Any opportunity to revisit the universe of Mass Effect 2 is welcome in my book, and it’s safe to say that EA and Bioware’s latest effort, the Firewalker pack, is worth playing. Granted, it’s free content for those who purchased the retail game and have access to the in-game Cerberus Network. Anyone else will have had to pay $15 to access this and the other free updates.
After downloading, be warned, you need to restart Mass Effect 2 in order to trigger the necessary Journal entries for Firewalker. At first, I went flying around the galaxy waiting for some sort of indicator that never came, until I backed out to the Xbox 360 dashboard and reloaded the game. Only then will you receive the necessary Journal entry to start the mission chain. And then the fun begins...
Fire Walk With Me
Clearly, the most (and only) interesting aspect of the Firewalker pack is the Hammerhead hover tank. You’ll gain access to this vehicle at the beginning of the first mission, and be able to control it over the next five missions. The Hammerhead is a much improved MAKO, with the ability to speed boost and lift into the air, as well as boasting the requisite rocket weaponry. It handles okay, but there are no clear indicators as to how much boost you have or the energy required for lifting into the air, which can be troublesome when dealing with environmental obstacles.
What’s clever about the Firewalker missions is that Mass Effect 2 becomes a very different game. Instead of tactically breaching a base or talking your way out of a fight, Firewalker almost channels a platformer as you hop from plateau to plateau to “research” nav beacons or race between these beacons to complete a mission. The mission themselves take place across five new worlds, including a lava world, an acid world and a snow world, to name a few. If there were power-ups, I’d almost think I was playing a Mario game.
The missions consist almost entirely of driving the Hammerhead between those aforementioned researchable beacons. You need to reach an area and hold down a button to claim it. Sometimes, there are Geth soldiers in the way. Sometimes, the environment is so cold that it’s shutting down your engines unless you get to each point quick enough. In two of them, you’ll get out of the Hammerhead and boink around for a bit, but it’s mostly driving. It’s a bit dry when mowing through five Hammerhead missions in a row, but as a break between the rest of the Mass Effect 2 gameplay, it may flow better for gamers.
One complaint about the Firewalker pack is the way it handles vehicle death. The Hammerhead can be damaged, either by landing in a pool of acid or if under fire. Over time, it will burst into flames as a loud repetitive warning klaxon sounds. There’s no visible health indicator, so you just have to feel when you’re going down and if you go down, you have to restart the ENTIRE mission. It’s a real drag having to race through the same points or hop the same platforms because you didn’t have enough boost to make a jump.
In the past, I dinged Bioware for releasing its Dragon Age: Origins DLC, Return to Ostagar, which included about an hour of gameplay. I flew through Firewalker in about 30 mins, but as a free download, it’s a nice distraction from the core adventure, combat (and mining!) in Mass Effect 2. And if anything, it gives us a glimpse into what Bioware could do in the future to add to the game or augment Mass Effect 3, which is most exciting of all.