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Genre: Action-Adventure, RPG Developer: BioWare
This is taken from my review at: www.numbthumbs.net
The folks at Bioware are the developers of some of the most immersive, captivating, and superbly crafted games of the modern gaming generation. I guess it’s no surprise that their latest game, Mass Effect 2, is every bit as polished and engaging as it’s predecessor. I’ll admit, this review is late…super late in fact! I only recently treated my home computer to a graphical upgrade, which cost me an arm and a leg!
Unfortunately, after finding that I was still unable to even play World of Warcraft on full settings with it, I was extremely skeptical that Mass Effect 2 would operate smoothly. So last week I decided to cave and try it, heading to my local game store and purchasing a copy. Thankfully, after what seemed like a lengthy install, I was ready to play! And without a single graphical issue, may I add!
The story of Mass Effect 2 happens just weeks after the ending of the previous title. Commander Shepard and his motley crew are out searching for any remaining Geth to destroy. As it happens, the hunters lamentably become the hunted, and are attacked by a massive, unknown starship. The Normandy is heavily damaged in the onslaught and its occupants decide that they’re far too overpowered and need to escape.
The majority of the crew manages to reach an escape pod, but Commander Shepard has to literally tear Joker from his post and insist that it’s over for the Normandy. On returning to the escape pods, their ship is once again attacked and the two are split up – Shepard launches Joker’s pod but a subsequent explosion sees Commander Shepard being propelled into space, dying from the vacuum, with his body spiralling towards a nearby planet.
Shepard’s corpse is retrieved by a pro-human organization called Cerberus, who during a period of two years, bring him back to life. Shepard meets with the group’s leader, enigmatically named ‘The Illusive Man’, who informs him of Cerberus’ aim of preventing further humans from being kidnapped by an alien race, thought to be the Reapers. Shepard is also informed that he will be the commander of a new team. The Illusive Man offers up some potential recruits which you’ll spend a large majority of the game recruiting and befriending.
As the game progresses you’ll meet even more recruits, explore new systems, make tough decisions and most importantly, save the planet! That’s how all these space stories go, right?
This game is so similar to it’s predecessor that it’s almost criminal. It looks the same, it plays the same, the classes are the same, the team commands are extremely similar and once again you get to choose your own paths and complete a variety of side missions at your leisure – but why ruin a winning formula when Mass Effect is still one of this decades most critically acclaimed games?
The most important question on most
Pictures of Mass Effect 2 (PS3)
Make your enemies fly!
people’s lips when this game was first announced was “Can I carry my character over from the previous game?”, to which the answer is a resounding “Hell yes you can!”, albeit only the character model and class. A characters class may be changed at the beginning of Mass Effect 2 if the player chooses, but personally I stuck with my class as it was what I was most used to.
Barry shows off his new flying skills to a cold reception.
Depending on how much time you spent on the previous game, you’ll get bonuses when you start the new one! For example, if you reached level fifty on Mass Effect, then you’ll begin Mass Effect 2 at level three, with a small bonus to your credit and resource count. It’s a neat addition which compensates for the game being unable to actually transfer levels due to a brand new experience system.
A feature which I love, and that’s been seen increasingly more common in video games, is the removal of large chunks of user interface during the game itself. Mass Effect 2 strips many of the bars and radars from the previous game for a much crisper, less cluttered UI. This time, you only see how much ammunition you have along with details on objects within your range. To access more information you simply hold down a button.
One thing that has been improved in this game is the enemy AI. Enemies will not only hide behind any available cover the moment they spot you, but if you take too long then they’ll eventually attempt to flank your team, which is annoying to say the least.
As with many Bioware games, your experience while playing Mass Effect 2 is heavily influenced by the decisions you make, both through simple actions and conversational branches. During a large majority of conversations you can select what you’ll say next. There are usually three or four options, one of which is always considered the ‘good’ choice, and one is considered the ‘badass/evil’ choice, the other two are usually lore options to further develop the story.
Morality plays a somewhat interesting role, but not enough for it to be your main concern. In the Mass Effect series, there are two different counters: Paragon and Renegade, basically meaning good and evil, although there really wasn’t a defining character choice between the two. You can just as easily be a paladin of kind-hearted justice for half of the game, then be a royal asshole for the remainder without damaging your paragon morality.
Morality doesn’t change much – bar a few conversation choices which require a certain amount to become available. An example of this is later in the game when two of your teammates begin arguing with each other.
If you have a high enough morality you can tell them both to calm down, else you have to choose sides, making one of them very unhappy with you for the rest of the game, ouch! Personally I took little notice of morality and was just a bastard throughout. I found the renegade options gave a much more enjoyable storyline and really made you feel like you were making a serious impact on the game.
You always have two team mates, though you never really control them per se. You’re able to suggest skills for them to use, sure, but you don’t have to worry about them for the most part as their AI is sufficient enough to handle most situations. If they happen to die, then just give them a medi-gel and hoorah, they’re alive again! I found medi-gels completely useless, even on higher difficulties because your health and shields both regenerate quite fast if you’re behind cover, and not only that, all team mates revive automatically after you’ve ended combat.
Combat is simple and effective, with a huge arsenal for you to use to your advantage. Yes, you can still pause the game and choose actions if that’s your play style, but personally, I never really have the patience for that.
A new addition to the game is the introduction of heavy weapons. Heavy weapons can be beefed up versions of standard weapons, or standalone weapons such as grenade launchers. As these weapons are extremely powerful, ammo is very sparse, and can only be obtained by looting special containers.
Ammo in general is quite rare compared to other games. I found myself continuously running short of ammo for my favourite pistol, and had to keep reverting back to a machine gun which I didn’t care for. You pick up ammo in the form of thermal clips, which thankfully prevent your weapons from overheating. These ammo clips are dropped by enemies (but not always) and you should pick up as many as you possibly can!
All in all, the combat sticks to its roots for the most part, but you may find it a little more challenging than in the previous game.
Your new ship, the Normandy II, has similarities to its earlier cousin, and is bristling with people for you to meet and greet. As you meet new characters and recruit them, they’ll all make themselves cosey in a room of their choosing. You can visit them at any point and try to spark up a conversation, although they may give you the cold-shoulder if you try it too often. This feature may be overlooked but talking to your team is vital in securing the best ending, so be a good sport and make some friends! Friendships can also blossom into sexual relationships if you play your cards right! Certain members of the opposite sex can be ‘romanced’ depending on how you speak to them.
Remember how you had to drive around desolate planets in the Mako, searching for resources? In Mass Effect 2, it’s much more streamlined and far less annoying. All you have to do now is find a cute little planet, scan it, then probe it. The scanning mini-game is simple , move your scanning reticule over the planet and wait for peaks in the resource graph, once you’ve found a sweet-spot, simply send in a probe and voilà, resources!
Resources are used for a plethora of upgrades available to you after you either pick them up throughout the game, or though ship upgrades schematics,which are given to you by team mates. Some upgrade your weapon power, some increase your health – some even have cool little benefits like speeding up your shield regeneration, which is a very handy feature!
Resources also include credits, your currency for buying items from shops in major cities. You can buy lots of quirky stuff such as model ships, hamsters and fish that show up in your room back on the ship, pretty pointless but fun for the completionists out there. You can also purchase armor, which to me was also a waste of time. I never really saw much point in a 3% upgrade to my health, or a 10% discount at stores, so I ended up with lots of excess credits at the end of the game.
Jeez, I didn’t think this review would end up being this long, but it really is a testament to how much Mass Effect 2 has to offer.
The last thing to talk about is the quests, which are abundant and the quality of them is evenly spread, which of course, is superb. There are several different types of missions; some are recruiting missions, which take up a large part of the game. Next, you have loyalty quests, which improve your relationship with a team-mate, unlocking their true potential and more importantly unlocking some bonuses for you. Finally, there are quests you have to search for throughout the galaxies. There are two ways to find quests, either through speaking to civilians, or scanning planets. These quests are usually much shorter with much smaller rewards, but they offer up some great lore and are in no way less interesting.
I could go on forever but I feel I can”t do the game enough justice, so I suggest you try it out for yourself!
Mass Effect 2 has a very strong cinematic feel to it. The cut scenes have improved substantially from the original, with better camera angles and a feel of freedom which was lacking in Mass Effect. Graphically the game can hardly be faulted, with very few graphical glitches to mention. Occasionally the conversations can be a little messed up, with characters walking in the way of the view, and rarely the conversations would initiate but no actual dialogue was going on, meaning I had to load a previous game to get out of it.
The different worlds look amazing, each with their own unique feel and atmosphere (no pun intended). Character models are also brilliant, my particular favourite being a latecomer named Thane, a strange individual with two eyelids, which look awesome!
Voice acting is mostly great with a huge collection of talented voice actors, Martin Sheen and Lance Henriksen to name but a few. Some of the civilian’s voice acting is a little too obviously the same voice actor, which is a shame.
As for the soundtrack; it’s on par with a blockbuster film, matching the theme of your current situation perfectly, whether it be combat or a dramatic cut scene.
Mass Effect 2, is without a doubt, a true masterpiece of a game. This super long review doesn’t come close to giving it the credit it deserved.Better than its original in almost every way, Bioware have proved once again that they know what they’re doing.
If you’re a fan of the previous game, get this. If you like a good action game, get this. If you own a PC, Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3, get this. It’s that simple.