Review: Mass Effect 2

THEY DON’T EXPECT YOU TO SURVIVE

Developer: BioWare
Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: January 26, 2010
Compatability (Xbox 360): 3MB Mininum Space | HDTV 720p / 1080i / 1080p
Rating: 9.5

The original Mass Effect was generally considered a great game, but was polarizing for many. For those that enjoyed it, the positive aspects of the game greatly outweighed the negative, but there were still complaints ranging from frequent texture pop-in to ploddingly slow elevators. Thankfully Bioware is a company that listens to their fans and they’ve addressed practically everything wrong with Mass Effect 1 and quite a bit more.

Mass Effect 2 starts off with a bang that lays the groundwork for numerous changes, takes the narrative in a new direction and allows the introduction of a new cast of companions. If you played ME1, It also provides a backdrop for the import of your old character. When importing, you have the ability to choose a new appearance or class, but you don’t retain any of your original Shepard’s skills and attributes. The major appeal of importing a ME1 character is that all of the decisions made in the previous game carry over into ME2. The important choices have an obvious impact, but there are a host of ramifications for the smaller actions as well. Many of the characters you meet, the quests you are given and the conversations you have are determined by the first game and it’s surprising how many minor decisions that may be forgotten show up in interesting ways. Fortunately, the game does a good job of reminding you about anything you might have forgotten.

Commander Shepard is back.

Bioware has taken great pains to carry over the narrative, but they’ve made sweeping changes in a host of other areas. The first and most welcome change is a revamped combat system that focuses on streamlining and enhancing the game’s shooter aspects. Headshots now do extra damage and aiming ability isn’t affected by your level anymore. Powers can be mapped to various buttons and giving orders to your squad is vastly improved. As a result, you spend far less time in the powers menu and combat moves at a faster pace. These are welcome changes as combat is a strength of ME2, while it was a weakness of ME1.

Many of the RPG aspects of the game have been revamped as well, although this change may not be as welcome for some. The entire inventory system has been removed in favor of a new approach to equipment. Not including DLC, there are only two armor classes, which can be customized, and a few weapons in each category. Instead of different weapon and armor sets, you are given a multitude of upgrades, which aren’t just limited to equipment. Everything from melee damage to ship abilities can be upgraded. Upgrades can be either purchased from shops or researched in the ship lab using resources found on missions, or mined from planets. This brings us to the only failing of Mass Effect 2 – the resource mining. Mining takes place in a mini-game where you drag a scanner over the face of a planet until you find a mineral deposit. When a deposit is found, you launch a probe to collect the resources and then continue scanning until you have the resources you need, the planet is depleted, or you just get bored. The process is tedious and mind-numbing. You can purchase an upgrade for the scanner later in the game, but until then the scanner moves ponderously slow. The only saving grace is that mining is optional and you don’t need to scan many planets to supplement the resources found on missions.

The new combat system has been revamped and improved.

That is essentially the lone complaint I have with the game as almost every criticism of ME1 has been addressed. ME2 is more streamlined and better paced, breaking up the dialogue and combat nicely. Loot has also been changed to give rewards via a post-mission screen so you can focus on completing the mission instead of sorting through menu screens. The texture pop-in has been removed, as well as the mako sequences and elevator loading screens. I wasn’t necessarily in favor of removing the latter two, but many people were. The best parts of the original remain including exceptional dialogue and character interaction, while some new features serve to enrich the experience. A new interrupt system allows you to take dramatic actions during conversation, like throwing someone out of a window. Heavy weapons have been added to help you take down tougher enemies. They’re inventive and powerful, but ammo is limited to prevent abuse. There are also smaller touches like the ability to change clothes or the fact that you now have a cabin on the Normandy that you can personalize with ship models or pets.

All in all, Mass Effect 2 is a vast improvement over the original and a perfect example of what a developer can accomplish when they listen to the feedback of their fans. Some of the changes may come as a surprise, but almost every aspect has been improved for the better. When everything is said and done, ME2 is likely to be in the running for game of the year. The only question remaining is how Bioware can possibly keep this up for the third game.

Reviewed by antonman – May 18, 2010

Graphics
First-rate visuals and some truly exceptional cut-scenes provide ample eye-candy.
 
Sound
Excellent voice acting returns and the music scores are top-notch.
 
Fun
The revamped combat and inventory systems, as well as a myriad of smaller changes, greatly enhance the game’s entertainment factor.
 
Final Score

 

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Responses

  1. very good review antonman 🙂

  2. Surely nominated for the game of the year 2010


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