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Mass Effect 2: Arrival - Review

Xbox 360 PC PlayStation 3 by Dan Whitehead

30/03/2011 @ 11:30

Ask any gymnast and they'll agree: you have to stick the landing. It doesn't matter how many perfect flips and somersaults you perform if you end up flat on your face at the end.

Arrival may not be the end of Mass Effect 2 in terms of narrative linearity, but by virtue of being the final piece of DLC for a beloved game it's taken on a significance beyond the usual downloadable sidequest.

From a title that openly suggests we'll witness the start of the Reaper invasion to the way screenshots have been doled out in teasing chunks, BioWare has certainly played up to the assumption that this is the first step towards Mass Effect 3. The stage is set for flips and somersaults.

Shame Arrival lands flat on its face.

The impact wouldn't sting quite so much if this DLC wasn't following Lair of the Shadow Broker. That was a fantastically paced and self-contained miniature adventure which showed just how these optional chapters can be compelling in their own right, while enhancing and enriching the larger story.

In contrast, Arrival harks back to the drab Bring Down The Sky, the solitary narrative add-on for the original game, with echoes of Dragon Age: Origins' weaker DLC offerings to boot.

Things start promisingly enough. You receive a communication from Admiral Hackett, the Lance Henriksen-voiced military man who has played a small but memorable background role in both Mass Effect adventures.

A friend of his, Dr. Kenson, has been arrested by Batarians in a remote system. He needs Shepard to investigate and bring her home safely.

It's a standard set-up but it does at least kick things off in a tense manner. While this isn't a stealth game, the opening moments do a decent job of allowing you to feel like you're being stealthy as you negotiate your way past guards, usually by looking around for not-very-hidden alternate routes.

'Mass Effect 2: Arrival' Screenshot 2

How many Mass Effect missions involve rescuing someone from futuristic torture facilities?

Things sadly start to unravel once you find the doctor and, one clunky (and largely inexplicable) plot twist later, you're into the meat of the experience. Shooting. Lots and lots of shooting.

The final two thirds of this hardly-epic story are made up almost entirely of third-person cover-based shooting against the same handful of enemy types over and over again. You enter a room, they enter from the other side, you duck into a safe spot and keep chipping away at the shooting gallery until they stop coming.

There's no exploration, just a linear corridor of identical shoot-outs, broken up by obligatory PDAs and audio logs which dollop out the exposition, lazily explaining why key characters have behaved the way they have.

The truly annoying thing is that Mass Effect 2's combat is interesting enough to make such an action-centred experience work. At least that's the case when you're working with a full squad, able to draw on the full range of abilities and weaponry on offer. In Arrival Shepard is on his own, which means you're going to have to deal with every encounter in the exact same way - rather than using fluid team strategy to cope with different situations.

Hackett tries to come up with a compelling reason why this task has to be performed solo, but it doesn't really wash. Mass Effect 2 is a squad game. Players have spent over a year sculpting and developing their own preferred balance of powers, finding combinations that provide the best tactical options.

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Comments: 1-50 of 108 Next →

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Daeltaja
30/03/11 @ 11:35
#2
+40
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Well count me out of a purchase. I'm sick of sub-par DLC. Either do it right, or not at all.
Sodding_Gamer
30/03/11 @ 11:36
#3
-8
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Tag line is pure gold! I will be purchasing this after my second completion of this awesome game :P
charming_fox
30/03/11 @ 11:39
#4
+20
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why? it's rubbish!
rockin_rob_1
30/03/11 @ 11:39
#5
+13
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oww I had high hopes for this. won't be buying it now.
Shikasama
30/03/11 @ 11:39
#6
+66
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I don't get it. 2 pages of absolutely slating it and decrying the design decisions, narrative and gameplay as all round rubbish, it gets a 5 which is 'average'.

Surely that copy makes it a 3 - 'Bad' - at absolute best?
sirtacos Moderator
30/03/11 @ 11:39
#7
-16
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twat legumes
Edited 2 times, most recently on 30/03/11 @ 11:45
cloud_ix
30/03/11 @ 11:40
#8
-5
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waiting till it's less extortionate then
lucky_jim
30/03/11 @ 11:40
#9
+11
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I agree with the review, kinda wish I'd waited for it before spending 560msp yesterday. Although I probably would have bought it anyway for the sake of completeness, but if that's not an issue for you then steer well clear. The plot's "twist" was crap and predictable, but that's not even the worst thing about it. It was also way too short, and a real disappointment after all the great DLC this game has had.
rojjer
30/03/11 @ 11:40
#10
+1
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Read around different reviews, it appears to be getting 6 or 7/10 averages. My advice would be: Wait till its discounted nearer ME: 3 release date
udat
30/03/11 @ 11:42
#11
+20
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Well that just saved me a few quid. Thanks EG.
ChaosSmurf
30/03/11 @ 11:44
#12
+3
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Interested to hear what was inexplicable about the plot twist, I didn't find anything about it hard to understand. Other than that i basically agree with the review - I still enjoyed the DLC and I'm not kicking myself over buying it, but all the criticisms (other than that one) ring true.
kinky_mong
30/03/11 @ 11:44
#13
+13
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Will be avoiding this one like the plague.

I'm doing a second playthrough at the moment as a way to get all the DLC I bought in the sale at Christmas done, and it's reminded me why I felt the game wasn't anywhere near as good as the majority claim it is. Far too many of the missions are just a series of drab rooms with knee high boxes scattered conveniently to take cover from a few waves of enemies.

The Overlord DLC is the first time in the 10 hours I've put in so far that I actually enjoyed this playthrough, as the Hammerhead sections are a welcome change to the gameplay during each mission.
northside
30/03/11 @ 11:44
#14
+49
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"With her final act looming, Shepard deserved better."

Fixed.
Jonny5Alive7
30/03/11 @ 11:45
#15
0
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Oh dead, how disappointing. So does this link the story between ME2 & ME3 or is it not worth it?
viralshag
30/03/11 @ 11:46
#16
+14
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This DLC was absolutely shite imo. It felt so shoddy and crap, like a weekend rush job. The whole plot didn't really make any sense either.

I was so angry and disappointed by this DLC. This hour of crap has in some ways ruined what was pretty much the perfect game for me and put bit of a downer for ME3 knowing that one of the biggest decisions was taken right out of my hands.

Bad Bioware! Bad developer! Go to the naughty step!
Edited 1 times, most recently on 30/03/11 @ 13:23
lucky_jim
30/03/11 @ 11:47
#17
+3
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@Jonny- It does link the story, but it's nothing you couldn't guess for yourself.
WinterSnowblind
30/03/11 @ 11:49
#18
+1
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@Jonny5Alive7
It doesn't really build up to ME3 but there is an event that will have some very serious consequences down the road. No idea how that will play out if you don't have Arrival.. and that's probably what Bioware were hoping we'd think.
sarcasmoidosis
30/03/11 @ 11:50
#19
+32
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Bioware assumes Direct Control!
Markitron
30/03/11 @ 11:53
#20
+1
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The visual of the final battle redeemed it a little for me. As a massive ME fan I dont regret buying it, but I am a little disappointed
viralshag
30/03/11 @ 11:54
#21
+5
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@Jonny5Alive7

It does but in quite a retarded way. The only way it has linked the two together is by throwing you into a stupid situation for either a big side quest plot or something that will really affect the main story. Either way there is only one stupid outcome for the DLC so in some ways playing this has will have no impact on how ME3 plays out.

I would say give it a miss for now tbh, not really worth the money. Wait for a sale.
Edited 1 times, most recently on 30/03/11 @ 11:56
Hunam
30/03/11 @ 11:56
#22
+2
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I think the problem with this sort of DLC is as pointed out in the review. It's seems that they want to keep costs down so make things short with as little V/O as they can get away with. Ideally, they'd leave a few more years between ME2 and ME3 (instead of, what? 18 months maybe?) and really maximise some big DLC. Awakening for DAO was what we should be getting for an RPG, ok, maybe half an Awakening would be fairer tbh. A nice 6 or so hour romp through a known universe with a great cast we are used to.
gjgjg
30/03/11 @ 11:56
#23
+9
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hope the development of this suffered as they were putting effort in to ME3
Murbal
30/03/11 @ 12:08
#24
+1
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Loving the Tiny Wings reference :-)
Sodding_Gamer
30/03/11 @ 12:15
#25
-5
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I'd still buy it simply because its just mass effect. I've spent 40 quid on shit games before so a couple of quid is just making up for it.
uknortherner2000
30/03/11 @ 12:19
#27
+10
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@milki-tea

How dare anybody have an opinion that's different to yours! The sheer crassness of it all.

As for this shitty DLC? It's all I've come to expect from BioWare these days.
Edited 1 times, most recently on 30/03/11 @ 12:21
geeza2020
30/03/11 @ 12:30
#28
+19
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milkitea - "why do soo many gamers online cry about stuff so pointless...fucking geeks" - you mean, like you're complaining right here on this games message board on a website about games? Fucking geeks indeed.

"also. dan whitehead clearly hasnt had sex for a while." It sounds as though the same could be said of you.

Anyway, dissapointed in this, I was expecting better considering how much it was being hyped up as the DLC that "bridges" the story between ME2 and ME3. Oh well, good thing I've still got Lair of the Shadow Broker to play through!
menage
30/03/11 @ 12:37
#29
+5
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This sounds crap. And after all this time building up a team, losing them, buidling another one agian, now I'm on my own?

Doesn't bode well for what were promised before 1. I can see ME3 being the same again.
asphaltcowboy
30/03/11 @ 12:47
#30
+3
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Hmm... might wait for a price-drop then...
rotmm
30/03/11 @ 12:48
#31
+2
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Shame :(
Subdominator
30/03/11 @ 12:49
#32
+4
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I can see them trying to find out if players would accept solo Shepard in ME 3. Guess the game's gonna be delayed for a year. ;)
d00dl
30/03/11 @ 12:50
#33
+1
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It was not that bad. No Shadow Broker for sure. I would peg it as some mashup between Bring down the sky and Kasumi's stolen memory.
Lalaland
30/03/11 @ 12:51
#34
+7
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I'm starting to wonder whether any of the choices I made in ME1 and the single choice there was in ME2 are going to affect anything at all in ME3. ME2 showed me almost nothing in terms of consequences for having made the choices I did ME1 and ME2 simply decided to not let me make any choices at all bar the final one.

Skipping this DLC then as there are much better cover shooters out there and there's none of the plot I play Bioware games for.
agparrot Moderator
30/03/11 @ 12:53
#35
+3
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I am glad I didn't impulse purchase this last night - thank goodness that the extreme shopping offers meant I had better things to do.

Will await the inevitable 200pt price sometime around xmas. Probably still pay it begrudgingly, judging by the way they've decided to structure the DLC. Might give it a miss entirely.

Perhaps it should have been free to Cerberus subscribers?
metalangel
30/03/11 @ 12:53
#36
+5
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I wish they'd stop plopping these awful DLC out.
Machetazo
30/03/11 @ 12:54
#37
+5
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"Arrival commits the cardinal sin of including an absolutely massive ethical conundrum, even overtly presenting it as an "Are you sure you want to do this?" question and then � right when you're mulling it over � makes Shepard's decision for you with a cut-scene. There was never a choice after all. "

>:( Seriously, as far as games go, this kind of thing makes me see red and (this time, forewarned) keeps the wallet shut and raises my scorn for the ones who do it.

Only after the fact, do I find, through internet searching, that "hey, even though Shepard's telling me he won't be hurried in to a decision on when/how to save the crew" and add to that the most vast space map to explore and actually search and mine and experience and get involved enjoying the game...DESPITE THAT, it turns out the rabbit hole's only so deep because, it's going to punish me for seeking to play and enjoy the game, by stripping me of key crew. Maybe it's not overtly linked to the review, but I feel it's on a similar level.

All signs point to one thing, game decides something else. I finished ME1, first time with scarce realisation of why I'd ended up as I had, and could not achieve the ending I intended. A character stripped me of the choice, there, and it looks like they're still pulling this crap - except, that this is within the prelude to the finale, and all the chances are being exhausted for them not to pull this stunt. It just disappoints me a lot that my adventure, the one I play to construct. My Shepard still gets this even as the potential saviour of the known universe. Mass Effect 3 has got to show well, clear and different, before I take it seriously, this time.
Shrike
30/03/11 @ 12:58
#38
+2
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The "forced choice" is an interesting one, because there's really only one logical decision to make in that circumstance and that's the choice that Shepard makes. To do the other thing would be totally rediculous in both the short and long term.

The problem is that the dialogue and exposition supporting that decision is so skeletal that it's difficult to implicitly trust the scenario, and in fact it could be argued that the twist teaches you not to. I don't have a problem with some of Shepard's decisions being taken out of the player's hands - it's just a question of presenting it right. Arrival doesn't really sell it.
uzivatel
30/03/11 @ 13:00
#39
-3
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As good as Kameo, right? (really wanted to write this for some time now)

I did not find Arrival 5/10. While it is disappointing after LotSB or even Kasumi, its probably better than Overlord, which got 8/10 from the very same Dan Whitehead.
DanWhitehead
30/03/11 @ 13:02
#40
+3
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@chaossmurf

Interested to hear what was inexplicable about the plot twist, I didn't find anything about it hard to understand.

I never understood exactly why Dr Kenson went from trying to destroy the relay to helping the Reapers. Even after reading every PDA and listening to every audio log, it felt like that rather important piece of information was missing. Did they just mind control her through the artefact? She has glowing eyes when you come round, but she also seemed in full control of her faculties, and even expressed sadness that she wouldn't see their victory. It really feels like a twist for the sake of a cheap "gotcha" moment rather than a coherent story.
Darren
30/03/11 @ 13:08
#41
+8
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After that scathing review I was surprised to see the 5/10 score. It read very much like a 4 or even 3 to me since there was virtually nothing positive in the entire two pages! :O
Optyk
30/03/11 @ 13:09
#42
+11
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Must have been the DA2 team that worked on this.
Psych0Mantis
30/03/11 @ 13:09
#43
+2
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After they did everything right with Lair Of The Shadow Broker how can they have screwed this up? Saying that I played the PS3 version first and the other DLC included was pretty weak, the hovercraft missions were poor. At least ME3 isn't far off and will contain plenty of great missions and moral choices.
Shikasama
30/03/11 @ 13:14
#44
+5
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Dan, while you are in the comments section (Hi btw) can you explain that score to us?

I honestly don't get how, after the scathing criticism with not one redeeming factor you gave it in the review, it still comes out as Average rather than Bad or Below Average.

Not trying to say you are wrong or anything like that, but there seems to be a massive inconsistency between the copy and the score and it is becoming something of a theme on EG recently.
Syrette
30/03/11 @ 13:14
#45
+6
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@DanWhitehead

She was indoctrinated.

Very much like how Saren was, in Mass Effect.
Syrette
30/03/11 @ 13:16
#46
-4
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@Shikasama

Why do you care so much? You've made the exact same point twice, only now in a more questioning tone. Do you base your buying decisions on what score EG reviewers give out?
Sodding_Gamer
30/03/11 @ 13:21
#47
0
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This review is the guys opinion of it. IGN gave it a 7. And before someone jumps down my throat saying ign are evil or something.... All i'm saying is it's their opinion. It might be crap to them but to other people its good. Paying 1200mp for a map pack for COD is a joke. 560mp is nothing. I mean people buy avatar clothes for that price!
Shikasama
30/03/11 @ 13:26
#48
+3
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FAN - I wasn't trying to make a 'different' point in the second post I was asking a direct question to the guy who reviewed it. As for why I care so much? Because review scores are important regardless of whether I use them to buy games or not and when I see what I think to be a huge discrepancy between what the review says and what the score says, I think I am entitled to at least ask why, or leave a comment regarding said discrepancy, if you will.

I do apologise if I have offended you so deeply. On the bright side though, it did give you an opportunity to be an internet high and mighty dickhead so it wasn't all bad.

In future I'll be sure to run all comments by you first for prior approval.
Azhrarn
30/03/11 @ 13:26
#49
+12
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"With his final act looming, Shepard deserved better. "

It is not Shepard who deserves better, it is us, the buyers of this sub-par, money grabbing DLC shit.

I am totally fed up with the Bioware DLC antics.
First they remove armors from the second ME game, and then we have to buy them back. Then they hack the game up into pieces and remove companion characters form the game, but we get to buy them back months after we have already played through the game at least twice.

Bioware has become a second rate money grabbing game company. They created a great IP with Mass Effect, but then decided the game play should be more simplistic like any run of the mill ordinary shooter and removed important RPG elements from the game. They sell us pieces of clothing and weapons they purposely removed from the game first and destroyed the game play experience and immersion by cutting the game up into pieces and selling them separately.

I am not at all against DLC, but Bioware simply doesn't know how to do it right. I am not even talking about the sub-par quality of many of the ME2 DLC. I am simply talking about creating DLC that do not destroy the gaming experience by cutting it to shreds and that are not just released for obvious money grabbing purposes.

Rockstar did it right. They released 2 large DLC for GTA that were interconnected with the main story, but did not depend upon each other. The player characters were new and lived in the same setting as the original main character, they even met him, but could easily hold their own.
DanWhitehead
30/03/11 @ 13:27
#50
+2
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@foreverafternothing

But wasn't Saren indoctrinated because of all his implants? He was becoming more machine-like, and that's how the Reapers took control of him. We see nothing to suggest Kenson is the same. It just feels like a clumsy plot fudge - sort of mumblemumblemindcontrolorsomethinglikethatmumblemumble. Given the stakes (that we're told about but never shown) a little more motivation would be nice.

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