Bitter Sweet: Final Mass Effect 3 DLC Packs Are Announced

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BioWare has finally announced the two final DLCs for Mass Effect 3. The first pack named “Citadel” will be a single-player expansion. The second pack, “Reckoning”, is a multiplayer DLC featuring new weapons, maps, and skins. “Reckoning” will actually be completely free just as the last multiplayer DLCs were. However, “Citadel” will cost $14.99 on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Unfortunately, there has been no mention of the Wii U version at this point. We will be following this particular bit of information closely and informing you guys as soon as we find out.

“Reckoning” will be introducing new character classes to the co-operative mode and “Horde-esque” multiplayer portion. The character classes are impressive with the release of the Krogan Warlord, Geth Juggernaut, Female Turian Raptor, Talon Mercenary, and Alliance Infiltration Unit. “Reckoning” will have new weapons and equipment modifications as well. The multiplayer portion will release on February 26th.

MassEffect3Citadel

“Citadel” will have players traversing through the galactic space city of the Citadel. Long time Mass Effect fans will be in for a true treat in this pack. Citadel is about searching and investigating a massive conspiracy targeting Commander Shepard. The highlight will be reuniting with old team mates from ME1 and ME2, providing they survived all three games that is. After the DLC story is completed, gamers will still have access to new areas in the Citadel that were never opened before. One area will be a casino floor, while another will be a combat arena. The coolest section will be Commander Shepard receiving his own bachelor pad in the Citadel. The Citadel will be a hefty DLC taking up about 4GB on your console or PC. “Citadel” will release on March 5, ironically just a day short of the game’s one year anniversary.

We’re all looking forward to the final chapter, in what has easily been one of the most defining franchises of this generation.

Top 10 Retail Titles for Under $20 this Generation

There’s no question that this current generation has provided some truly astonishing games. However, there are still those who may have missed out on must-play titles or are just now getting into this console generation. With that perspective, I’ve compiled a list of titles that can be nabbed for the mere price of a Jackson. Here are my top 10 recommendations for those who never got around to playing certain titles that they can get for budget price now:

– Batman: Arkham Asylum

Widely considered as the best comic book game of all time, Batman: Arkham Asylum will have you puzzle solving and crime fighting like the Dark Knight himself. With a gripping story from series veteran Paul Dini, gritty graphics that capture the world of Batman, top-notch voice acting and stellar gameplay mechanics, throwing down 20 bucks here is a no brainer. While the critically acclaimed sequel, Batman: Arkham City, has been out for roughly 5 months now, those who never had the opportunity to play Arkham Asylum owe it to themselves to seriously play this outstanding title.

– Demon’s Souls

Like getting your ass handed to you repetitively? Of course not. Like getting a satisfaction that very few titles provide this generation? Who doesn’t. Demon’s Souls was mentioned as one of the hardest games of all time in my previous Top 10 list (Top 10 Hardest Games of All Time). However, hearing that should not discourage you from ever touching Demon’s Souls. I stated it had some questionable, yet intentional gameplay mechanics that would normally seem archaic. Yet, the game just does everything right to ensure a deep challenge on a fair level. Dying in this game will set your progression back numerous hours if not careful, but if you die, it’s your fault. The combat is never cheap, just very unforgiving for you being careless. It tries to belittle you but you will demand for more until you complete it…and it doesn’t end there. When you’re done with the game, you will be able to replay the whole game with all your items and continue to level up your character. Don’t expect to have an easier time with the game since the developers made sure to make the enemies stronger throughout each playthrough.

– Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time

The Ratchet & Clank series may look like a childish series to those who judge a book by its cover, but that type of ignorance only resorts to the loss of that person. Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in TIme may be the final installment to the R&C Future saga but damn it if it’s not an outstanding merit on Insomniac’s part. Ratchet’s formula has something that many franchises tend to have difficulty nailing with each installment, perfection. From the perfected platforming, incredibly tight shooting mechanics that never get old, engaging flight mechanics, highly addictive upgrading system, beautifully detailed worlds, very well written story and climatic final battle, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is one game that PS3 owners should not miss at all.

– Split/Second

Sure, racing games are almost as abundant as FPSs, but there are certain ones that really stand out in the pack. In this case, Split/Second provides gamers with a racing title like no other. Instead of just racing around a track, you will participate in a TV show that will involve you and your rivals to trigger “power plays” to take out racers and cause mayhem that even Michael Bay would be jealous of. Whether you’re triggering a Boeing 747 to come crashing on the runway to take out your opponents, causing a skyscraper to come crashing down and forming a new path on the track or just doing your best to survive this brutal racing TV show, this is one racer that will truly heighten your senses and get your adrenaline peaking to new limits.

– Dead Space

When it comes to survival horror titles, Dead Space reigns supreme this current generation. EA took a risk by developing a new IP back in 2008 and struck gold by delivering a horror title that was actually too scary for many to even finish. You don’t play as some gung-ho military soldier, but rather an engineer with little to no combat experience. However, Isaac adapts to his surroundings and does whatever he can to fend himself for survival. Throughout the game’s 10-12 hour campaign, you will research what the cause of the Necromorphs was, as well as what really happened on the USS Ishimura. Best part about the game is the New Game Plus that allows you to replay the game with all your equipment and continue to further upgrade your gear. Add that feature to some of the most fine tuned gameplay mechanics, mystifying story, awe-inspiring visuals and the coolest sound effects in gaming history and you’ve got a lot to look forward to on this one. Word of advice to the squeamish, have a barf bag next to you when witnessing the brutal deaths that may occur to you.

– Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 may be a flawed game, but it makes up for it in having a just plain fun experience. Essentially, the purpose of Just Cause 2 was to have the entire island of Panau become your ultimate playground. While the story is sub-par and the voice acting is hilariously bad, the missions are very well done and provide plenty of “holy crap” moments as you perform certain actions. Thankfully, the PS3 version has a video capture feature to let you record these crazy moments you’ll experience and for a game like this, you’ll be utilizing it a great amount. The grappling hook and parachute mechanics combined provide a very intuitive way to transport yourself around the environment. The developers also incorporated the island from LOST as an “easter egg” that fans will tremendously appreciate to see as they nailed the island better than Ubisoft did with the actual LOST: Via Domus game. You can easily invest well over 50+ hours just screwing around and even then, you’ll come back for more. The mayhem and carnage you will cause usually has no particular reason to it. You mainly do it just cause you can. In the meantime, you can check out a montage I compiled for the game back when it was released.


– Borderlands

Gearbox Software’s 2009 surprise hit, Borderlands, was an interesting FPS/RPG hybrid but worked out brilliantly. Players will assume the role of one of four fortune seekers in search of the unopened Eridian Vault. The story is far from deep, but intriguing nonetheless. However, you don’t play Borderlands for its story. You play Borderlands to have one of the most enjoyable and addictive co-op experiences available on the market. The mixture of tight FPS mechanics with an RPG twist to it makes leveling up a grinding addiction and the game as a whole carries that “one more mission” syndrome. Hours of gameplay will literally feel like a matter of minutes. For the current price it’s going for, Borderlands will have you clocking in numerous hours and many more with its DLC.

– Ninja Gaiden Sigma

One of my personal favorite games of all time, Ninja Gaiden Sigma is just a flat out awesome game. Having one of the best combat systems ever designed in gaming along with some imaginative locations, a fast-paced soundtrack, and rock solid 60 frames per second visuals are all part of the experience. While the game may not be for everyone, it is highly recommended that those who have yet to touch Ninja Gaiden Sigma do so immediately. The campaign will last you 7-10 hours on your first playthrough and while it lacks a New Game Plus feature, you will still want to tackle it again. Add in the Ninja Missions that you can take on after completing the campaign and you’ll add a good amount of longevity.

– Mass Effect 2

Imagine having a massive galaxy to explore with the story unfolding at your fingertips. Every slight decision you make playing a huge role in how the story will play out. Thanks to deep writing and a rich universe to explore, Mass Effect 2 provides gamers with over 25+ hours just to complete the main campaign. Then you can replay the game as an entirely different character class, as well as making totally different decisions that affects your experience. For the asking price of 20 bucks, there’s no excuse to skip out on this phenomenal title.

– Burnout Paradise

Burnout Paradise is, and always will be, my favorite racing title this generation. No other racing game provides realistic crashes such as this. Plus, for the price, EA includes FREE downloadable content as an update which include the ability to drive motorcycles (which has its own campaign as well), day and night cycling, and dynamic weather effects just to name a few. There is also premium DLC such as Big Surf Island, which provides players with insane Mega Jumps you can pull off, as well as a rich new city to explore. However, as just a standalone game, Burnout Paradise provides players with countless hours of fun to be had and the seamless online integration will keep players coming back for more.

There are many other great titles that you can grab for under 20 bucks. However, these were the 10 titles that personally provided the most value for me and just wanted to give them the recognition they deserve. Agree or disagree? Sound off in the comments below!

Mass Effect 2 DLC Review (PC/PS3/360)

Many of you might be excited to play Mass Effect 2, especially those fortunate PS3 owners who now have their shot at saving the universe. Some of you might still be skeptical of all the hype. So if you’re still on the fence (even after our review of the game), perhaps the myriad DLC (or downloadable content) will encourage you to step into Shepard’s N7 shoes. Fortunately, many of these add-ons are included with the PS3 version of the game; the ones that aren’t are relatively cheap and well worth the cost.

Cerberus Network

The first one players are likely to notice is the Cerberus Network. New copies of Mass Effect 2 come with an access code that can be entered for access to the Cerberus Network. The main benefit here is free downloadable content, giving access to new weapons, armor, and even new missions and henchmen (Zaeed being the prime example). Cerberus Network also provides in-universe news stories on the main menu when you start up the game. This doesn’t have any real impact on the game, but gives players a new avenue of immersion into the Mass Effect universe.

PROS:

+ Free with purchase of a new copy of Mass Effect 2

+ Provides many free add-ons, with more on the way

+ News stories add a fun level of immersion to the story

CONS:

– Players who purchase a used copy of Mass Effect 2 must purchase a new code to access Cerberus Network

OVERALL: 8.0 / 10

Zaeed: The Price of Revenge

One of the best add-ons featured in Cerberus Network. The main draw is the addition of a new squad member: Zaeed Massani, a seasoned mercenary soldier with a troubled past. He makes an excellent general-purpose front-line soldier, with the ability to use assault rifles and sniper rifles. Hiring him is just the beginning, though – you can secure his loyalty (and a unique bonus power) by offering to help with an old “friend” of his. His story is one of hatred, revenge, and redemption, and will test the player’s ability to balance their moral choices with the consequences. The add-on also allows players to collect a new heavy weapon – a flamethrower. This should help give players some added short-range punch, especially against armor and organics. Finally, the add-on allows players to earn new trophies and achievements. Who doesn’t love that?

PROS:

+ New squad member is useful, and his unique ability is fun and helpful. Voice work is excellent as always

+ Loyalty mission story is engaging and gripping, with moral choices that can change its outcome

+ Flamethrower fills a combat niche some classes may lack

+ Free with Cerberus Network access

CONS:

– Zaeed’s conversation on the ship is limited and less detailed than other squad members

– Loyalty mission uses recycled music from the game

OVERALL: 9.0 / 10

Firewalker Pack

Another Cerberus Network offering, this serves mostly to introduce the Hammerhead vehicle to players, a long-awaited feature for non-PS3 players. Also included is five missions which serve to get players familiar with the vehicle. However, these take a backseat to the Hammerhead itself. The tank may be familiar to players of Mass Effect 1, since it’s very similar to the game’s Mako rover vehicle. It can hover, jump, and most importantly, fight. The missions will give you a good opportunity to get used to the vehicle’s controls and combat abilities. The Hammerhead itself looks great, and fits in with the Cerberus theme of sterile whites and sharp edges. The vehicle also features light-up meters on the boosters that indicate the ship’s jump capabilities. While the tank is great for exploration, combat is a little more tricky. There is no damage indicator, so the only way to know you’re close to death is when your tank is on fire, when it’s usually too late. The tank also only has one weapon, which makes combat fairly standard and routine; fly in, shoot your enemy while dodging its shots, and hope you don’t take too much damage in the process. All in all, it’s hard to complain about a free add-on, but those who are more strapped for time may want to save this one for later and enjoy the richer content first.

PROS:

+ Introduces the Hammerhead hover tank, adding a new dimension to gameplay

+ Free with Cerberus Network access

+ Players can find a research project and a cabin decoration

CONS:

– Missions do not fit in well with the overall story

– Little reward past use of Hammerhead tank

OVERALL: 7.0 / 10

Normandy Crash Site

This one will likely appeal more to players of the first game, enabling travel to the location where the original Normandy crashed. Players will be able to reminisce about previous locations and people on the ship, as well as find the dog tags of the original crew to return to their families. Most importantly, players can find Shepard’s original helmet, which can be displayed in their cabins.

Unfortunately, this add-on doesn’t have much for hardcore gamers, even for fans of the original game. If you want a new ornament for your cabin, that’s about all you’ll get out of this add-on, other than a few experience points and resources. Otherwise, your time is better spent elsewhere.

PROS:

+ Helmet provides new ornament for the captain’s cabin

+ Mass Effect 1 players will feel some nostalgia

+ Free with Cerberus Network access

CONS:

– Very little reward for the time invested (15-20 minutes)

– Not much to offer to new players

OVERALL: 6.5 / 10

One final note: the interactive comic included with the PS3 version is available to Xbox 360 and PC owners for free on the Cerberus Network, under the name Mass Effect: Genesis.

Now to the premium DLC. These aren’t free, but I’ll let you know which I think are worth it.

Kasumi: Stolen Memory

Like Zaeed, this add-on adds a new squad member to the crew – Kasumi Goto, master thief. A tech expert, she brings a lot of tactical options to a combat situation, including a very cool cloaking ability which allows her to sneak up on an enemy and knock them out for a time, or kill them outright. Her loyalty power is unique as well, but the real star of the show is her loyalty mission. You are tasked with helping her with the ultimate heist – a digital device that holds the memories of her former partner, in the possession of a dangerous (and wealthy) arms dealer. Players will have to infiltrate the dealer’s mansion, gain access to his vault, and escape. The mission is a nice change of pace from the main story, requiring the player to use their head as much as their trigger finger. The character and mission ooze style, with a soundtrack that ranges from subtle electronic cues to powerful horns and percussion and violin flourishes during the mission’s combat sequences. The entire experience excites and entertains, and rewards the player in many ways. While the mission is great on its own, it also opens players to new achievements and trophies and a brand new weapon – the Locust SMG, an accurate alternative to the Tempest and Shiruiken. And you might be surprised at how this all ties in with the rest of the galaxy…

BioWare clearly took criticism from Zaeed to heart, and while Kasumi’s shipboard dialogue is random, it’s much deeper and entertaining; from stories of her past heists to her opinions of the crew, you’ll be stopping back in her quarters between missions to hear her thoughts. Her character and voicework are superb as well. Though there’s a price tag associated with this DLC, it’s well worth every penny; I find myself doing Kasumi’s mission before anything else on each playthrough.

PROS:

+ Kasumi is a valuable party member, and her loyalty mission is incredibly entertaining, with exciting implications at the end

+ New SMG is a boon to classes without access to an assault rifle

+ New achievements and trophies

+ New musical score is incredible

CONS:

– Not free

OVERALL: 9.5/10

Overlord

This mission pack takes players into the depths of a Cerberus experimental facility. Apparently, they’ve been experimenting with using VIs (or Virtual Intelligences, sophisticated software designed to carry out tasks) to combat and control the Geth, sapient AIs bent on wiping out all organic life in the galaxy. Unfortunately, the VI went rogue and has taken over the facility. Naturally, you’ve been asked to investigate and bring order back to the facility.

This mission pack brings back the Hammerhead, the hover tank featured in the Firewalker Pack, and thankfully Bioware has polished the experience, forcing players to use all of the tank’s abilities to explore the terrain between Cerberus bases. Players can also earn an achievement or trophy for ferreting out 6 Cerberus “Data Packets” hidden in the field. Upon reaching each base, players are treated to diverse environments rife with exciting combat as they slowly begin to unravel the mystery behind the incident at the research facility. And the ending is a real surprise, testing the player’s moral compass. It’s a little disappointing that the add-on doesn’t give any tangible reward outside of the missions, and the story doesn’t have much consequence tied in with the overall plot of the game, but it’s still a fun diversion and well worth your time if you enjoy combat and a good story.

PROS:

+ Intriguing story spans 2-4 hours for most players

+ Hammerhead tank makes a return and is better than ever

+ New music fits the story well and helps to intensify combat

CONS:

– No extra content outside the missions makes price hard to justify

OVERALL: 7.5 / 10

Alternate Appearance Pack

This add-on provides alternate outfits for 3 squad mates – Thane, Jack, and Garrus. Unfortunately (and there are a few of these), the outfits all look like a failed 80’s clothing style, they have no impact on the gameplay (except for distracting you during combat – a bad thing), and you’ll have to pay around $2 USD for them. It’s disappointing to see such excellent content offered for free to most players, while content such as this has a price tag with it, as small as it is.

PROS:

+ Alternate costumes are…interesting?

CONS:

– No positive effect on gameplay

– Costs money

OVERALL: 0.5 / 10

Lair of the Shadow Broker

I saved the best for last. Many players may remember meeting with Liara T’soni on Illium to assist with some data mining and hacking to hunt down her nemesis, the Shadow Broker. Players of the original game will remember her as a valuable party member, and the Shadow Broker as something of a gray entity with a shady reputation (no pun intended). Regardless, Cerberus has given data to help Liara with her hunt, and she’s finally ready to strike. You’ll follow her through the streets (and even the skyways) of Illium and the titular lair itself. The add-on’s true strengths are its superb story-telling, excellent musical score, and gameplay innovation. Liara serves as a new party member who will accompany you during her hunt, bringing plenty of biotic strength to the field, including a unique bonus power, Stasis. Players of the original may remember this talent as a great crowd-control ability, and it makes its return in LotSB. Players who complete the mission can even select it as a bonus talent using the Advanced Training research project in the Normandy’s lab. Additionally, the add-on has a great pace, transitioning between exploration, combat, and even a high-speed car chase. It also provides some unique scripted battles, making the boss fights feel truly genuine. The pack is also full of achievements and trophies (5 in all) and contains a few items to spruce up your cabin. And if you previously had a relationship with Liara, this add-on may appeal to you even more…

LotSB will even reward you after the mission is over, providing several useful tools, such as a terminal that lets you refund and spend your squad mates’ talent points, as well as one that helps you find planets rich in the resources you need! I won’t ruin it all, but LotSB is an add-on that’s surely worth the time investment.

PROS:

+ Excellent story and musical score; Liara’s story is a gripping one with plenty of exciting combat and other scenarios

+ Opportunity to continue a relationship with Liara

+ Plenty of achievements and trophies

+ Lots of bonuses after the mission’s completion

+ Car chase is exciting

CONS:

– Liara is only a temporary squad mate during the mission

– Car chase is too short

OVERALL: 9.0 / 10

Weapon and Armor Packs

BioWare offers a lot of weapon and armor packs for Mass Effect 2. Some are free with Cerberus Network access, while others are premium content requiring a purchase. They all bring new dimension to the game and give a lot of good combat options. Rather than review them individually, I’ll give a broad description here.

The additional weapons offered are the Incisor Sniper Rifle (from the Aegis Pack), the Mattock Assault Rifle, the Geth Plasma Shotgun, and the Phalanx Heavy Pistol (from the Firepower Pack), and the Eviscerator Shotgun (from the Cerberus Weapon and Armor add-on). There is also the Arc Projector, from the Cerberus Network (and therefore free). Each weapon offers a unique, and in some cases brand-new, combat experience. For example, the Phalanx offers a laser sight instead of a crosshair, the Arc Projector lets you unleash chain lightning on your foes, and the Eviscerator offers a longer-ranged alternative to the traditionally point-blank effectiveness of other shotguns.

The armor offerings are the Cerberus Assault Armor (from the Cerberus Weapon and Armor add-on), the Capacitor Helmet, Archon Visor, and Inferno Armor (from the Equalizer Pack), and the Kestrel Armor (a modular armor set from the Aegis Pack). Each of these armor sets fill in a particular niche or theme, and aside from looking great, can also help certain playstyles. The Kestrel Armor is especially noteworthy in that it contains upgrades that are helpful for any class or playstyle. Even better, they can be mixed or matched with other armor pieces to specialize your bonuses. The Capacitor Helmet and Archon Visor also help to bring unique bonuses to the helmet slot.

These weapon and armor add-ons may carry a charge, but for such a low cost, the extra combat options they offer are well worth the cost.

Mass Effect 2 Review (PS3)

What if every decision you made could affect the fate of the entire universe?  That’s the question you’ll be asking yourself as you play Mass Effect 2.  Originally an Xbox 360 and PC exclusive, BioWare has now brought their game to the Playstation 3.  If you’ve never experienced Mass Effect 2 before, now’s the time.  The PS3 version includes an interactive comic of the Mass Effect 1 storyline, the downloadable content missions that were released before on the disc, along with a nice graphical update thanks in part to the Mass Effect 3 engine being used.

 

In Mass Effect 2, you play as Commander Shepard, a single soldier who’s tasked with putting together the finest team to take on the Collector’s, an alien race that is abducting colonists around the galaxy.  WIthout spoiling any of the story, you will start the game with quite the cinematic introduction, then you be brought up to speed with an interactive comic that shows you the story of the first game.  The interactive comic allows you to make certain heavy story decisions that will carry over into the Mass Effect 2 campaign.  Once the campaign officially starts, you will be able to customize the way Shepard looks to your standards.  You will also be able to choose the class you’d like Shepard to be, which affects the gameplay style.  During my playthrough, I played as a solider class which focused more on weaponry than biotic abilities.

As you progress through the story, you will be able to recruit other characters for your team to take on the “suicide mission”.  It’s entirely up to you how to approach situations when it comes to speaking to people in the game that will affect your outcome.  You can either be Paragon (the ethical, honorable way to do things) or Renegade (the ruthless, results-at-any-cost method).  These two decision types radically affect your journey in terms of who will be loyal to you and who will distrust you.  If it wasn’t enough to worry about the decisions you make in this game, these decisions will carry over to Mass Effect 3 when that is released later this year.

 

The gameplay is essentially a third person cover based shooter, with a bit of an RPG twist to it.  You will level up your character and squad as you complete missions and assignments, which will earn you squad points.  These points will be used to upgrade Shepard and the squad mates to have better ammo, increased health and armor, etc.  It’s important to level up your squad mates if you want them to be efficient in the battlefield so keep that in mind.  There’s an auto-level up system for either you, your squad, or for both, a nice feature which will appeal to casual gamers just wanting to focus on the storyline.

The voice acting is suburb to say in the least.  When you have a Hollywood cast of actors such as Martin Sheen, Yvonne Strahovski, Keith David, Tricia Helfer, Adam Baldwin and Seth Green (just to mention a few of course), you know that BioWare wasn’t kidding around with executing their storyline to ensure believable characters.  The soundtrack also stands out as not only an excellent score, but one of the best soundtracks in a video game.  The music fits perfectly for the set pieces in the game and helps immerse the player more into the game.  The sound effects are very effective as well.  All the weapons pack a punch to them and miscellaneous sounds all have a very futuristic sound to them.

Visually, the game looks outstanding.  Utilizing the Mass Effect 3 graphics engine gave the game a nice boost in visuals, boasting better lighting and sharper textures.  The frame-rate is a solid 30 fps, rarely dropping below that.  All the environments in the game have a unique and detailed design while showing how massive the scope of the game is.  There are multiple star systems you can explore with several planets at each one.  Whether you’re scanning the planets for resources to build upgrades for your armor, weapons, or ship, or you’re actually doing missions on certain planets, the game screams for exploration.

To say Mass Effect 2 is an excellent game is an understatement.  With a lengthy, well-paced campaign (25-30 hours), excellent soundtrack, addictive gameplay, great storyline and one of the most rewarding finales, everyone owes it to themselves to get a chance to play this game.   Mass Effect 2 is a masterpiece and one of the best game experiences this console generation.

 

SCORE BREAKDOWN:

 

PROs:

+ Outstanding storyline

+ Excellent soundtrack and voice acting

+ Addictive gameplay

+ Tons of replay value

+ One of the most rewarding finale sequences in a game

 

CONs:

-The campaign ends…

 

Overall Score: 10 out of 10