Mass Effect 2: Firewalker - 360 - Review - 360 - Review
By Dan Liebman
Since its spectacular launch, Bioware has continued to support Mass Effect 2 with an array of downloadable content through the “Cerberus Network.” Previous treats consisted mainly of new weapons and armor, but the Firewalker Pack is the first to include an entirely new vehicle to play around with. The pack includes five new missions exclusively for the new vehicle, which launches from the Normandy’s shuttle bay and allows Shepard to navigate treacherous terrain that few have survived.
The Firewalker is essentially a hovercraft, lightly armored and strongly resembling the Mako rover of the previous Mass Effect. Like its predecessor, the Firewalker is fierce, bouncy, and capable of cramming in the usual crew of three squad members. Some missions will make use of the squad upon exiting the Firewalker, but mainly for brief skirmishes. While the Mako was powerfully built like a tank, the Firewalker bears only a thin layer of armor, which apparently heals itself automatically when clear of enemy fire. If the blaring siren doesn’t send you speeding off to cover, the raging fires in your engines should provide additional warning.
Gameplay has changed substantially in this new vehicle, as well. While the stalwart Mako allowed you to park and snipe hostiles with the long range cannon, the Firewalker has no such scope. It fires a weaker missile, but in more rapid succession. These projectiles can also be curved with a bit of careful aiming, but your best bet is to aim directly at each target to deal out maximum punishment. The Firewalker also has no close range anti-infantry weaponry like the Mako; however, it can still be used to smash into enemies and send them flying over absurd distances. Bludgeoning tactics work especially well against Geth Colossus, though they will recover from a fall much faster than they did in the first game.
Smashing foes works particularly well thanks to the boosting capability, which the left trigger activates. This also reinforces the Firewalker’s role as a light recon and surveillance vehicle, far quicker and more agile than the awkward Mako ever was. Anyone who’s spent time in Halo’s Ghost will have no trouble acclimatizing to the Firewalker, as it feels almost identical in many respects. One key aspect that was enhanced from the Mako is the vertical boost, which takes the Firewalker much higher into the air and allows it to literally “jump” from one surface to another. This hopping around can feel like a Mario game, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Folks who disliked treading miles of open terrain in the Mako should find the Firewalker’s tighter environments and breakneck speed to be tremendously appealing.
Sadly, this speed is not without its drawbacks. Each of the five levels is quite short. One even sends the player blasting through in a traditional “beat the clock” scenario, effectively ruining any chance of leisurely exploration. The run-and-gun style of gameplay might leave a bitter taste in the mouths of cerebral Mako lovers. Fortunately, the Firewalker pack is an entirely free download, which should certainly help to dampen any disappointment. For any Mass Effect fan, that won’t be nearly enough to keep them from trying the fresh, fast, and free Firewalker pack.