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Mass Effect 2 Review

by William Schwartz

It’s been a long two years since the first Mass Effect game was released for the Xbox 360 and PC.  A fan of the first game, I enjoyed the flair for the dramatic that Bioware had with it’s storytelling, and the innovative attempt at bridging the gap between third person action and RPG.  The first game had a few faults in all its greatness, but any loose ends that it may have had in the gameplay department have more than been tied up in this second installment.  Mass Effect 2 is a rare breed of game:  A game tweaked to near perfection leaving little to no breathing room for mediocrity, boredom, or cliche.

Mass Effect 2 is the second installment in the series from creator Bioware, published by Electronic Arts.  Mass Effect 2 is the interactive story of Commander John Shepard.  Set two years after Shepard did battle with the Reapers, a new and mysterious enemy has emerged.  Mysteriously abducting human colonies, The Collectors are Shepard’s new enemy. In this installment, Commander Shepard now works for a organization known as Cerberus.  Under their umbrella Shepard will assemble an elite team to take on this new and powerful enemy.

There were some things I really enjoyed about this iteration of the series.  For an RPG game, Mass Effect 2 streamlines the way that the game is played.  Useless clutter has been removed from the game entirely.  A very simple weapons and abilities upgrade menu has been put in place to lessen the time spent fiddling with stats and items.  Your ship, The Normandy, is now more of an extension to the experience.  You will now use your ship to scan planets for valuable resources, that when found are used for upgrading weapons and technology.   Even the new load screens peak interest as they give you a holographic view of the specific area you are in and where this loading time is taking you.  Mass Effect 2 is a cohesive experience from the smallest and most menial tasks right down to the very end.

Bioware has said that it was able to get more out of the Xbox 360 console than ever before with Mass Effect 2, and it blatantly shows.  Character models are beautiful and environments even more so.  Without a doubt in my mind this is the best graphical achievement on the Xbox 360 to date.  The environments are stunning and imaginative.  These stunning visuals provoke you to explore your surroundings thoroughly, and I am willing to bet you will need both hands to count how many times you stop to take it all in.

Furthermore, the combat in Mass Effect 2 is deliberately faster and more exciting.  Blurring the line even further between RPG and third person shooter, the combat mechanics have changed greatly in Mass Effect 2.  Biotic powers take less time to recharge making your character feel more powerful outright.  Your AI controlled allies seem to use there powers under computer control more frequently and timely.   If you played the first game you can recall the cover system that was used in combat.  If not, it is very similar to Gears of War.  Using a single button to take cover, hurdle, and move to other cover locations.  The designers took better advantage of this mechanic in Mass Effect 2 by putting more care into level design, giving areas where combat is taking place a plenitude of tactical locations.  Enemies will move, take cover, and flank you given the opportunity and  any one battle can play out in a number of scenarios.

Bioware pits the perfect blend of old and new in Mass Effect 2.  Helping and finding old friends, and making new alliances is a big part of the game.  Through carefully tailored conversation trees and loyalty missions Bioware makes you appreciate and ultimately care about this newly formed team.  A rare feat.  Adding to the characters greatly is the Hollywood talent that is involved with the game.  It lends a great deal of authenticity to the experience and makes cut scenes and conversations feel more like a summer blockbuster movie than a video game.

Like many great games Mass Effect 2 gives gamers the best of both worlds.  A story line that is linear enough to make sense, while giving the player explicit control of the variables that arise in the game.  Very similar to the first game Commander Shepard will tread the line between Paragon (Good) and Renegade (Bad) choices throughout the campaign.  This can mean telling someone how you really feel in a simple conversation, to letting someone die at your feet for simple lack of caring.  It goes far beyond that in the overall story of Mass Effect 2 though.  Forced to make choices throughout the entire campaign, your decisions unfold new scenarios between you and your crew, unlocking new missions, and ultimately shaping the game into a unique experience.

The game is a matter of preference, Mass Effect 2 is a masterpiece, Whether you end up enjoying it or not.  Almost all games are (a matter of preference) but in this case there is nothing to jump on.  Screen tearing? No didn’t see it.  Framerate issues? No didn’t see that either. The game forces you to look for even the smallest imperfection and when you find it, you realize its a matter of preference and entirely intentional.  It’s laughably not fair.  My gripes were only a  few instances in my 40+ hours of gameplay.  On more than one occasion I have been knocked out of cover by my ally AI.  The problem can be untimely and almost always leads to death in any of the intense combat parts.  The sad thing is I probably did it myself.  Though I did notice that at times sound would cut out when in battle, at first I thought this was a technical glitch, and then realized the explosions occuring around me were hindering my sense of sound.  Confusing? Yes, but so are five RPG rounds exploding at or near you.  These few problems were like trying to pick a needle out of a haystack of goodness, but I had to complain about something, no?

When it comes down to it, Mass Effect 2 conveys both a grand story, and intimate experience that will most likely be savored by all that come in contact with it.  Mass Effect 2 is the result of effective criticisms being taken into consideration and improved upon.  Living up to the hype, Mass Effect 2 casts a large shadow over the rest of 2010 if this level of quality is what we now measure by.

"loved"
loved

Mass Effect 2

  • Available On: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
  • Published By: EA
  • Developed By: Bioware
  • Genre: RPG
  • US Release Date: January 2010
  • Reviewed On: Xbox 360
  • Quote: "Mass Effect 2 conveys both a grand story, and intimate experience that will most likely be savored by all that come in contact with it. Mass Effect 2 is the result of effective criticisms being taken into consideration and improved upon. Living up to the hype, Mass Effect 2 casts a large shadow over the rest of 2010 if this level of quality is what we now measure by."
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