Mass Effect 2
Posted 3 years ago By - Jay Acevedo
This review does not contain any specific information or spoilers on the game’s story and its characters.
I’ll be honest, if I had to pick a couple of games to bring with me to a deserted island; Mass Effect would be one of them. Even though it was far from perfect and filled with annoyances, I’ve played that game so much that I was even doing missions and killing Geth scum in my sleep. So you have no idea how excited I was when I learned that Mass Effect would not only get a sequel but be turned into a trilogy.
Deep down, however, I knew that delivering a sequel to a universally acclaimed title wasn’t going to be easy. Every developer knows it: once a new IP gets to the top on the first try, they have no room to fail afterwards. And Bioware have been consistent in releasing great titles, one after another, since the original Baldur’s Gate. Their reputation for making incredible story-driven games is well-known in the industry. After a quick detour in the fantasy RPG realm with Dragon Age: Origins last year, the wizards of Edmonton have finally unleashed Mass Effect 2 onto the masses and guess what? It’s good, very good.
Since I have no desire to spoil the whole thing, all you need to know about the story is that you play once again as Commander Shepard who is about to face one hell of a challenge; save humanity from destruction in a mission he might not survive. Thankfully, however, he won’t be alone. You have to assemble a crack team to help you, choosing from ten captivating characters, each with their own personality, background, range of special abilities and unique quests.
The whole cast of characters would not be as interesting as they are if it weren’t for the well-tailored conversation system. To make it even more interesting, at certain times during conversations, it’s possible for you to interrupt the dialog with either a Renegade or Paragon response. If you’ve been tempted more than once to skip a conversation in an RPG game, the chatter-interrupt idea will lead you to actually follow each discussion much more closely since you never know when the little flashing icon could appear and what kind of repercussion it might have, either on here or in the upcoming Mass Effect 3. Yes, every decision you take might have a small or big impact on the next game.
Speaking of bringing your decisions with you, one of the most talked features of Mass Effect 2 is the save file import feature. By loading a completed ME1 playthrough into the game, you can carry forward all your decisions, actions and plot elements from the first game to the sequel. It’s not necessary to have that file to fully enjoy Mass Effect 2, but there is something extra in there for Mass Effect fans in getting to see further consequences for your decisions. I was very excited to see the feature in action but unfortunately, due to a technical problem with my Xbox 360 hard drive, I lost all my ME1 save files. However, I’m planning to do a second playthrough after completing the first game for the tenth time in a few weeks.
For the most part, ME2’s gameplay mechanics have not changed a whole lot compared to the first game but there have been some notable improvements. The same six classes (Soldier, Infiltrator, Sentinel, Adept, Engineer and - my favourite – the Vanguard) are back but have been retooled appropriately with their very own unique set of weapons and powers. Combat, from using your biotic powers to simply firing small or heavy weapons, has received its share of tweaking. Special attention has been given to the weapon targeting system and it feels much more precise and fluid. You can now map your powers to hotkeys, so that you won’t have to open your power wheel every time you want to use a specific power of yours or your party’s. The cover system has also been improved however, you will find yourself vaulting over your cover by accident, making you vulnerable to enemy attacks. If you play the game at higher difficulty levels, this may become an issue but it doesn’t happen very often. Some people might think that Mass Effect 2’s gameplay is much more closer to an FPS rather than an RPG but, let’s face it, unlike Fallout 3, the “dead and quiet” moments that usually characterize an RPG (long walks from one point to another or incredibly detailed and often complicated talent upgrade system) aren’t present here. This gives the player a faster, more balanced RPGFPS experience. The action is ME2 is certainly much crazier than the first game.
Among the other changes brought to the second chapter in the Mass Effect saga, is the inventory system, which was extremely clunky in the first game. To make things easier, the inventory system for Mass Effect 2 has been divided into sections. For example, the Normandy has an armory room with a weapon locker and in there you can equip unlocked weapons to Shepard and his squad. Upgrades to those same weapons, armor and special abilities are now done through a research terminal located either in the tech lab of the Normandy or in various other locations. While you play, you‘ll also come across research projects that allow you to improve almost everything from your equipment, weapons and even the Normandy itself. How? Through a clever mineral research mini-game, accessible via the Normandy’s Galaxy Map. The goal is simple; you will need to harvest four valuable minerals from different planets by scanning them and launching extracting probes. It’s not really all that fun but since you are tasked to build the most bad-ass squad the galaxy has ever seen, you will find it quite useful. Bioware also decided to cut salvaging almost entirely from the game. No longer will you be filling your inventory with new pieces of equipment or other items from destructible crates or fallen enemies. Aside from ammo, the rest (research projects, special weapons, omni-gels) are found, along with cash, in wall safes and terminals via hacking mini-games.
Another novelty in Mass Effect 2 is the introduction of the Cerberus Network, an in-game system that will allow you to download various game add-ons for free. Two missions have already been given out and more is expected to be available later on. A single-use redeemable code (that will give you access to the network) is bundled with every new copy of the game. If you decide to buy Mass Effect 2 pre-owned, however, you will have to shed $15 (or 1200 Microsoft Points) to get access to it. But Bioware has also stated that not every single piece of downloadable content will be free. In other words, The Cerberus Network is simply a way to thank you for buying the game new and not pre-owned.
Graphics and Sounds
Visually, ME2 has gone through a few changes to improve on the first game. The texture popping issues were certainly the biggest complaint players had back then and it has been completely fixed. There were other issues such as framerate drops and, while it does happen in ME2, it occurs much less and most of the time only during heated battles. Character models and animations as well as the different locales have received a considerable boost. And as for sound, it remains as strong as it was in the first game. The voice-over cast, from both the main and secondary characters is amazing. The score composed by Jack Wall is also worth mentioning as it manages to fully immerse you into the world, whether you are in the middle of a battle or just watching an Asari dancer shaking it up in a bar.
There is just so much to see and do in ME2 that pinpointing a specific playthrough time would be difficult. Personally, it took me around 30 hours to complete the main story, get the trust of most of all of my squad and a few secondary missions, including mineral harvesting to upgrade some of my weapons. One thing I should mention is that ME2 gives you the option to restart a new game with your current character or continue the game once you’ve beat it, allowing you the chance to scour the galaxy for additional side-quests, upgrades and cash. The fact that you can play as both a male or female Shepard and as any of the six classes could tempt you to start a new game and see how different the game could be. And of course, since all your decisions made in ME2 will be brought over to ME3, you may want to have at least two different save files.
Since it was officially announced, my interest leading to ME2’s launch was palpable. As a huge fan of the first game, I had big expectations for the second chapter. Now that I’ve completed the game, it left me wanting more. My interest in seeing how all this will end will be an interminable, painful (!) but exciting waiting period that hopefully won’t be long. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, it is very hard for a developer to outdo itself after delivering such an amazing game but I’m glad Bioware knows how.
It’s not often that you get to name a “Game of the Year” candidate in January but guess what, I’m doing it now! We’ll see you at award season.
+ Amazing dialogue and voice acting
+ Outstanding visuals and character animation/rendering
+ Combat and inventory systems improved
+ Ability to import ME1 save file
+ Incredible replay value
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Release Date : 2010/01/24
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Electronic Arts
Developer : BioWare
Category : Role Playing Game
ESRB : M
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