, The Cerberus Weapon packs, and The Firewalker missions is that they are free and offer more playtime in this wonderful game. If you enjoyed playing Mass Effect 2 then there really is no excuse for not downloading these free missions.
But what of the recently released paid for downloadable content? Are they worth the time it takes to convert your hard earned money into the ambiguous Microsoft points?
Kasumi’s Stolen Memory
The first paid piece of downloadable content brought in a new squad member, the evasive super thief Kasumi Goto. After receiving a short message from the Illusive Man, you are instructed to head to the Citadel in order to make contact with Kasumi. Communicating with you through an interactive advert, Kasumi informs you that she would love to join your team on their suicide mission; however she has some unfinished business with shady arms dealer Donovan Hock.
Hock is a notorious criminal with a famous vault filled with all sorts of wonderful treasures, including some recognisable current day artifacts. However there is only one object in the vault that Kasumi desires, and it is of a more personal nature. Conveniently, Hock is hosting a lavish party at his estate, and Kasumi has forged an invite for you to attend.
Armed with little else other than a smart new suit (or dress if you are a lady), and a cunningly concealed pistol (don’t ask where), Shepard must infiltrate a party full of notorious criminals and find a way to recover Kasumi’s desired object.
Unlike other loyalty missions you spend the majority of your time on your own, wandering around Hock’s home looking for ways to neutralise his security. While Kasumi is technically accompanying you, she must remain out of sight until you manage to breach the vault. In order to breach the vault you must break through varous barriers of security, with one demanding that you collect samples of DNA. The DNA collection mission offers up some (presumably) unintentional humour, with Shepard rummaging through bins and plant pots in the search for DNA samples.
While there is some shooting to be had in this opening, this pseudo stealth section is something of a departure for the Mass Effect series, and is actually quite fun. Once inside the vault the game reverts to its typical cover based shooting against hordes of enemies.
Once the mission is complete Kasumi takes residence in the final locked area of the Normandy, which turns out to be a bar, and can be used in your squad at any point.
Kasumi offers up the learnable flash bang skill, which as the name suggests, blinds enemies for a short period of time allowing you to get out of sticky situations. Playing as a Soldier, and with limited slots available, I did not find it the most useful skill in my available repertoire, but some players will doubtlessly love it.
As well as recovering Kasumi’s object, you also find a high powered sub machine gun, which can be used by all squad members that are trained in sub machine guns. As a side bonus, you are also unlock a new casual outfit for wearing on the Normandy; if you are a male Shepard that means you get the luxury space tuxedo, and if you chose to be a female Shepard that grants you a low cut black dress.
There really is not much more to say about Kasumi’s Stolen Memory – you are given a new loyalty mission that lasts about half an hour or so, a new weapon and outfit, and a new permanent squad member that has plenty of unique dialogue. For 560 Microsoft Points (about £4.80) it is a fairly decent pack, especially when you consider the fact that Kasumi can be used in your squad as soon as you recruit her.
4 Stolen Statues of Liberty out of 5
After releasing Kasumi’s Stolen Memory, Bioware released two 160 Microsoft Point (about £1.40) packs; the Alternate appearance pack, which added new outfits for Thane, Jack, and Garrus, and the Equaliser Weapon pack. Frankly, the changes brought about by these packs are so minimal, and while their cost may seem inconsiquental, I do not believe that they deserve a review. Personally I see them as a rip off on par with Oblivion’s Horse Armour, but you may see it differently.
Much like with Kasumi’s Stolen Memory, this expansion offers up some new gameplay elements to the Mass Effect series. Where Kasumi offered stealth, Overlord offers an experience that is infused with Survival Horror, as well as a seemingly large open world to explore.
To set the scene, The Illusive Man sends Shepard another email – why does he always email bad news? – saying that a Cerberus Research Base has recently gone offline, and he would like you to investigate. Upon arriving at the base you discover that all of the scientists have been killed, save for the project director.
The director is conveniently able to inform you that the research they were conducting revolved around creating a Human/Geth artificial intelligence hybrid. To the director’s surprise the test subject has gone insane, killed the entire team and locked himself in a bunker while he tries to copy himself onto the internet. The main mission in the expansion begins with you navigating your way across the planet to several different facilities in order to gain access to the bunker and put a stop to the madness.
At first the planet you explore seems like a large open world, with stunning vistas and numerous sites of natural beauty, as the tank’s on board computer sarcastically points out to you every five minutes. However, it does not take long to realise that, in actuality, the area you are allowed to explore is fairly small and linear. Still, at least it looks pretty.
Between storming bases you are given an optional side quest to recover secret Cerberus research data that is usually protected by numerous turrets. While your tank has plenty of fire power, these turrets can usually tear through your armour within a few seconds. This leads to some frustrating and tedious battles that revolve around you firing off a few shots, then using the boosters on the tank to jump and dodge out of the line of fire. Thankfully this mission is entirely optional and only the only thing it unlocks is a new achievement.
As for the main missions themselves, you will find yourself wandering down dark corridors, littered with corpses and stained with blood. The music, which is more ambient than usual, does a great job of heightening the tense atmosphere. The frightening ambience is also aided by the fact that the A.I will appear on screen and scream incoherently at you in a digitised voice, which is very unsettling.
Even playing as a fully upgraded Commander Shepard with all the best guns, I still felt uneasy as I wandered through the bases, constantly expecting enemies to be lying in wait around every corner. In reality there are only a handful of enemy Geth in each base, but that does not take away anything from the overall experience; you come across a number of deactivated Geth lying about the place, and the threat that they may suddenly reactive is always at the front of your mind.
In order to reach each base you take control of the hover tank and must navigate some rough terrain. These sections of the game are the most “video-gamey”, as you have to use the tank’s booster to jump from one floating platform to another in a river of lava. The level design here feels as if it were ripped stright from a platforming game. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I found it to be one of the least enjoyable sections.
While Mass Effect is well known for its moral choice system, the choice you are forced to make in this expansion is one of the most difficult yet. Without wishing to spoil anything, all I can say is that the only options available to you are making a bad decision or making an even worse decision.
As much as I enjoyed the main mission, there were a few small problems. For instance, in most missions your squad mates tend to have a lot to say about what is going on. However, in Overlord, they remain oddly silent. It would have been interesting to see what Jack, Legion, or Mordin would have to say about the goings on in the research facility, and yet even when they are in your squad they say nothing.
Obviously this is because Bioware did not record any new dialogue for your squad mates, but it is distracting to see the squad mates standing around with their hands in their pockets while you talk about the ethics behind human experimentation. Their silence is a glaring omission from an otherwise excellent narrative.
To summarise, Overlord offers up some new gameplay elements to Mass Effect 2, taking inspiration from the Survival Horror genre as well as traditional Platforming games. It is an eclectic mix, with some segments working better than others, but overall it is entirely worth the 560 Microsoft points it will cost you, if only for the general uneasy feeling the main missions cause and heart breaking decision Shepard is forced to make.
4 Angry AI Attacks out of 5
Check back with The Newb Review for reviews of future Mass Effect 2 DLC if and or when Bioware releases them.