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January 26, 2010 - Mass Effect 2 officially launched just a few hours ago, and BioWare and EA already have a slew of content available for folks who are part of the Cerberus Network and who preordered the game.

Yes, if you preordered at select retailers (or made good on a late night Microsoft error), you should have some free armor and/or weapons to play with. If you bought the game new (or bought it used and paid for the content on the Xbox Marketplace), you'll have access to one new mission on the Cerberus Network. Aanother is coming later this week along with a different character. Rather than make you wait and wonder about what all that wonderful content is, we're going to break it down for you right here on IGN.

Climb aboard this Normandy escape pod.



Normandy Crash Site
If there's one part of Mass Effect 2 that has polarized the IGN office, it's this mission. Some (like myself) find this free mission to be a somber, touching mission that's a fitting tribute to those lost when the Normandy went down in the beginning of Mass Effect 2. Others, specifically IGN Editor in Chief Hilary Goldstein, describe it as "the worst thing ever."

How does it work? After you've downloaded this piece of content, you'll get a message from Admiral Hackett. It seems some routine scans of the universe have uncovered the crash site of the SSV Normandy and her crew. Hackett wants you to head over, find any trace of the 20 lost in the crash, and place a memorial. You choose the locale from your galaxy map, fly on over, and land on the planet.

From the moment I stepped off of my shuttle, I knew that this wasn't the traditional Mass Effect 2 mission. Here, there's no one to fight and no one to hide from. As snowflakes drifted to the ground and surround the smashed remains of the Normandy, I was left with just the sound of Shepard's breath in her helmet. (Yeah, I play as a girl; deal with it.) The environment is desolate and still – it's somber, like a memorial should be.

Move around the crash site, and you're going to see little balls of light. When you come up on them, you'll discover that they are the dog tags of the fallen Alliance members. You'll need to collect 20 of these for experience points as well as to complete the mission. When you come to twisted specific pieces of wreckage – Joker's chair, the galaxy map, the Mako, etc. – you'll get a camera angle that frames the structure as you remembered it, shows a photo of it from the original Mass Effect, and then reverts back to the mangled mess. Collect all the dog tags, place a cheesy looking monument, and it's time to go.

Poor girl.
Poor girl.
For me, this mission served its purpose. Yeah, it was slow, but it should be. This is when you mourn your ship and her crew. This is a sacred place. The throwbacks to the good old days, the bleak soundtrack, and everything else drove home that this was a place to be respected. It was short, and it enhanced the story for me.