The “Arrival” marks the swan song for Mass Effect 2’s downloadable content. And while I would love to report that it makes one of the best games of the decade go out with a bang, the truth is the Arrival sends this game out with a whimper. That’s not to say this is a terrible piece of DLC; it’s just barely serviceable. And that’s a disappointment coming off the excellent Lair of the Shadow Broker expansion. It’s made even more heartbreaking by the fact that this expansion was prepped as the hearty appetizer for the upcoming trilogy concluder Mass Effect 3.
For this mission Shepard is flying solo, taking direct orders from Admiral Hackett to travel to a prison and break out a deep cover agent who has information regarding an imminent Reaper invasion. And this brings us to the Arrival’s biggest trouble area: Mass Effect 2’s gameplay breaks down when you don’t have a squad working alongside you. Combat begins to feel like it’s ripped straight from every other third-person tunnel shooter on the market. The majority of this DLC has you pushing down linear corridors and partaking in typical cover-to-cover firefights. Without a full team throwing out their various powers and battlefield effects, combat in Mass Effect 2 comes off as pretty monotonous. And ironically, combat is all that really makes up this particular DLC. BioWare should have noticed something was wrong when the game itself starts crying out for help. When a pack of enemies notices you, Shepard yells out “We’ve been spotted!” No Shepard, you’ve been spotted, so you better get on doing something about it. Even the game is self-aware that something is horribly amiss with this new gameplay formula.
There’s also an unfortunate moment in the Arrival where you have to protect Dr. Kenson (the agent you’re sent in to retrieve) while she hacks the network and steals all the dataz. Honestly, the protection aspect of the Arrival brings me back to 1997 and those shitty escort and protect missions from Goldeneye 64. While the two games are vastly different, the fact that I thought about those horrendous missions from Goldeneye while playing Mass Effect 2 is a bad sign.
I also ran into a game crashing glitch during the section protecting Dr. Kenson. After I eliminated all the threats, Kenson told me she was bringing up the elevator so we could get on with our escape. However, she wound up just sitting in front of her computer indefinitely. She didn’t move, and the elevator never showed up. I had to reload my previous checkpoint and do the entire protection segment over again. I was not a happy camper.
As far as the bridge between ME2 and ME3 is concerned, it’s very loose. Don’t expect this DLC to end with the Reapers invading Earth and you getting your first glimpse of the planet on fire, as we saw in Mass Effect 3’s announcement teaser. The Arrival really doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about the Reapers and their plan. This brings back up the question of why Shepard couldn’t just bring along his entire crew for a mission like this. It’s not like they don’t know the Reapers are knocking on Earth’s door. Hell, that was the big punchline of the main Mass Effect 2 game.
In a nutshell, the Arrival doesn’t feel substantial. You’ll be OK skipping this expansion, even if you’re the type of person that starts salivating uncontrollably at the mere mention of Mass Effect 3. The Arrival is just a hollow gameplay experience full of broken promises in regards to this DLC’s implications. I wish it wasn’t like this. I wish the Arrival was the kick-ass finale to the Mass Effect 2 saga that were anticipating. Sadly, the Arrival suffers from a marketing department over-hyping a final product they didn’t have.