Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mass Effect 2 DLC Round Up

Mass Effect 2 is without a doubt one of the standout games of 2010, in fact I would go as far as saying that it is my pick for game of the year, narrowly beating competition from the likes of Red Dead Redemption, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Fallout: New Vegas. This time around, Bioware really got the balance of shooting action and RPG customisation/exploration right, and the game just exudes confidence and style from every pore. If you haven't played the original game yet, I would suggest that you go back and give my review a read. Then, come back here and we'll get stuck into looking at the DLC that has been released over the course of the year. The forthcoming PS3 version of the game promises to include all of this extra content on the disc, making it the definitive version of the game.

1. The Cerberus Network
Now for those who bought a brand new copy of Mass Effect 2, activating the included code and enjoying the downloads that are included as part of the Cerberus Network is a no brainer. But for those who have picked up a copy of the game and therefore don't have a valid code, is the 1200 MS points really worth it? Well... almost, I'd say. What exactly do you get?

Normandy Crash Site: This is a fairly brief diversion where you visit the wreckage of the Normandy Mark I, find 20 dog tags of your fallen comrades (so that their families can be notified), and place a memorial at the site. There is no combat involved and it should only take about 20 minutes to complete. More interesting as a piece of nostalgia for those who played the first game than for people new to the franchise, I would say.

Zaeed - The Price of Revenge: Zaeed is a mercenary for hire who join your squad on the condition that you do something for him - namely help him get revenge on the Blue Suns, who he is a former founder of. He's not a particularly interesting character and is not fully integrated into the game like those who shipped on the disc, so you won't be having any in depth conversations with him back on the Normandy.

Firewalker Pack
This is a series of 5 new missions that are designed to introduce you to the Hammerhead, which is the Mass Effect 2 equivalent of the Mako. Most of the missions take place in or around volcanic regions, and involve you finding resources, boosting, leaping and hovering from place to place while avoiding lava, and blowing up Geth with your cannon. It's pretty good fun and adds an new element to the established gameplay, but it looks like the Hammerhead is ultimately doomed to be under utilised because the only other place it's appeared so far is in the Overlord DLC. Maybe Bioware has some more DLC up its sleeve that will bring it back again, we shall see.

Cerberus Weapon and Armour: I used the armour as it looks fairly cool and makes your character quite a lot more poweful, but personally I didn't bother with the weapon (the M-22 Eviscerator shotgun) as I was more than happy with those that I already had.

Arc Projector: Another extremely powerful extra weapon, this time one that can electrocute an entire squad of enemies within seconds. Again, I just stuck to the default weapons for my playthrough.

Overall: 6 out of 10
This stuff isn't that bad but not especially mind blowing either - the Firewalker pack is definitely the highlight. Worth checking out if you have the code to sign up to the Cerberus Network for free, but not worth spending 1200 MS points on if you don't.

2. Stolen Memory
This DLC centres around another new character, Kasumi Goto, a master thief. In order to obtain her loyalty you have to help her recover a black box containing vital secrets from the mansion of Donovan Heck, a deadly master criminal. Like with the Zaeed DLC, there is no mission involved in getting Kasumi to join your squad, and no conversation options once she is on the ship, but she will chip in the occasional piece of dialogue if you choose to take her along on other missions with you. She is at least an interesting character with the useful ability of turning invisible and striking her opponents from behind. This DLC isn't especially long for 800 MS points, but it is fun while it lasts and there is less emphasis on combat and more on story and atmosphere this time.

Overall: 7 out of 10

3. Overlord
This download sees you travelling to a remote Cerberus funded research station where an experiment to connect a human brain with a VI has gone horribly wrong, resulting in the deaths of nearly everyone stationed there at the hands of the formerly dormant Geth that the scientists were tinkering with. It is your job to force your way into the station, find out exactly what's happening, shut down the VI and recover as much data for the Illusive Man as possible.

This is a fairly lengthy mission, at least two hours, and is as well designed as anything found in the retail game. The on foot shooting sections are broken up by brief segments in the Hammerhead vehicle, but there is no combat while driving around this time, it's more just for getting to A to B. There are some achievement points to be earned and some decisions to be made based on your paragon/renegade preferences, so there's a little bit of replay value. All in all I would definitely recommend getting this one if you want more Mass Effect 2 action.

Overall: 8 out of 10.

4. Lair of the Shadow Broker
This time the story and action revolves around Liara T'Soni, your Asari friend and potential love interest from the original Mass Effect. She has been secretly plotting revenge on the Shadow Broker for years, but no one knows his true identity or where he can be found, until now. Shephard recovers some intelligence that may indicate where the Shadow Broker may be found, which sets the scene for a dangerous game of cat and mouse on Ilium and the eponymous lair.

This is another combat heavy download but the story is decent as well, especially if you invested hours into the first game and developed your characters relationship with Liara. There is some new gameplay included here in the form of a brief chase sequence in a taxi, which is highly reminiscent of the scene from Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones. Again, there are a bunch of new achievements to unlock, and this time after a successful mission you unlock access to dossiers about the various characters from the game, which is entertaining reading for fans of the universe.

The length of Shadow Broker is roughly the same as Overlord at just over two hours, and the quality is about the same too, so again I can recommend spending the 800 Microsoft points on this.

Overall: 8 out of 10

Monday, November 01, 2010

Broken Steel - Fallout DLC Review

Broken Steel signified the mid point in Bethesda's Fallout 3 DLC campaign, and it slots in rather awkwardly amidst the other four self contained mini campaigns, being a direct continuation of the main games plot. Though I would personally recommend buying and installing before you play any of the the other DLC packs in order to take advantage of the increased level cap and the new perks that go along with it, I personally decided to play it last (note: while I have played Operation Anchorage it was such as long time ago that I don't have a clear recollection of it, so I intend to replay it as my evil character this week and come back with my thoughts by the end of the week).

Broken Steel directly addresses a problem that many people had with Fallout 3, namely that once you completed the final mission of the main storyline the credits rolled and in order to continue playing you would have to reload an earlier save before you set certain events in to motion. This is a bit of a pain in a game that is ostensibly a free roaming experience, so Bethesda listened to their fans and now you have another option that allows you to play on and take part in several missions that show what befell the Enclave and the Brotherhood of Steel after Project Purity.

The missions in Broken Steel are good fun and take place in a combination of existing locations and a major new one. The main plot lasts a little bit longer than that of the other DLC packs as well, around 5-6 hours. Then of course you have the 10 extra levels of experience. When I played through all the of DLC, I was still only level 26 at the end of it all, so from that point on I explored all of the places that I had yet to visit in the wasteland (which was quite a few as it turns out). Fallout 3 is an absolutely vast game, but a good deal of the content is entirely optional so have further impetus to get out explore is a good thing.

Also, the new perks featured in Broken Steel meant that I was finally able to complete the annoying Nuka Cola Challenge side quest and earn the achievement points. In the original game I hadn't realised that you were supposed to save the bottles of Nuka Cola Quantum that you find and hand them in to one of two particular NPCs, so I actually drank a lot of them as healing items. Thankfully Bethesda must have realised that people might do this, and they added a perk that converts every 10 normal bottles of Nuka Cola into a Quantum. There are also other perks that reset your karma to neutral status, allow you to walk over traps without triggering them, and give you increased resistance to radiation, so by the end of the game you can pretty much make your character an unstoppable killing machine. I have also noticed many of these perks make a return in New Vegas.

All in all, Broken Steel is the DLC that many Fallout 3 fans were waiting for all along - it fixes certain problems, enhances an already brilliant game and allows you to wander the capital wasteland for as long as you wish. It's well worth the Microsoft points!

Overall: 8 out of 10

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