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Review: Mass Effect 2: Arrival DLC

With the "Arrival" DLC expansion, the high-action Mass Effect 2 comes to its conclusion and the way is open for Mass Effect 3 to release in the fall. Admiral Hackett gives Shepherd some face time this time around, as opposed to being a disembodied voice, and asks him to embark on a special covert mission. It involves tracking down a spy captured in Batarian space who has information on a massive Reaper invasion coming to wipe out all life in the galaxy. The evidence not only proves definitively that the Reapers are coming, but details the launching point from where all life in the galaxy will be exterminated.

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The title of this campaign is a little misleading, since Shepherd's mission is to stop the Reapers from arriving en mass, but "Delay" probably wouldn't have been as impressive. Also, judging from what we've observed with the Dragon Age: Origins DLC expansions, things tend to get a bit dicey when it comes to these bridging story segments. Arrival doesn't necessarily reveal anything fans of the series don't already know outside of the fact that the Reaper invasion is actually hours away, not years, which is a little strange considering how the mission through the Omega-4 Relay was supposed to put a big dent in Reaper plans. So, the latest expansion inadvertently undermines the value of the original high risk suicide mission if you've already beaten it, but we'll just take that to mean the Reapers are far more powerful than anyone thought.

Another stand-out feature is the Shepherd takes this mission as a solo operative. That means no support from biotic or tech powers outside of what the character is already capable of. This might be bad news for players that developed their characters based on a team dynamic. While the themes of both Mass Effect 1 and 2 indicate that Shepherd can't face this galactic threat alone, this DLC portrays the character as a one man (or woman) army by locking him in a room and having him fight off waves of increasingly difficult foes. Shepherd doesn't have to beat the challenge to complete the campaign, but doing so suggests something about the necessity having companions tag along.

Since players can't bring any friends along, the mission turns out being a relatively quiet one, since there's little in the way of commentary and differing points of view. The most that's offered is some taunting over a loudspeaker system and soldier chatter. Arrival's final sequence involves dashing through a series of narrow hallways and fighting against the clock for a last ditch effort to stop the invasion. The campaign is really short, barely offering more than an hour's worth or content, and the ending still leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of a big finale, the games simply reminds players that all their efforts simply delay the inevitable. At one point, the campaign appears to offer a major decision point, but it turns out to be a fake opportunity. There's no way to avoid or mitigate the negative consequences of having to kill hundreds of thousands of Batarians - a race that has always had a lousy relationship with humans. This further diminishes the ending, since Shepherd talks about how humanity will take a stand against any threat, all the while wiping out a bunch of alien colonies. A lot of resources like Element Zero and a few upgrades to be found for all the good they provide, considering how this is the last DLC expansion for Mass Effect 2 and players can't put them to use until after they're done with the campaign and back on the Normandy.

We couldn't help feeling disappointed with the Arrival DLC campaign, even given the relatively low price. Stronger moral decisions would have helped, but Arrival's plot is very linear and the player's decision to be a Paragon or Renegade has practically no impact on how things play out. We're not suggesting that the campaign should be stretched out for the sake of making a longer game, but at the very least, there should have been something unique to import over to Mass Effect 3. As things are, the Arrival ends up being a somewhat insignificant addition to the overarching story, with the exception of one last minute plot development which most fans should have probably seen coming from the first game. With all things considered, Arrival represents a fairly weak bridge from game to the next. Hopefully, Mass Effect 3 will pick things up on a stronger note..

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