Game: Mass Effect DLC Bring Down the Sky and Pinnacle Station
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studios
When Mass Effect was first released, BioWare discussed the possibility of releasing numerous additional missions as downloadable content. With a game that has a gigantic open universe to explore, you would think that they would have every opportunity to easily expand the universe with numerous missions well after the original release. Here we are mere moments before the release of Mass Effect 2, and we have had just two downloadable packs for the game: Bring Down the Sky and Pinnacle Station. To cut a long story short, one is good and one is not as good as it should be. Let’s find out why…
Bring Down The Sky
Let’s start with the good. Bring Down the Sky takes place on a gigantic asteroid that is hurtling towards a densely populated planet. Shepard is asked to respond to the distress call placed by a scientific research team based on the asteroid. It transpires that the base has been taken over by anti-human terrorists, and they aim to destroy a booming human colony in retaliation for crimes they perceive the humans to have committed against them. Upon landing on the asteroid you have to drive around in the tank, disable the engines that the terrorists have installed on the asteroid that are pushing it towards the planet and try to save as many people as you can. As well as terrorist hunting and engine sabotage, you can travel around the asteroid looking for traces of a missing team of scientists. This involves simple detective work, such as following a trail of footprints across the asteroid’s surface.
This isn’t a particularly lengthy episode; clocking in at about an hour in length, but it does have some replayability with the inclusion of two possible endings. There’s developers have done very little to improve the combat in the game. So if that was a major obstacle for you with the full game, then it will continue to be so. Likewise, the tank controls remain the same. The really interesting thing in this add-on is the moral choice. When capturing the leader of the terrorists you are forced to make a decision, as the terrorists have placed the science team in a death trap, Batman villain style. Do you rescue the humans and give the terrorist leader time to escape or do you punish the terrorist and doom the humans?
Pinnacle station is the second and final add on, and is in no way as strong as the first. Shepard summoned to Pinnacle Station in order to try and best a combat simulator for the Alliance Military. Being Commander Shepard, the team on the station are very interested to see if you can best their times in the combat simulator. There are a number of maps, all based loosely on locations found in the single player, such as Sarren’s Krogan Factory, and there are a number of different games, ranging from timed survival, eliminating enemies within a time limit, and a king-of-the-hill-style game where you must capture of check points and attempt to control them all. In essence, it seems as if this add-on has been released as a try out for a Mass Effect multiplayer mode.
One of the strengths of Mass Effect is its strong narrative and multiple dialogue options, however, none of these can be found with any real substance in Pinnacle Station. This is purely a combat exercise. While it is amusing enough at first, there is little reason to actually play through it, other than to earn some easy achievements. For the most part, it’s repetitive, tedious, and a waste of time. This is a real shame because Bring Down the Sky presented some real value, it was cheap and the story seemed significant to the overall Mass Effect Universe. It introduced a key new race; the human traffickers called Batarians. But Pinnacle Station introduces nothing beyond a simple combat mode in which you face off against bots. However, at the same time, I am not entirely sure that Pinnacle Station would be any better if you could play against other human beings, seeing as Mass Effect is a game that is driven by narrative rather than a focus on controls.
Graphics: 4/5 The character models and scenery are as beautiful as ever, with the sky line in Bring Down the Sky being particularly impressive.
Sound: 4/5 Once again, excellent voice acting, sound effects, and music. If you have played Mass Effect, you know what to expect.
Gameplay: 3/5 While both pieces of downloadable content play exactly the same way as the retail release of Mass Effect, Pinnacle Station lets the team down because it is purely combat based. I do not think it would be too unfair to say that the combat in Mass Effect is not its strongest feature.
Longevity: 2/5 Bring Down the Sky has two possible endings, and will keep you occupied for about an hour or so, which is pretty good considering the price point. Pinnacle Station has about a dozen or so challenges for you to overcome, but they quickly become tedious and repetitive.
Overall: 3 Hurtling Asteroids out of 5. The DLC is good overall, but Bring Down The Sky is the better of the two. Pinnacle Station is competent, but repetitive, and really does nothing to further the game’s story. On the whole I would recommend Pinnacle Station only to those that are completionists, as it can easily be skipped without missing anything important… Unless it crops up in Mass Effect 2 somewhere.