Mass Effect 2: Arrival DLC review

Mass Effect 2 has put out some damn good DLC to back up what’s an already stellar game. Overlord effectively utilized the fun Hammerhead vehicle, Kasumi’s Stolen Memory gave us a new party member, and Lair of the Shadow Broker let us reconnect with an old ally (or an old squeeze in our case). Then there’s Arrival, the latest and final DLC chapter. Instead of ending the ME2 legacy on a high with Shadow Broker, BioWare chose to squeeze out one last disappointing mission that feels insubstantial despite providing a narrative bridge leading to Mass Effect 3. And our hopes were so high…

Arrival begins with Admiral Hackett asking Shepard to go on a stealthy solo mission to rescue Dr. Kenson, an Alliance operative who’s been arrested on terrorism charges by Batarians out in deep space. The doctor’s last report before losing contact suggested she’d found vital information about an imminent Reaper invasion. It’s a great setup, but BioWare fails to fully capitalize on the premise.

You’ll begin to notice fairly quickly that this space adventure is painfully lacking. For one, the settings aren’t anything special, comparatively speaking. In the previous DLC missions, there’s a particular portion that seems to stick with you, whether it be the beautiful planet of Aite, fighting across the top of a massive starship, or playing 007 at a cocktail party. There’s just nothing like that to take away from Arrival, and the story is equally forgettable.

Now we expect some linearity from these fairly short DLC missions, but BioWare always seems to compensate with compelling drama and great setpieces. That’s not the case here. The plot of Arrival is predictable and unexciting, and you only run into one main character – Dr. Kenson. In the few conversations you have, your dialogue choices have very little impact on how things plays out. That means your enjoyment will depend heavily on combat and action.

Thankfully, BioWare made some attempt to shake things up with a few varied action sequences. There’s a small portion at the beginning that has a slight Resident Evil feel, with Shepard creeping through stone corridors as Varrens lurk just around the corners. It’s a good way to reinforce the fact that you won’t be getting any help from your squad members (assuming you ignore the fact that Shepard still yells “We’ve been spotted!”), and serves as a good transition into the prison stealth section.

Above: Guard 1: “What was that noise?” Guard 2: “Who cares? We’re only getting paid to look in this direction”

This is where your experience can vary wildly. Should you set off the alarm and go in guns blazing, or should you remain inconspicuous as per the orders of Admiral Hackett? In order to get the best out of this experience, we definitely recommend the latter. Whether you care about achievements/trophies or not, going after them here makes the hour and a half of gameplay a lot more interesting. The Covert Action achievement requires you remain undetected before you reach Dr. Kenson, and you’ll have to last through the mid-mission horde battle to earn the Last Stand achievement. If you play without these goals in mind, Arrival loses most of the small amount of charm it has, and devolves into the same old duck and cover shooty shoot.

Above: “Shepard, you’re the only one I trust with this delicate mission. Also, I can’t afford to bring back your crew’s voice actors…”

The whole point of Arrival is to whet our appetites for Mass Effect 3, but incredibly, this fully fledged $7 add-on is less impactful than the simple, single shot that brought the main ME2 game to a close. That above all else is why Arrival breaks our hearts.

Apr 4, 2011

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