11
Sep
10

Review — Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker (PC)

Shepard and Liara share a moment.

Mass Effect 2” was released in January 2010 with rave reviews from most media outlets. Since then BioWare, the game’s developer, has been releasing a steady stream of downloadable content to supplement the game and keep players coming back to its sci-fi action RPG.

On Sept. 9 2010, the most recent bit of DLC, “Lair of the Shadow Broker,” was released, which is a continuation of the story explored in the “Mass Effect” comic book. Read on to find out if it lives up to the standards set by the original game.

WARNING: Text beyond this point may contain spoilers!

Story: 99
As mentioned earlier, the story in “Lair” is a continuation of the story line from “Mass Effect: Redemption,” a four issue comic series. During the events of the comic, an alien of the “asari” race, Liara T’soni, comes into conflict with the Shadow Broker, a secretive character that buys and sells important information and assets across the galaxy.

The comic book ends with a few loose ends, all of which are tied up by “Lair.” Reading the comic prior to playing “Lair” isn’t an absolute necessity, but the story will certainly have more impact if you do. Not only is the story of “Lair” lovingly crafted, it also does an incredible job bridging the gap between the comic and the game — two mediums that don’t always mix well.

Anyone who has been following Mass Effect from the beginning will want to play “Lair” just so they can continue the groundbreaking narrative.

Gameplay: 94
If you’ve played “Mass Effect 2,” then you know exactly what to expect here: solid third-person action. “Lair” doesn’t change any fundamental aspects of the gameplay from “Mass Effect 2,” which is a good thing. During the action sequences, you’ll be shooting, taking cover and using biotic powers to fight back against the agents of the Shadow Broker.

There is also a chase sequence in “Lair” where you’ll find yourself zipping through the city of Illium in a flying taxi while simultaneously chasing down a foe and dodging traffic. It’s a bit of a departure for the series, but it feels more like the developers were just testing out a new feature rather than fully implementing it. It’s my guess that we’ll see similar missions in “Mass Effect 3,” but hopefully they’ll contain a little more meat.

Flying taxi sequence.

In between firefights, you’ll be able to talk with several new characters in “Lair.” The dialogue works the same as it did in “Mass Effect 2” where you have a number of phrases and questions, which are displayed on the screen, that you can ask characters.

Graphics: 93
“Lair” really shines in the graphics department. A few new character models are introduced, and all of them look and feel very organic. At one point, I found myself in a scenario that was presented so well that it felt like I was in a film noir. The aesthetic was captured perfectly as I was investigating a room looking for clues. Sheets of rain were pouring down outside and trailing down the windows as cars were flying by and lightning was shooting across the clouds at random intervals. The graphical detail is astounding — whether it’s the soft glow of light as it bounces through the water of an aquarium, or the massive expanse of sky visible during a heated ship-side battle.

Ship-side bttle.

Audio: 95
The soundtrack is full of intense orchestrated songs during battle, and there are plenty of synth-heavy background tracks to immerse you into the atmosphere of the world outside battle.

My one quip with “Lair,” and really “Mass Effect” as a whole, is the inconsistent voice acting. All of the main characters have incredible voiceovers, but just about any of the smaller talking roles sound as if they were hastily recorded in one take. The overall sound, however, seems professionally recorded and composed.

Functionality: 90
“Mass Effect” and “Lair” both have a few glitches. Occasionally you might have to restart your game because your character is inexplicably stuck inside of an object, floating in the air or simply not moving correctly. The technical issues are few and far between, but if they appear they’re certainly a nuisance.

Entertainment: 95
“Lair” presents a highly immersive world that’s extremely fun to lose yourself in. The fights are at just the right pace to keep you interested without being too tough. The dialogue is engrossing, and even humorous at times — there were several moments in the game that had me laughing out loud.

Value: 62
This is the one glaring imperfection among “Lair’s” nearly perfect package. The game costs $10, which wouldn’t be too impractical if the playtime was around five hours or so. Unfortunately my playtime clocked in just under two and a half hours, which makes the game about $4 per hour of gameplay. When you compare that to “Mass Effect 2,” which is about 50 hours of gameplay for $50, the price is almost offensive. If “Mass Effect 2” went by the same pricing model it would cost $200! I think the ideal price for “Lair” would be about $5.

Replay: 85
You could potentially play this again if you played through “Mass Effect 2” again, but it would definitely lose a good portion of its novelty. You can glean almost every bit of story and action from it the first time you play it.

The Skinny:
Fans of the series will certainly want to play this in order to experience its engrossing story. However, it is grossly overpriced.

Overall Score: 89


This article follows the old review format which is no longer used.

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