BioWare's space opera sequel Mass Effect 2 has already offered players hours of hybrid shooter and role-playing adventure, but the developer isn't done yet. The next downloadable content for the game, Lair of the Shadow Broker, is described by BioWare as the "most premium DLC" for the game yet and will be the "richest in scope," since it not only will include five new levels (of which one is open-ended), but will also introduce content that will actually start bridging the gap between Mass Effect 2 and the next game in the series. The DLC will be released next week and will let you reconnect with an old friend, Dr. Liara T'soni, the blue-skinned asari researcher from the first game with whom you, as Commander Shepard, could have a romantic relationship. This time around, the good doctor ends up in a whole heap of trouble with the crime lord known as the Shadow Broker--the mysterious figure who has been referenced in both Mass Effect games--and it's up to you to rescue her. Please be advised that this story may contain minor spoilers.
Lair of the Shadow Broker takes place during the main Mass Effect 2 game on the planet Illium and begins with Shepard receiving a note from Liara to meet her at her home. Obviously, if you decided to have that special relationship with Liara in the first game and have imported your saved character to Mass Effect 2 to play the DLC, your interactions with Liara will be different. In any case, after reading the message, you can transport yourself immediately to her lodgings, which have been ransacked and covered by far-flung-future police tape (digital light displays with a scrolling ticker that reads "Police Line: Do Not Cross"), with Liara herself nowhere in sight. The local authorities were already prowling through the wreckage and demanded we leave the area, though a high-ranking asari agent, a Spectre (the special operatives of the Citadel Council, like Shepard) named Tela Vasir, pulled rank and cleared us to enter the apartment.
In a brief conversation with Vasir, we learned that Liara had apparently fled the scene moments ago, but we deduced that she must have left a note, or at least some clues, behind. After briefly searching her apartment, we found a picture, keyed to Shepard's identity, which changed to a landscape of an alien planet whose relics were part of the doctor's collection. We then scanned each relic until we found a hidden data disc with a recorded transmission of Liara conversing with an underground contact about the Shadow Broker's next move at the Dracon Travel Center, a huge downtown high-rise. The transmission ended with both Liara and her contact spooked by the sound of a break-in and both characters fleeing downtown.
We immediately transitioned over to the building--by way of a loading screen--with our team, while Vasir hopped into her hovercar to cover the building from the roof down. Our party entered the building to find not only that it had been blown up by explosives, but also that dozens of its employees had been gunned down by professional mercenaries whom we eventually encountered in the bombed-out office space, ducking down beneath the partial-cover flaming desks and torn-up computer terminals.
We finally made our way to the top and were just too late to save the informant from being shot, though Vasir was on the scene, claiming that she, too, had been too late and that the Shadow Broker's henchmen had already fled. Because we hadn't seen the shot ourselves, we found the agent's story to be highly suspicious, and moments later, our suspicions were confirmed when Liara herself emerged from the shadows with a gun trained on the Spectre, accusing her of murdering the contact and raiding her apartment. At this point, Vasir attempted to make a dramatic escape, finally leaping into her hovercar to escape into the Illium night.
Our party leaped into the nearest vehicle, a hovering taxi, and gave chase as part of Mass Effect 2's new car chases, which act a bit like a futuristic arcade racer with a Z-axis. Vasir's vehicle appeared onscreen with a bright-red marker and left a bright-red contrail, so she was easy to track, although the underhanded agent also had explosive mines that she left floating behind her that threw our own vehicle off track. Since our own vehicle didn't have any weapons (it was a taxi, after all), we couldn't do much other than try to follow Vasir around every tight turn and not slam into oncoming traffic. Fortunately, the game autosaved several times over the course of the chase, so it wasn't frustrating. Finally, the chase ended when Vasir had a head-on collision and went spinning out of control. We pursued the agent and leaped out of our vehicle to pursue on foot, at which point our play session ended.
Lair of the Shadow Broker will be available this Tuesday, September 7.