DLC Review: Mass Effect 2 Arrival

DLC Review: Mass Effect 2 Arrival

Another day, another galaxy to save.

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Playstation 3, Xbox 360

Release Date: March 29, 2011

Players: 1

Rating: Mature

“The Reapers are coming…” Or so that’s the overshadowing thought that rested in the back of our minds as we played Mass Effect 2. Although the healthy doses of downloadable content packs have provided a lot of extra game time, none of them have really shed any light on the issue of the Reapers themselves. With the conclusion to the Mass Effect trilogy rapidly approaching at the end of the year, Bioware has whetted our appetites by producing extra content to bridge the storylines between the second and third game. Arrival, the last episode before the release of Mass Effect 3, gives us one final adventure to keep us busy while we wait.

Although Arrival can be played at any point of the game after the first round of recruitments, it’s heavily implied that this mission should be done after the main story is completed.

In an emergency transmission from Admiral Hackett, Shepard is notified of a captured scientist named Dr. Kenson who apparently uncovered some lost Reaper technology. What’s worse, the scientist calculated that the Reaper invasion is to occur in a matter of days. Embarking on a solo mission to rescue Kenson, Shepard finds himself tasked with not only saving one person, but his actions have the potential to affect an entire star system of hundreds of thousands of inhabitants in the process.

I could have seen Arrival lasting a little bit longer than it did. Other than a chance encounter at the climax of the mission, this functioned much like any other side quest, except it had actual dialogue. I expected more involvement from Hackett, who had been completely absent in the second game. The combat sequences weren’t unique next to previous DLC packs for the game, except that Shepard does all of the fighting on his own. If anything, a couple battles were more difficult, but they were nothing a seasoned player couldn’t handle.

A doomsday-style clock is present throughout the mission, which helped add some intensity to the situation. As I passed by it between finishing one task and starting the next, I often stopped to catch my breath and glance at how much “time” had passed. Seeing how much time was left always made me start rushing again to finish the mission, because I didn’t want to stick around and see what happened when the timer ran out.

Stacked up with the previous DLC like Lair of the Shadow Broker, Overlord and Kasumi, Arrival was a nice addition to the bunch. There were some upgrades like extra health to pick up, but they were redundant since they wouldn’t really be put to use, unless you play this mission out of the order it should have been initiated. For the price and the length, it isn’t a must buy, as a couple Youtube videos could sum up the content of this pack pretty well. It’s decent, but isn’t an absolute necessity.

Arrival is priced at 560 Microsoft Points, or a little over $7 on Playstation Network. If you’re itching to get a couple extra hours of playtime in Mass Effect 2, you will not be disappointed.

Rating: 3.5/5

Crisis Averted!

Color me infuriated. I’ve had my fair share of issues with my consoles; my third Xbox 360 stands as a testament to that. I’m not a professional, but I’d like to say I’m good at fixing a number of problems that have dropped onto my plate. It’s never easy, but solving them does leave me feeling a little gratified, that is if it’s a problem that can be fixed in the first place.

“That’s not supposed to happen…”

For a few days, Mass Effect 2 was unplayable for me. After finishing the game as a male Paragon Shepard (and subsequently writing an article about the choices in the series thus far, found here), I thought it would be fun to play through the game again on Insanity as a female Renegade. I was having a blast until I had died for the umpteenth time. While I was reloading like usual, my game had abruptly stopped in the middle of the loading screen, forcing me to power off my Xbox. Each time I tried to start the game again, it would freeze up and have to be manually powered off.

I began to fear the worst. “Is my Xbox going to fail?” “Is this the first symptom of a Red Ring of Death error, or the beginning of a chain of bad occurrences leading to a slew of other problems that would render my system dead as well?” A lot of things flew through my mind; it was tough to stay calm. The idea of troubleshooting a console has steadily evolved from simply blowing on the cartridge of an NES game, to running down a long and tedious list of fixes for our current generation consoles that rival a help manual for a computer. When did it ever become so complicated? Throughout the night and the following two days I began narrowing down the possible causes:

1.       Removing all of the Downloadable Content (Stupid mistake)

2.       Cleaning the disks, even though they were in perfect condition

3.       Contemplating using canned air to dislodge any built up dust inside (REALLY STUPID. Thankfully I didn’t go through with this)

4.       Calling Electronic Arts and wasting about an hour of my time (The technician ended up sending me a knowledge base article on Microsoft’s website for how to get on Xbox Live…..)

5.       Playing another game

After four really dumb ideas, I finally landed on something mildly intelligent! As I said before, when you’re not in the right state of mind, foolish things are bound to occur. I proceeded to find out every other game I bothered to put in worked just fine, so it was only Mass Effect 2 not functioning properly. I tried using a different Gamertag as well, and lo and behold, the game was playable again! Only problem is that since I wasn’t using my primary profile, I didn’t have access to the save files I would be using in the first place. Because of this, I realized that the issue had to be centered on my gamertag.

“What seems to be the problem with your game, sir?”

Of the many problems and glitches people have had to battle with to get this game to work, my case had yet to be brought to Bioware’s attention, and because of that, it lacked an official fix. I was literally on my own, unless there were others in my situation that just haven’t spoken up. I did some digging, and eventually got in contact with other Xbox 360 users that had the same problem.

Upon further investigation, the problem lied within the save files connected to my gamertag. Apparently, if you have “too many” save files, a rare instance occurs where an important save file, like your AutoSave(which brings you right back to the last place the game saved before or after a battle or major plot point) or ChapterSave (which brings you to the beginning of the mission you’re in) can get corrupted. This is very problematic because when Mass Effect 1 or 2 is turned on, it is also readying your most recent save to be loaded immediately. Even though you haven’t actually gone about to manually load the save file in question, this is done for you. If these two files or a save you made on your own are corrupted, the game will freeze when you try to advance past the start screen, which was my problem in the first place.

…How I got this fixed isn’t up for disclosure…

….But nevertheless, I had found that my AutoSave for my female Renegade was 0kb’s. Having no file size essentially makes it corrupt, and obviously fails to load. After rectifying that, I was able to load my game up again, and was subsequently able to play as well.

From what I gathered, there are a number of possible causes to this, but I’m willing to bet that this problem won’t be addressed by Bioware or Electronic Arts. Mass Effect 2 has been out for a year and a month now, and if a major issue like this hasn’t gotten some attention yet, it likely never will. I just hope that when Mass Effect 3 comes out, other gamers like me won’t have to wrestle with the system in order to play.

It’s funny. My reasoning behind preferring console gaming to computer gaming is very simple – I don’t have to pray that my machine can handle a new game, and don’t have to be haunted by the idea of having to invest in new tech in order to keep your machine useful. With a console, I just have to pop it in, sit back o the couch and enjoy. For a few days, I had joined the minority of players afflicted with errors. When you aren’t having problems with your game, people like me are invisible; yet if your game fails to work, then you’ll see other people with problems everywhere you look.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit First Impressions

If racing franchises were all related, then Need for Speed is the schizophrenic member of the family. Over its long history, Need for Speed has covered nearly every facet of the racing scene – from underground illegal street racing, law enforcement on the road, and even the professional sphere. As one of the franchises that are constantly being played in due to having a yearly release schedule, it’s pretty difficult to say that you’ve never heard of a Need for Speed title before. After a few hours of playing, here’s a short breakdown of both career paths; playing as a street racer and police officer.

Roadsters Reborn

Racing demands perfection. Success on the road requires the player to be knowledgeable of the terrain pretty well, because each race that I saw so far had some short cuts which have to be exploited in order to get ahead of your rivals. The AI is pretty tough, and there’s a higher focus on plain old good driving. While bumping other cars to force your way through a tough spot might be the first thing you might want to do, hitting another car (or a wall, or anything really) too hard will result in a crash, where you’re treated to a slow motion cutscene of your car smashing against something, with thousands of shards of glass flying everywhere. Also, here’s  a small pet-peeve; when racing, the AI has a rubber-band mechanic: No matter how far ahead you are of your opponents, if you make one mistake, you immediately stand a chance to get passed up.

Welcome to the Force, Detective

At first, I didn’t think it would be very fun to play as a police officer. This all changed after I busted my first perp. After playing both Need for Speed Most Wanted and Undercover, it was refreshing to finally assume the role of an actual officer. With that, the biggest addition to police chases is having access to various weaponry like spike strips, summoning a helicopter, firing off an EMP, and calling roadblocks. It felt a little bit like Mario Kart with access to a “bag of tricks,” but seeing your target shut down after running right over a spike strip is a great feeling. When I’m driving, I have a bad tendency of crashing into stuff a lot, and since a large amount of playing as a cop involves “busting” your targets (Although while you’re playing, it seems that you’re trying to kill them at the same time), so I felt more comfortable with being rougher on the road.

Be Notorious, or the Top Cop?

What I like most is that either career can be played, at the same time. After a couple of races, I could switch to a police mission, and go back and forth as I please. I’ve only gotten started, but this is shaping up to be a pretty fun game so far. There is also an online mode, but I’ll wait until I’m a much better racer before I embarrass myself online. Stay tuned for the review!