Mass Effect 2 has received a wealth of additional downloadable content (DLC) since its release, including new characters, mission packs, vehicles, weapons and armour. Of the more substantial ones – Zaed – The Price of Revenge, Kasumi – Stolen Memory, Firewalker Pack, Overlord and Normandy Crash Site – not one of them, in my view, has really lived up to standards set by this phenomenal game. Finally, in Lair of the Shadow Broker, we have a piece of DLC that does live up to those standards.
As a character, the Shadow Broker may or may not be familiar to you, depending on how closely you’ve followed the story up until now. Lair of the Shadow Broker is a highly narrative-heavy piece of DLC, drawing on strands of storyline from both the original Mass Effect and the sequel, and also hinting at future storylines in Mass Effect 3, but enjoyment of it is not dependent in any way upon your knowledge of the titular character. Besides, the game briefly summarises everything you need to know in typically engrossing cut scenes. Needless to say, his/its name is rather fitting. He acquires and then sells secretive and highly coveted data to the highest bidders, without ever revealing his identity or whereabouts, thanks primarily to his use of a complex network of agents. In the DLC you team up with an old crewmate (Liara) in an effort to track down the Shadow Broker. A few cut scenes and some light detective work later, and the real gameplay action begins.
The DLC can be divided into two distinct parts. One has you investigating his whereabouts and dealing with one of his assassins, whilst the other has you infiltrating the titular Lair of the Shadow Broker, before finally confronting the Broker him/itself. Both involve skirmishes and scenarios with which you’ll be very familiar by now; nothing new, but just as fun as ever.
Your pursuit of the assassin involves a brief chase sequence in which you control a cab, dodging on-coming weapon fire and traffic. In typical Mass Effect fashion, this vehicle sequence will undoubtedly provoke strongly divided reactions. The controls are simple enough, and it is an enjoyable diversion, but the whole sequence somehow feels beneath the game, departing from the usual elegance and polish that defines the rest of Mass Effect 2. As always seems to be the case in the Mass Effect series, the introduction of vehicle gameplay feels a little out of place, but it’s not necessarily a negative experience.
Liara becomes a permanent member of your squad for the duration of the DLC (don’t forget to distribute her skill points!), replacing one of the squad members you initially bring along. The most interesting aspect of Liara’s inclusion, aside from the interaction with her during the cut scenes, is the fact that you can unlock a neat biotic skill on her that casts a small mass effect field on an enemy’s position, sucking them in and essentially immobilising them for quite a lengthy period of time. She also has stasis which, truth be told, is often much more useful than the singularity, and warp.
The gameplay itself is standard stuff though, so you may be wondering why I was so enthusiastic about this DLC in my introduction. The reason is twofold: first, because the story is genuinely interesting and compelling, with potentially far reaching consequences for Mass Effect 3. Secondly, the Shadow Broker’s Lair itself is absolutely stunning, and constitutes probably the best vista in the entire game. I’ve avoided using any pictures of the ‘Lair’ to illustrate this review, and I don’t wish to spoil the potential for surprise by detailing it, but needless to say it is an impressive sight. The screenshots that I have felt able to use don’t even begin to do the DLC justice.
The voice acting, sound effects and music are as great as ever, and the DLC is littered with the excellent cut scenes to which we’ve grown accustomed. There are a couple of truly stand-out scenes as well, including a superbly choreographed biotic battle and a dialogue-heavy confrontation with the Shadow Broker. The ending is also excellent, paving the way for the Shadow Broker storyline to have a huge influence on the events in Mass Effect 3; if, of course, BioWare wish to go down that route (and they would be daft not to).
If Lair of the Shadow Broker has a weakness then it’s in the realm of value. 800 MS Points ($10) - which is the same price as a typical XBLA title – will net you 2-3 hours of core content. Once you complete the main quest you’re able to access and explore some of the Broker’s data - among other things – and all told this adds an extra hour or so. That still makes Lair of the Shadow Broker quite an expensive proposition though, and it may well be enough to put you off, but this is one of the first pieces of DLC that I’ve feel is truly worth the price, so don’t be too eager reject it outright.
Priced at 800 MS Points, Lair of the Shadow Broker is the most expensive piece of Mass Effect 2 DLC thus far. However, it is beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s also the single most compelling piece of DLC to be released for the game. If you’re a fan of the series, with every intention of purchasing Mass Effect 3 when it finally lands, then you owe it to yourself to play through this DLC first.