Kasumi: Stolen Memory (Released Apr 2010)
Kasumi: Stolen Memory is part of a pair of DLC that each add a new character to Shepard’s team as well as their respective loyalty missions. Kasumi Goto is a master thief recruited aboard the Citadel; she is mysterious, naturally, but bright and bubbly – carefree and often joking, she brings a touch of levity to Mass Effect 2’s generally grim tone. In combat she’s best against shielded enemies – she packs the ever-useful Overload skill, along with grenades and a signature sneak attack ability that looks flashy but isn’t hugely useful against mobs of enemies and does leave her vulnerable afterwards. She joins Shepard on the proviso that the Commander will help her recover her former partner’s greybox from the vault of Donovan Hock, a notorious criminal. Kasumi’s loyalty mission takes the form of a heist and it makes for one of the more ambitious and unique missions in Mass Effect 2. The early stages of the level in Hock’s mansion are exquisitely detailed, while fighting through the waves of enemies when it all inevitably goes wrong is given a little more challenge thanks to the restriction of only having Shepard and Kasumi to rely on.
Zaeed: The Price of Revenge (Released January 2010)
Zaeed Massani, on the other hand, is a violent and callous mercenary picked up in the streets of Omega. Essentially a Mass Effect-themed answer to Star Wars’ Boba Fett, Zaeed is presented as the archetypal ultimate badass (no mean feat given some of the characters we come across in Mass Effect 2). His combat abilities make him more versatile than Kasumi, with an anti-synthetic ammo type and anti-armour grenades at his disposal. His loyalty mission is regrettably less interesting than Kasumi’s, offering a far more straightforward fight through waves of Blue Sun mooks but it comes with a couple of particularly hefty alignment choices for Shepard, and the outcome of the final moments of the mission can be changed depending on when you choose to do it. Where Zaeed especially shines though is in some of his character dialogue; he defies the initial impression of him. While he is clearly a bloodthirsty killer, his jaded attitude and bleakly cynical sense of humour as he recounts war stories on the Normandy make his DLC worth it.
Project Firewalker (Released Mar 2010)
Consisting of only a series of brief missions, Firewalker is built to introduce the M-44 Hammerhead, a replacement of sorts for the Mako. Unlike the Mako, the Hammerhead is a hovercraft, but it can only be used on select planets. Rather than a free-roaming exploration, Firewalker’s missions are much more structured and linear. Each utilises a different function of the hovercraft – one pits you in combat against varied Geth forces, while others are platforming challenges that make use of the Hammerhead’s limited jump-jets and manoeuvrability. For those hankering for some vehicle sections after Mass Effect 2 excised them it might offer some enjoyment but it’s not a hugely in-depth addition to the game.
Overlord (Released Jun 2010)
The first of Mass Effect 2‘s major expansion packs see the Normandy crew investigate Cerberus facility conducting research into geth and VI. They arrive to find the staff massacred and a rogue VI in control. Overlord excels at constructing a marvelously tense atmosphere – the rogue VI screams loudly and unintelligibly, giving an air of eeriness, Shepard is thrown into pitched battles in cramped locations as geth appear from nowhere, and the VI randomly locks doors and guides you down new routes at will, forcing the player to surrender control of the situation. The Hammerhead makes a return (complete with a new deadpan sarcastic on-board VI) as Shepard races across the surface of Aite between outposts trying to shut down the VI in a nice way of fitting the missions together seamlessly rather than simply shunting you from one location to the next. Archer makes for a suitably slimy character who raises hackles from the first appearance, a genuinely fitting addition to Cerberus’ ranks. The DLC culminates in a particularly enjoyable and deliriously trippy sequence, and although the final boss is a bit poor, it ends with a satisfying moral choice that plays out alongside some stellar character writing.
Lair of the Shadow Broker (Released Sep 2010)
After she takes a back seat for the main story of Mass Effect 2, Lair of the Shadow Broker marks the welcome return of asari scientist-turned-information broker Liara T’soni to Shepard’s crew. From her base on Illium, Liara has made an enemy of the enigmatic Shadow Broker and has been making her own attempts to track them down for revenge. What begins as a simple investigation erupts into a full-scale conflict as the Normandy crew and Liara are chased and attacked by the Broker’s operatives as they try and close in on the elusive Broker; Shadow Broker’s story sets a high pace very quickly and barely lets up. Liara joins Shepard as a temporary party member, and works very similar to previous game, with her various powerful biotics giving her a unique edge in combat. Blessedly, Shadow Broker also provides 2 of the best boss fights to be had in Mass Effect 2; though revealing them would, of course, be telling, both pit the Normandy crew against powerfully skilled opponents. The big draw, other than dealing with the eponymous crime lord, is in exploring the change to Liara’s character; two years on Illium have turned the once shy and awkward scientist into a harsh and unforgiving agent, willing to sacrifice innocents and her operatives if it furthers her goal. Paragon Shepard’s horror at what Liara has become is clear and visceral, while even a Renegade might give pause to contemplate the lengths T’soni goes to achieve her aims. It is a testament to the strength of the game’s character writing that Liara’s hardening of her character is one of the strongest assets of an already great expansion.
Arrival (Released Mar 2011)
Mass Effect 2’s final DLC begins with a distress signal, and a daunting task. An Alliance team has gone missing deep in Batarian space and Shepard needs to get them out. However, there’s a catch: Shepard needs to go in alone – if the Batarian Hegemony detects any Alliance rescue mission, it would spark an all-out war between two races already on the edge of conflict. It quickly becomes apparent that the rescue mission is only the start, as Arrival rapidly spirals to a hectic climax but to say too much is to spoil Mass Effect 2’s highest stake mission; suffice it to say it concerns a Reaper artifact of great power. Arrival’s admittedly brief story is designed to move directly into the opening of the trilogy’s finale, and it certainly feels a fitting epilogue to Mass Effect 2; epic but deeply bleak, it does little to dispel the finely-crafted sense of dread that heralds the coming of the Reapers.