Given that Kristan wrote a three-page review of the Xbox 360 version back in November, and the PC version is basically identical, I'm left with a whole review to dwell on the important questions about Mass Effect.
For instance, why did BioWare model its adorably rubbish Mako ground-attack truck on early-eighties toy Big Trak: the Fully Programmable Electronic Vehicle? Almost everything about Mass Effect can be explained with a little thought (Why is the combat a bit shonky? They haven't had a crack at an action game since MDK2. Why is it so talky? Well, it's a BioWare game, innit. Why do you have to buy stuff from the bloke in the basement of your ship rather than just court-martialling the little dipstick? Because BioWare cannot resist the tropes of the RPG genre). But the Big Trak homage is completely inexplicable. Perhaps Big Trak is worshipped as a totemic creature in Edmonton? Perhaps Greg and Ray were always denied one as kids and decided Mass Effect would be their late Christmas? Perhaps they were aiming for a Halo Warthog clone and just missed?
Thankfully the origins of Mako are only a peripheral issue when considering this epic space-action RPG.
There was justifiable excitement surrounding the arrival of BioWare's first salvo of additional content for the flawed-but-worthy Mass Effect. While it could still benefit from some serious tightening in the technical department, clearly there was enough scope and character to the galaxy that fans were itching for an excuse to dive back in.
The return of the exiled Batarian race, and a plot to crash a giant asteroid into Terra Nova, delivers just that excuse. Only available during the mid-section of the game, when you have the helm of the Normandy and can fly to the Asgard system, Commander Shepard and his crew have just four hours to prevent disaster and find out who is behind this Michael Bay-inspired terrorist attack. It's mildly annoying for those who have finished game to have to play through Eden Prime and the Citadel again to access what you've paid for, but it's hard to complain - you can see how this is the only way such add-ons can work.
We tend to measure the worth of our RPGs in terms of hours spent scouring them for every last experience point, so eyebrows were certainly raised at the fact that Bring Down The Sky lasts - at best - an hour and a half. Such brevity would be fine if it were crammed with unmissable storytelling and innovative action, but what's most disappointing is that not only does this new mini-story fail to deliver much in the way of narrative excitement during that time, but that most of the gameplay revolves around sluggish Mako tank combat, hopping and blasting the stupid amount of gun turrets surrounding the three thrusters being used to propel the asteroid. That disappointment deepens when you realise that the three outposts controlling the thrusters all use the same old base map you'll have grown sick of during the rest of the game. Of all the things I hoped would be changed for the downloadable content, the off-putting map repetition was top of the list. So, boo.
When cuddly old Bob Hoskins said that it was 'good to talk', he was trying, in his loveable Cockney kind of way, to get us to rack up enormous phone bills. He wasn't advocating that using endless exposition was the best way to get you into space fairing action RPG epic. He'd probably politely tell them to 'shut iiiiit'.
My goodness, does Mass Effect love to talk - or at least it certainly does in the first few hours, as BioWare cranks up the cinematic dial up to 11 and sets a course for the heart of sci-fi-rama. A word of warning before we get underway: if you're not someone with Babylon 5 or even Firefly box sets displayed proudly on your shelves, early encounters with this earnest 'save the galaxy' quest might feel like hard work.
But even if the thought of another galaxy saving plot has your eyes rolling, it's a credit to the talents of BioWare that, eventually, not only will you start to tolerate it, but actually start to really enjoy this blend of narrative-heavy adventuring. Whether you've got the patience to spend the time chatting between the action segments is another matter. It's certainly not a game that promises instant thrills, that's for sure. You'll need to approach the game with the relaxed mentality of someone who enjoys a good story as much as they appreciate blowing things up. If you're the sort of person who twitches every time a cut-scene comes up in a game, this definitely isn't for you.