Review by tpolimen

"Superior to it's predecessor in every way, but not without some cost."

In reality I would be giving Mass Effect 2 a 9.5/10. The reason for losing that crucial half point is clearly in what they had to sacrifice to make this game what it was and that was the cumbersome, and at times annoying, loot and inventory system from the first installment. I will go into greater detail of that later in this review but now let's get started on the breakdown.

*Graphics* 10/10
Mass Effect 2 is easily in the upper echelon as far as graphics are concerned with the Xbox 360. The clipping and gradual graphic layering that took place in the previous game is a thing of the past (almost entirely) and the facial animations, combat effects, and gunfights all carry a certain weight and realism to them that Mass Effect 1 (albeit at the time was top notch) simply does not have. I was particularly impressed with the effects that occur during battle, the different ammo type and biotic capabilities work beautifully in Mass Effect 2. Whether you watch the charred body of an enemy combatant turn to ash before your eyes or shatter an ice sculpture of that had, moments before, been firing at you, the graphics give players the ability to enjoy every moment of this game. Lightening, textures, and the amount of detail set in the locations themselves make this game truly enthralling and, more often than not, I muttered a "wow" as I walked onto a new location. Even familiar sights like the Citadel have gotten a facelift that players will be excited to see.

*Gameplay* 9/10
I am being a bit harsh here giving this game only a 9. The reason for the missing point is that, in order to create a game of this scale and depth it is obvious some sacrifices had to be made. The looting system from Mass Effect 1 has been completely eliminated. No longer are you going to gain experience from every kill but, rather, it is mission based. No longer do you pick up armor and weapons from dead enemies automatically nor from crates or containers. Instead, you pick up a few weapons here and there, purchase them, or research them. Personally, I like this system much more. I found the inventory management in Mass Effect 1 to be tedious and, at times, down right annoying. Granted, the RPG feel and status quo of searching for loot has been diminished, but not hurtfully so.

Next on the gameplay changes are two that I , once again, find to be much an improvement over the previous installment. Firstly, and finally, Bioware got rid of the god awful Mako. Some may have enjoyed that facet of Mass Effect 1 but I always found it hateful, annoying, tedious, and rather boring. Hand in hand with the elimination of the Mako was scrapping the giant empty worlds that you explored with the Mako searching for anomalies and other goodies. To be honest, while impressed with Mass Effect 1's ambitions gambit to give you the feeling of really exploring the universe at first, after awhile I could only take so many ridiculous crags and impossible slopes to climb and navigate in my RC car of a tank. This has been replace with a new scanning feature of planets where, if something interesting can be found, you can land and get right to the point. If there are resources, you can scan and collect the resources (which are used to upgrade weapons and your ship so it is worth it). The scanning process can be a bit tedious but, after several hours of gameplay I'm still not THAT bored/annoyed with it, so I'll chalk it up as a win.

Lastly, and quickly, the combat of ME2 is far superior to ME1. The gunfights flow naturally, move smoothly (unlike some of the choppy encounters from ME1) and the AI, both friendly and enemy, is much greater in this game. I find I rarely have to direct teammates at all, as they seem to counter the enemy's tactics flawlessly and will even press the attack. Many a gun battle I've had already where I noticed Jacob pulling and shoot targets around corners or away from where I am holding a line. Impressive to say the least. Ammo is no longer unlimited which took a little while to get use to but, in the end, I found this to be another change I enjoy. It makes you think more tactically when it comes to gunfights, anticipating if a tougher enemy around the corner makes you consider which gun to go with, I can already say that I have used pistols more in the short hours I've had with ME2 than I did in close to 100 hours of gameplay in ME1.

The only real gripe I have with ME2 is that they've seemed to eliminate some abilities. Not the the total number but the number each character has. To be fair, I rarely used every ability that a character had available to them in ME1. Also, I was pumped that *spoiler I guess* Electronics and Decryption where eliminated as necessary skills. The new mini games that come with hacking are an easy compromise to make instead of dumping points into Decryption and Electronics.

*Sound* 10/10
The music, the effects, the voice acting. Top notch. This, I think, is where EA's checkbook is the most evident and they did not cut corners. I haven't really seen a game this well crafted as far as sound is concerned in a very, very long time.

*Story* 10/10
I'm not going to give away any spoilers but this game definitely drags you in, slaps you around, and doesn't let you leave until its done with you. Superb.

*Overall* 9.5/10

Yes, Mass Effect 2 is a greatly superior game to Mass Effect, hell, I'll even put it up there with one of the greatest games to ever be on the Xbox 360. While it does move further away from its RPG roots, that move, I feel, catapults it into the Valhalla of gaming. Make no mistake, if they take what people love about Mass Effect 2 and combine it with what they miss about Mass Effect, Mass Effect 3 could become one of the greatest, not just game, but entertainment medium ever created.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 01/29/10

Game Release: Mass Effect 2 (US, 01/26/10)

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