New locales open up on Illium, including Liara's apartment, an office complex and an "adult" hotel. Illium's clean, sleek, futuristic look is tainted here, and fans of classic sci-fi like Blade Runner will appreciate the sinister tone BioWare is attempting. Without spoiling anything, this story arc is far more graphic than usual -- you will see a lot of dead bodies, gore and blood. There's even a noir-esque detective scene, and a trip through a hotel with dead prostitutes.
Eventually, you will partner up with Liara, which is terrific fan service for ME1 vets. (There's even a cute reference to Omni-Gel!) Depending on your save file, you'll also be able to continue your romance with her -- but, sadly, she won't continue to be available for the rest of the ME2 campaign. (You will be able to assign skill points to her, as with any other member of your party.)
Being able to keep Liara on your party might have added enough gameplay to warrant the rather high price tag. But unfortunately, once the story ends, the "Shadow Broker" DLC doesn't do much to enhance the overall package. Yes, you'll be able to reassign your team member's points, and find additional sources of minerals, but these are afterthoughts in the post-game. Also, for what it's worth, the newly-added hovercraft controls -- in true BioWare form -- atrociously. (Holding down LT while navigating with dual-analog controls is not intuitive at all.)
There's a lot of well-polished content here, with some of the more beautiful vistas in the ME
universe. However, it's over too soon. Even if you watch all the videos, unlock all the terminals, and read all of the Shadow Broker intel available to you (It's required reading: these vignettes offer hilarious insight into all the major characters in the game), you're looking at only two hours of gameplay. At 800 Microsoft Points ($10), that's a hefty price to pay, especially compared to the retail game's hour-to-dollar ratio.
Considering the importance the Shadow Broker plays in the Mass Effect
universe, it seems odd that BioWare would conclude the story in DLC instead of Mass Effect 3
as skipping this DLC will put players at a narrative disadvantage. This isn't a compelling (but ultimately disposable) side-story -- "Shadow Broker" is a must for any Mass Effect
fan, casual and hardcore. It feels like BioWare and EA, fully aware of its importance, have taken this crucial arc hostage as DLC, and have bet that you're willing to pay the $10 ransom.
This review is based on the Xbox Live retail version of "Lair of the Shadow Broker," purchased by the reviewer.
Note: Joystiq does not provide star ratings for downloadable content reviews with the understanding that the quality of the core game's experience is unchanged from the retail release to DLC add-ons; see: Mass Effect 2 review.