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DLC Review: Lair of the Shadow Broker for Mass Effect 2
by Tom Acres

It's September, and whilst we sit here twitching our thumbs, waiting for the onslaught of videogame goodness from the likes of Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Fable III, Gran Turismo 5, LittleBigPlanet 2 and the like, there's one game that came out way back in January that I still think will be unmatched in terms of its quality.

That game is Mass Effect 2. It's rare that we at Gamer's Guide to Life give a game a perfect 10/10 score but that's just what Bioware's sci-fi sequel deserved. As a single player experience, it's up there with the best I've ever experienced. Since its release, we've been gifted with a steady stream of DLC ranging from pretty good, to great, to poor, to a waste of time. The add-on, Lair of the Shadow Broker, is undoubtedly the best yet.

Lair of the Shadow Broker will immediately resonate with fans of the first game because it sees the much loved Liara T'Soni return as a central character, despite being little more than a cameo in the main game. The story starts with the Illusive Man sending you information about the potential location of the Shadow Broker, a Jabba-the-Hutt type figure who has been spoken about throughout both games but never seen. It just so happens that Shepherd's good friend Liara wants the Shadow Broker dead after kidnapping one of her friends, and from here the story of this mini-adventure begins.

Calling it a mini-adventure might be a bit harsh, as whilst it may only be three or four hours long at most (and that was on the hardest difficulty setting), it takes all the best bits about Mass Effect 2 and hurtles along at breakneck speed to leave you feeling thoroughly satisfied and entertained. There are some great conversational moments, including some great banter between Shepherd and Liara, as well as the same fantastic intense combat that you know and probably love. There's even time for two devilish boss-battles that will require plenty of strategic use of biotic and tech powers, as well as a surprisingly great space taxi chase sequence though the busy air space of Ilium.

Lair of the Shadow Broker also has some of the most impressive graphical moments of any part in either Mass Effect or the sequel. The aforementioned chase sequence is as fantastic to watch as it is to play, but the real set-piece moment is a stunning sequence on top of a massive space cruiser in the middle of a lighting storm. Fighting your way down the top of the ship looking for a way in, to find the Shadow Broker, is thrilling and memorable. The new character designs are also great: the Shadow Broker looks like nothing you'd expect and is genuinely creepy.

As always, the voice acting is absolutely top notch from all involved and the sound effects and musical score are right up there with the best the main game has to offer.

The four hours you'll spend with this DLC is made even more attractive by the reward at the end. Obviously I don't want to spoil anything, but there are some rather awesome things made available to you that you'll definitely want to return to now and again during your continued time with the main game, or during any future DLC.

Really though, the biggest reward you can get from playing through Lair of the Shadow Broker is the story. If you played through the first two games then you'll have a genuine sense of attachment to the characters, and the return of Liara allows for some great moments between her and Shepherd. Bioware says that this is also the first piece of DLC in which your decisions will affect Mass Effect 3, so that's something to think about and will encourage multiple playthroughs as well.

Lair of the Shadow Broker is a love letter to fans of the Mass Effect series - it expands the story and lore, lets you meet up with old faces, has some fantastic action, a great story and your decisions have real consequences. It's definitely one of the best pieces of DLC I've played for any game, and easily the best Bioware has released for either of the Mass Effect games. For 800 Microsoft Points, if you have Mass Effect 2 this is simply a must buy. And if you don't have Mass Effect 2 - what the hell are you playing?!

10/10 [?]

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- Tom Acres

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