Review: Mass Effect: Pinnacle Station (Xbox 360, PC)August 25th, 2009 | Written by Josh Schwartzman | Topic: PC, Reviews, Xbox 360
BioWare has been hard at work on Mass Effect 2, but even with most of their resources dedicated to the long awaited sequel, new content is still being pumped out for Mass Effect. With the first expansion allowing players to explore new planets and meet new characters and alien races, the newest addition; titled Pinnacle Station, focuses more on combat than exploration. While Pinnacle Station is still three hours of combat for only $5, combat is not exactly Mass Effect’s strong suit, and that is where this expansion falters.
Pinnacle Station is a forefront for weapons training in the galaxy and upon your arrival you soon learn that a VI Controls system has gone rogue and taken the base hostage, putting the defense, citizens and other various points of security in jeopardy. It is unusual for the game to even mention this sort of info since it is never mentioned again, and once you meet the Admiral of Pinnacle Station you never talk about the rogue controls ever again. For a game that focuses heavily on story-based objectives and interaction, this is a silly misstep.
In any case, once aboard Pinnacle Station you soon meet Admiral Tadius Ahern who tells you that the Pinnacle Station is a military training facility for all high-level operations teams. Only the best of the best are allowed into the station to train and since Shepard is a Spectre, he is almost immediately allowed entry. The main purpose of Pinnacle Station is to compete in a series of VR Missions, fighting to get the highest score in every event. Each event is obtained by talking to Tech Officer Ochren, a foul-mouthed often annoyed alien who seems unamused by Shepard’s actions. It would have been nice to see more of Ochren other than to accept challenges, because he is truly the most memorable character from the Pinnacle Station.
The VR Missions have four different modes, all of which have set scores you need to beat. Time Trial has you killing all of the enemies in the level the fastest, Hunt has you killing as many enemies before time runs out, Capture sees you running from various points to capture the fastest time and Survival has you fending off enemies for the longest time. There are ultimately eight maps unlocked at the beginning, two for each mode, with four more being unlocked after you achieve the highest score on every map. Some probably will get frustrated knowing that you cannot continue on with the missions until you get the top score on every map, but once you figure out where the capture points are, where enemies spawn, and how to simply run past enemies, the levels become more of a trial-and-error fare than actually taking any skill to complete.
There are also only three various level types available: volcanic, tropical and subterranean, leaving much more to be desired in terms of level design. For a game that shines in creative artistic designs and interesting locales, having three areas recycled again and again gets old and repetitive very fast. If you do happen to get past the first eight challenges and manage to get the top spot one of the other contestants will let you choose a free weapon. These weapons are all incredibly powerful and even completing these challenges at level 45 the weapons we got to choose from were still more powerful than anything we collected throughout the game.
If you happen to beat all twelve missions, Admiral Ahern will tell you how pleased he is to see a human back on top of the charts and will let you try your hand at one final survival mission that replicates one of his disastrous missions. Ahern does give you a neat little treat for being victorious, your own private house on the planet of Intai’sei. Here you can reload ammunition, refill health or just enjoy the beautiful sunset glaring through your open window. There are also neat little touches such as a TV that pops up from behind the sofa and a message log that lets you pay ships to offer support in space, which rewards you depending on how much you are willing to spend. While the rewards for grinding through all twelve missions should have been greater, your own private vista definitely is a nice and unique touch.
With all eyes looking towards 2010 and the release of Mass Effect 2, it is a shame to see BioWare give the original game this type of treatment. Mass Effect: VR Missions would have been a more suitable title for this expansion, and with the repetitive level designs, trial-and-error scenarios and lack of any defining story, you will leave Pinnacle Station with only a new weapon and house to save face from this letdown.