Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Kasumi - Stolen Memory

Kasumi – Stolen Memory, the latest character expansion added to the ever deepening pool of downloadable content (DLC) Bioware has released for Mass Effect 2, is definitely not a mere drop in the ocean. Rather, it tells one of the more entertaining and interesting stories that Mass Effect 2 offers.

Kasumi, the Japanese woman for which this piece of DLC is named, doesn’t necessarily keep on the right side of the law. Actually, she’s just an outright thief; but, she’s the best there is. Her technical expertise, her ability to jump around she's Ezio from Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and her deadly combat skills will be very helpful to Commander Shepard’s mission. Fortunately, for the small fee of 560 Microsoft Points, you can procure Miss Goto’s services for the remainder of your mission. Of course, those who are waiting for the January 2011 release of Mass Effect 2 on Playstation 3 can procure Kasumi’s services for the even smaller fee of nothing. That’s right: Kasumi – Stolen Memory will, like most story-oriented Mass Effect 2 DLC, be free for those with a Playstation 3.

Aside from the cost, or lack thereof, of hire, Kasumi also requires Commander Shepard’s help with a problem of her own. A Graybox filled with memories that belonged to her former partner has been stolen by murderous crime lord Donovan Hock, and Kasumi is incapable of stealing it back on her own. Possibly because she lacks the resources Shepard has access to, or possibly because she gets lonely now her partner’s dead.

Whatever the reason behind the necessity of this partnership, everything works out in Shepard’s favour in the end. Firstly, you get to play an infiltration-type mission, where the goal is to sneak around and seek objectives without being discovered. To help you blend in, Kasumi provides a snazzy suit – for my male Shepard – that she almost definitely, and literally at that, stole off another’s back. This outfit is my favourite in the game, and certainly lets Shepard walk the Normandy with a little more pimp in his strut. Outfit aside, there are other bonuses here. Helping Kasumi reclaim what’s rightfully hers will earn you not only her trust and loyalty, but a lot of useful swag on top of that.

Hock’s a crime boss after all, so he “owns” a lot of stolen property that you can repurpose as you see fit. Aside from the usual boxes of refined minerals and research materials you find elsewhere, there’s a cool new toy to gain out of this. The M-12 Locust is an insanely accurate and deadly submachine gun that is about as accurate as an assault rifle. Using it, you can put a full (though admittedly rather small) clip into an enemy with almost no muzzle climb. The Locust is also more effective against armour than most SMGs, and comes with a lot of spare clips, too. I played through Hock’s mansion with both the Phalanx pistol from the Firepower Pack, and the Incisor sniper rifle from the Aegis Pack DLC. I found myself using the Locust more often than I used either of these two weapons. The Locust is just that powerful, and that versatile, easily capable of tearing through shielded or armoured enemies on Hardcore difficulty. Even towering YMIR mechs and hovering gunships stand little chance against smart players using it at medium range.

Soon after you acquire the Locust, you’ll discover just why it’s provided as part of Kasumi Goto’s loyalty mission. The sheer power it provides will leave most enemies cowering in fear, shields and armour gone, the moment you start firing at them. Now, you can use one of your special abilities to dispatch your unprotected foes, glaring coldly at them as they breathe their final breath.

Or, you could use Kasumi’s Shadow Strike ability. You could use Kasumi’s Shadow Strike ability, and be left almost paralysed with laughter once you see just how hilariously effective it is. Basically, Shadow Strike is what the Infiltrator Class’s Tactical Cloak ability would be if it were combined with the favourite tactic of Active Camouflage users in Halo: Reach. Upon using this ability, Kasumi becomes completely invisible and dashes towards the targeted enemy, wherever they are, using her athletic prowess and some kind of ninja witchcraft to vault over every obstacle between her and whomever is about to meet their unfortunate end. Then, she’ll reappear directly behind her target and assassinate them by punching their spine with her Omnitool, loosing a concussive blast that topples even the strongest foes like a sack whack from Optimus Prime would.

Afterwards, Kasumi will instantly cloak and run back to her place by Commander Shepard’s side. I can’t say that I wouldn’t do the same after kicking a Harbinger-possessed Drone in the ass.

Where many of the loyalty abilities in Mass Effect 2 struck me as just a little underwhelming, Kasumi’s Shadow Strike feels almost overpowered: especially since it's not a loyalty ability. After all, it can either instantly kill an unprotected enemy or leave a shielded enemy suddenly vulnerable to a headshot. If you level it up properly, Shadow Strike will almost instantly recharge upon landing a kill. To make Shadow Strike even better, Kasumi’s charming and disarming personality shines through every time she uses it. A Blue Suns mercenary will go flying into a ravine with a Wilhelm scream, and Kasumi will pause for a moment to pay her respects with an irreverent “Ha Ha!” Clearly, The Simpsons is still popular in the year 2185.

Kasumi – Stolen Memory is a brilliant DLC pack that expands Mass Effect 2's story, Commander Shepard's wardrobe, and your arsenal. Kasumi herself is an extremely powerful ally, and always a joy to have as part of your squad. I would’ve happily paid 800 Microsoft Points to have Kasumi join my team. Fortunately, her services will cost you only 560 Microsoft points. Or, nothing on top of the cost of Mass Effect 2, if you’re a Playstation fan. I just hope that Kasumi remains with the Normandy’s crew in Mass Effect 3. Otherwise, I won’t have anyone to backstab jerks for me.