Review by Dr_GooDviBeS
"The greatest Sci-Fi adventure in computer gaming"
Mass Effect 2 is the sequel to acclaimed game Mass Effect, by Bioware. The previous installment of the trilogy was acknowledged as a pretty good game, combining both RPG and TPS (that's third person shooter - the game never, ever, has a first-person perspective) in an engrossing, action-packed, sci-fi battle for the survival of humanity. Although the game was good, with trademark Bioware's plot and dialogue options, it had some flaws, namely technical and with the overly derivative side-missions.
Bioware listened to the public and did a huge overhaul on ME2. Everything has been fine-tuned to improve vastly the gaming experience; the game runs with little glitches, the tedious exploration side quests are gone and replaced by streamlined and fewer apart side missions. The cumbersome inventory and upgrade system has been stripped away and you will now be able to choose your weapon configurations in any armory locker and all upgrades will function as schematics that you will have to collect and invest mineral resources in its reasearch. Once available, these upgrades will be automatically applied to all squad weapons.
One could say the the RPG elements have suffered in this installment, but truth be told, the core of the game - the story, the characters, the choices, the replay value, are all there: intact and even improved with a better cast of characters this time around. You will be also able to import your character from the first ME, which will bring you some bonuses to initial money, paragon/renegade scores and many, many in-game references and status quo changes. You will also meet some of the original crew, depending on who survived your first game. If you never played ME - or don't have a save game, don't worry. ME2 will have a default gameworld based on a probable outcome of the previous game.
On to the game itself, and trying to be as spoiler-free as possible: the controls play pretty much as the previous ME but with vast improvements over the combat system. The cover system works almost flawlessly now, and the whole AI during combats is noticeably improved both for your companions and enemies. It is a much more rewarding experience to come out of a big gunfight with tons of geth alive this time around.
Planet exploration with the Mako has been stripped out. Now, you orbit planets and use a scanner device to probe the planets for minerals or anomalies that will result in a side mission being unlocked. While the first generation of the scanner may be too sluggish and cringe-inducing, you will soon be able to upgrade it to a better incarnation and find yourself on an addictive gold rush. The hacking mini-games are also revamped; hacking PDAs will require matching supplied pieces of code on a scrolling screen while bypassing doors requires you to find connecting pairs on a circuit board. By no means these mini-games are hard and you will find yourself breezing through them in no-time.
Moral choices once again return in full strength, and in a darker mood than before. As Com. Shepard, you will find yourself working for a shady organization other than representing the will of the Council. Throughout the game you will have to recruit your team members for a suicide mission against a new threat: the Collectors. Apparently, the Reapers from the last game have made a new friend - an insectoid race that has been abducting human colonists for an unknown purpose. It was a bit odd to see how the Geth menace was apparently discarded from this game, but that is not so. There are plenty of Geth to fight against still, and a character will provide you insight on Geth culture that will portray the robotic once-antagonists in a new light.
As you play along, you will notice the stellar cast of actors that voice the characters. Yvonne Strahovski makes a full-body (pun) appearance as Miranda Lawson, a genetically engineered human for perfection. Martin Sheen plays the Illusive Man, your mysterious 'boss'. Carrie Ann Moss will have a role as a ring leader on the starbase Omega and Tim Russ (that portrayed Tuvok on Star Trek Voyager) will voice the enigmatic assassin Thane Krios; Tricia Helfer, the sexy Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, will be the voice of your ship's brand new AI and Joker will once again be played by Seth Green. These and many more will create an engrossing atmosphere that will quickly suck you in and develop feelings for the characters. And, be sure to play out your cards well in-game, as a loyalty relationship between your crew and Shepard will be paramount to survive the last mission.
So, if you are looking for an excellent sci-fi adventure, with stellar storytelling and engaging combat mechanics, look no further: ME2 is the game that you should have. If you're not, give it a shot nonetheless. It's one of the best gaming experiences out there. The only defect? It will make you helplessly wait for ME3.
Sound : 9/10
Replay value: 10/10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 02/03/10
Game Release: Mass Effect 2 (EU, 01/29/10)
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