Kasumi - Stolen Memory
- 560 Microsoft or BioWare Points (£4.76 / €6.72)
Far more substantial is this new side mission, which introduces the twelfth member of the new Normandy team. Much like Zaeed's loyalty mission, it's short and self-contained but offers enough long-term benefits to make it valuable to anyone just coming to the game, or planning a new play-through.
Tweaking the mission formula slightly, you'll be playing with just Shepard and new recruit Kasumi Goto, a master thief, rather than the expected duo of tooled-up companions. While we gamers tend to get hung up on how long things last, and how that time compares to money spent, Stolen Memory does a good job of justifying itself through enjoyable gameplay and clever storytelling. Short, yes, but also surprisingly sweet.
After making contact with Kasumi during a fun scene on the Citadel, you're given the option to fly off to the luxury home of Donovan Hock, an amoral arms dealer who murdered Kasumi's partner and stole the "grey box" containing his memories. Infiltrating Hock's lavish party is your first task, with Shepard donning a space-age Bond tuxedo to mingle with the guests while Kasumi guides him from the shadows.
Boil it down to the gameplay elements and there's not much in this section to get excited about. You wander around looking for scenery hotspots and triggering conversations. As a scene-setter, though, it's incredibly fun, taking Shephard out of his element and introducing a splash of light-hearted heist caper into a game that skews more toward bombastic action and epic moral choices.
It's surprising just how funny these scenes are, with BioWare skirting as close to outright comedy as it's come in a long time. From Shepard's pseudonym - Solomon Gunn! - to the Krogan cartoon playing on a security monitor, the solitary credit lurking down the back of a sofa and a sly Dragon Age reference in Hock's vault, this is Mass Effect at its most playful.
Things inevitably turn violent, and Kasumi's prowess in combat makes her an instantly attractive addition to the squad. As befits her stealthy trade, her skills draw from the traditional RPG rogue character set, with the ability to disappear and pop up behind enemies, as well as a flashbang grenade stun attack that you can learn from her.
The combat scenarios escalate nicely as you battle your way out of Hock's fortress home, culminating in a robust boss battle that is predictable yet very satisfying. The denouement adds more shading to Kasumi's flirtatious character - also explaining why she's not available for romance in the main game - and, in a commendable final flourish, the obligatory moral choice at the end is dictated by intimate emotional considerations rather than battlefield pragmatism.
Coming out the other side of the DLC, not only will you have a new character who is both useful in combat and fun to have around, you'll also have a serious pile of credits pilfered from Hock's many safes and datapads, another tech upgrade and a new SMG weapon. Like Zaeed, once Kasumi joins up, you can visit her and investigate the various possessions she brings with her to get a little more back-story. Unlike Zaeed, her responses are more varied and she'll even comment on the romantic choices you've made. Best of all, Kasumi's presence in the previously locked observation deck opens up a cocktail bar, which grants you the long-overdue ability to get absolutely hammered on the Normandy.
8 / 10