Mass Effect 2: Arrival DLC review

In addition to setting standards for games' capacity to generate pure human joy, Mass Effect 2 has also mounted a pretty high bar in terms of post-release support. In the months since the game's January 2010 retail launch, BioWare has continued to deliver on mini-episodes that feel fresh, vital and fully realized.

Imagine my disappointment to find that the game's final episode, "Arrival," not only fails to top them all and send the DLC series out with a bang, but whimpers into its position as the weakest add-on of the bunch.

Alliance Admiral Hackett has a favor to ask of Commander Shepard. It seems like a pretty standard rescue mission: Help free an operative who supposedly has an inside line on the forthcoming Reaper invasion. In short: They're coming to our neck of the woods and we've got one chance to head them off ... but only if we're willing to pay the price. Whether it's a mid-game diversion for you or a victory lap after a long absence, the stakes are inarguably high.

I'll stop the story revelations there, because frankly, story's about all "Arrival" has going for it. There's one new (boring) character, a single (less boring) new environment and an A-to-B murderfest with some cursory button pushing interspersed.

No vehicles, no new gameplay concepts, no real interesting decisions. And get this: It's a solo mission, which of course means no new interactions with your beloved crew (assuming you, you know, have kept them alive).

In the whole 2–3 hour thing, the only really relevant takeaway is how it ends, which, predictably, appears to be the flashpoint that will kick off Mass Effect 3. If immediately knowing what that is is worth $7 to you, then be my guest -- but you'd likely be just as well served by a YouTube summary or FAQ recap.

I know I'm coming down hard here, but if I'm talking to people who love Mass Effect 2 like I do, I feel like I need to be abundantly clear to keep you from making a purchase that you may very well regret. Whether you feel like you'll be behind without "Arrival," you're a new PS3-playing convert itching to complete your Mass Effect 2 collection, or you've just enjoyed all the DLC until now, know that you'd be better off waiting until you can get "Arrival" at a discounted price, if at all.

That's the tricky thing about setting high bars. They're a lot of fun to put up there, but only if you're positive you'll be able to jump over them again the next time around.

This review is based on the Xbox Live version of Arrival.

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.