Friday, December 7

Mass Effect 2 Review

I played on: PS3
I paid: £20 (Mass Effect Trilogy box set on eBay)
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Notes: N/A

Mass Effect 2 opens with your ship from the first game being attacked and ultimately destroyed. You have to make it to the front of the ship in order to help save your pilot Joker. This opening is just astounding and honestly one of the most memorable moments I can think of in any game. After spending hours with the Normandy SR1 throughout Mass Effect you have to watch it getting torn apart in the opening of Mass Effect 2 and it is harrowing. The Normandy is in chaos with the command deck and galaxy map now in open space. As you move through trying to make it to Joker you have to push past debris suspended all around you. The only sound is your own breathing from within your suit. This is the place where you spent hours of the previous game, one of the few places you were safe, now it’s in a silent state of destruction. After making it to the head of the ship and saving Joker you’re flung into the vacuum of space to die a horrible painful death. You’re brought back to life thanks to Cerberus and the Illusive man spending trillions of credits on the Lazarus project. You are now part cybernetic as your skeleton had to be rebuilt and your internal organs and brain repaired using nano-machines. The entire project took 2 years. During this time an alien race known as the collectors have been abducting entire human colonies. The reason for your rebirth is to find out why this has been happening and to put a stop to it.

The graphics are much more detailed and clean when compared to the original game. Issues that were previously common such as texture pop-in are now mostly a thing of the past. I love just how fantastic this game looks. It really helps to bring Bioware’s wonderful galaxy to life. While the sound design is better than the first game it’s still not that great sadly. Sound effects during cutscenes are delayed or won’t play at all. This was a problem with the first game as well. I’m not sure why this is an issue with the Mass Effect series. It’s not like they lack polish in other areas it’s just with the sound effects. The music and voice acting is once again amazing easily keeping up with the high standards of the first game.

In terms of gameplay Mass Effect 2 takes a lot of the ideas from its predecessor and streamlines them, combining systems in order to create a much more accessible experience. You can still add status effects to your weapons such as fire or ice. Now you do this from your power wheel instead of equipping them through the pause menu. This means that you can switch the type of ammo you’re using on the fly and it feels great when you get the hang of it. Your biotic abilities are now also more simple as well as feeling more powerful thanks to the better presentation. The basic shooting is the same as the first Mass Effect with you having to use cover and biotic abilities. Everything from your teammates AI to the cover and shooting feels much tighter and responsive. It’s clear that all of the systems from the last game have been polished and refined for its sequel. It’s such an enjoyable shooter on its own but then you add the choice and dialogue systems that tie into a great world and story and you have a fantastic experience.

While saving the galaxy you will find not everything can be solved by shooting it, although most things can. This is where the dialogue and choice systems come into play. During certain moments of the story, you will be able to have conversations with people. If you’re clever or have enough paragon or renegade points then you can avoid combat altogether in certain cases. Paragon and renegade points act as this games karma system with Paragon being good and renegade being bad. The idea is not to give you a world and let you tell your own story through these systems but instead, it’s about telling your version of a liner plot. This means it’s not as deep as classic CRPG’s but it’s still a nice break from the combat. If you played the first game and enjoyed it then you will also like this because it’s pretty much the same system.

One of my biggest complaints about the last game was that the side missions were hard to follow and often felt very repetitive. Mass Effect 2 fixes all of these issues meaning no more identical warehouses or endlessly digging through your journal. During the story, you will have to build a team of highly skilled soldiers to attack the collector home-world. Each side mission will revolve around a member of your crew. Each mission will show up on the galaxy map after talking about the details with the involved crew member. Your new personal assistant will let you know if any crew members want to talk so as long as you check in with her you won’t miss any of these. This is such an improvement over the last game. Each side mission expands the world but also has a connection to you and your crew. Honestly, these adventures on their own offer some of the most enjoyable parts of Mass Effect 2.

This game feels more connected to its predecessor than most sequels are because of a few little details. During the first game, you made a lot of minor choices and took on a lot of smaller missions around the galaxy. For example, I ended up saving the chairman of the Parliament Subcommittee for Transhuman Studies who had been kidnapped by L2 Biotic extremists. Due to being early adopters of biotic implants, a lot of L2 biotics suffer painful side effects they were never made aware of. This group wants reparations for this injustice but the chairman denied them. I talked them into letting the chairman go alive and convinced him to help the L2 biotics. During Mass Effect 2 I got a personal message from the chairman informing me that he had been successful in gaining reparations for the biotics. These small touches really help Mass Effect 2 feel more connected to the original game. It may only be in very minor ways but you get the feeling that your previous choices do have consequences here. I hope to see this continue to Mass Effect 3.

Mass Effect 2 sets the standard for how great sequels could and should be. The basic gameplay has been refined, streamlined and polished into one of the most enjoyable shooters of the 7th generation. By importing your save data from the first game it feels more connected than any sequel has before. The story continues to add to both the stakes of the trilogy and the world it’s set in. All in all Mass Effect 2 improves on it’s enjoyable but flawed predecessor and becomes something far more impressive and enjoyable. This is a classic and you need to play it.

Recommendation Rating: 9 out of 10.

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