Review by SolidFantasy
Reviewed: 02/02/10 | Updated: 02/17/10
Who's ready to seduce more Asari women and save the galaxy again!?
Intro: The Gods of RPGs known as Bioware have returned with their sequel to the critically acclaimed and commercially successful game, Mass Effect. Since the game is made by Bioware you should already know what to expect. It is an absolutely amazing experience and now I need Mass Effect 3. Bioware always makes addicting fantastic games but you know something? I think this might just be their masterpiece. Yes, I just used a quote from Inglorious Basterds in a review for Mass Effect 2...
Story: Since Mass Effect is a heavily story-driven game I will start with the story. First off, if you have not played or beaten Mass Effect then click the back button on your internet browser and go play the first to completion. You will enjoy Mass Effect 2 much more that way. Upon selecting new game in Mass Effect 2 you will be asked if you want to import your character from Mass Effect into Mass Effect 2. All the critical plot decisions you made in Mass Effect will carry over and you will receive some in-game bonuses too. If you lost your save or are playing this game without having played the first ( a dumb thing to do ) then don't worry because the character creation is extremely in-depth ( you can choose to be male or female by the way ) and the critical plot decisions from the first game will be assigned to your character randomly.
The game starts off not too long after the events of Mass Effect. Reprising your role as the Spectre who defeated Saren, Commander Shepherd, you are aboard the Normandy ( your giant spaceship ) when suddenly it is attacked by an unknown enemy. Everything goes to hell and you sacrifice yourself to save Joker ( still voiced by Seth Green ). Shepherds dead body is recovered by a company named Cerberus. They put him into a costly project where they basically recreate him. This project takes 2 years to complete. If you are using an imported character or not you can also customize Shepherds appearance here. When you awake the Cereberus facility is under attack and you meet up with Miranda and Jacob whom help you defend the facility and fight back. Soon after you are given a new ship, modeled exactly like the Normandy. After these events you meet The Illusive Man ( voiced by Martin Sheen ). He tells you about a new dangerous threat and tells you to assemble a team of various galactic races and species to stop them by destroying their base. No ship has ever returned from their base. It is a suicide mission. Prove them wrong!
Now for 80% of the main story quests you will be assembling your team based on The Illusive Mans recommendations. Normally I would never play a game like this, but Bioware has crafted some of the most incredible characters I have ever seen in a video game. The world of the Mass Effect series is in scope as big as Star Wars. The series has so many different species and races that all have their own problems. Quarians are mostly an outcast, Krogans live on a dump of a planet and want a cure for the Genophage, and so much more. The world of Mass Effect has so much thought, creativity, and polish to it that it is remarkable. If you loved the characters in the first game then you will be in heaven playing this game. Your party members range from a convict specializing in Biotics to a Drell assassin to a Krogan unethically created to be perfect and a few characters that return from the first game. You are probably thinking something along the lines of " that doesn't seem spectacular at all " and I understand that. Play the game! These characters have back-stories that made me cry. Yes, the characters are so well developed and carefully crafted that they made me, a 20 year old male, cry. Bioware has done an incredible job with making you sympathize with every character.
Mass Effect 2 does something I have never seen in a game before. There is no canon outcome of the events for the first game. The decisions YOU made in Mass Effect carry over into this game. Everything you did is brought up a lot. I am assuming all of your decisions in this game will have dire consequences for Mass Effect 3 too. This whole aspect increases your immersion into the world by a lot. Everything you do matters.
Game-play: Mass Effect 2 still plays like an amazing hybrid of a 3rd person shooter and an RPG. It excels in both areas again too. You pick 1 of many different classes at the start of the game or continue playing as the class you were in Mass Effect. If you want your imported character to specialize in a different class you can change it too. Since I was a Soldier in both games I don't have much to say about the other classes but I can tell you from word of mouth that they are all unique and give you an entirely new way to go about combat. Whether you specialize in Biotics, guns, engineering or something else, game-play will feel unique and refreshing on each play-through.
Combat in Mass Effect 2 is still intense! Firing your weapons is as easy as holding down LT to aim and RT to fire. Holding down LB will access the weapon wheel where you can choose what gun to equip. I played as a Soldier and was able to carry 1 gun from each class. Holding down RB allows access to the power wheel where you can choose which type of ammo to use ( incendiary, cryogenic, etc ) and map your biotic powers to LB, RB, and Y. Biotic powers again add that touch of RPG as certain powers are effective against certain enemies. Certain powers are more effective against shields or barriers too. Warp lowers an enemies armor, you can manipulate objects and enemies with your mind, give yourself a temporary shield boost and more. Shooting floating helpless enemies never gets old! Once you fully upgrade a biotic power you can choose to evolve it. You can choose between 2 different options to enhance it. As a soldier one of my favorite biotic powers was a power that greatly enhanced my aiming temporarily. It got even better though because when I evolved it , it made enemies practically stand still. It was like I was playing in slow motion and was always a blast to use. The mixture of gun-play and Biotics again go together flawlessly. The B button performs a melee attack while the X button reloads. Yes, guns require ammo now but ammo is plentiful throughout the game. It's a change that changes nothing in hindsight. The A button takes cover. Now that we have the basics down I suppose you want to know how the AI is. This game easily has some of the best partner AI I have ever witnessed in a game. I won't lie, my 2 AI partners accounted for a few more kills than me throughout the game. The enemy AI is no longer awful and has been greatly tuned for Mass Effect 2. They don't just stand there acting like target practice anymore. They will take cover, flank you, use their strength in numbers to their advantage, and basically just fight smarter. Tougher brute-like enemies or enemies packing dangerous weapons like a flamethrower even rush you a lot. There are a wide variety of enemies again such as 3 different mercenary groups, Krogans, the Geth, ( robotic type enemies ) Husks ( similar to zombies that rush you ) and more. If I had any complaints about the combat it would be the last boss. Story-wise it is epic but the actual fight could have been done better other than: kill enemies the boss summons, shoot the boss, kill enemies the boss summons, shoot the boss, repeat until it dies. This is easily overlooked though because the last mission will go down as one of the greatest missions to ever grace a video game. The atmosphere and intensity will cause you to overlook the simplicity of the last boss. All around the combat is intense ( especially the final mission, it gets the adrenaline pumping ) and is excellent.
Exploring is still a major part of the series. The new Normandy is exactly like the one on the first game and is your base of operations. From here you can communicate with your teammates just like in the first game. You can begin a romance with multiple partners this time but you can only go all the way with 1 character. I was slightly disappointed that whomever you romanced in the first game had no real effect on anything in this game but I have a feeling they will be much more important characters and have bigger roles in Mass Effect 3. While on the Normandy you can also check your private messages from various in-game characters, and choose which planet will be your next destination. The MAKO is gone ( thank God ) so there are no clunky driving sections when on these planets. While there are less planets to explore, they are no longer just color palette swaps and feel distinctively different this time around. The planets you can't explore do serve a purpose though. When you are on the Normandy you can select any planet and press Y at the planet information screen to start scanning it. While scanning you will sometimes notice irregular activity on the Seizmograph. You can then shoot a probe to collect some minerals that come in 4 different juicy flavors! These minerals are used to upgrade your Weapons, Biotics, Armor, Ship and more. Some people say that scanning planets is boring and tedious but when you sit down and do it, it isn't that bad. Of course you will be bored if you decide to start upgrading at the end of the game. Splice some scanning in between missions and you won't mind it at all. Many planets have short and quick side-quests too. Some planets you can visit are huge and offer shops to purchase upgrades, Star Charts ( they give locations of new areas to explore on your galactic map ), and more. You can even buy a pet hamster for your personal room on the Normandy! Don't like pets? Then buy the dirty alien magazine. I kid you not, you can buy a pornographic alien magazine in this game. The cities are breathing with life from the NPCs. NPCs have numerous lines of dialogue and suck you into the games world even more. Each party member ( there are 9 ) has their own back-story mission as well. There is tons of exploring to do out there in Mass Effect 2.
Bioware has done it again. This game has another dialogue tree for choosing your characters response to certain situations. It is wonderfully crafted again and truly gives the player the feeling that they are creating the story as they play. Paragon choices and Renegade choices return too. If you have enough Paragon or Renegade points you can choose different dialogue options and in return receive more Paragon/Renegade points. A new addition to Biowares always infamous dialogue interaction is interrupting a character while they are speaking. At some points LT or RT will pop up during segments of dialogue and if you press the button in time Shepherd will perform a heroic or evil action. Making some of these decisions can be very tough because even the smallest of characters are like-able. When the time to make a big decision comes do not be surprised if you find yourself staring at your dialogue choices for a minute or two. My only complaint ( for the first 2-3 hours ) is that 10% of the time some of the choices can be misleading. Sometimes you will see a choice that sounds friendly but turns out to be a renegade action. This issue became non-existent once I realized that the top choice was always good, the middle choice was always neutral, and the bottom choice was always a renegade choice. Overall the Dialogue and character interaction shines bright again.
This game does has quite a few glitches in it. Once my game didn't really freeze, but Shepherd was just standing there in a cinematic. The cinematic was over but the game never returned control of Shepherd to me. The audio completely just dropped out during one cinematic. One time in an area where I needed to kill all the enemies to advance, one enemy got stuck in a wall and became impossible to kill. 3 glitches in 30 hours isn't bad but there are probably more. These glitches were kind of big as my level of immersion in the game decreased drastically. I believe Bioware could have tested the game better but no one should miss out on this game because of a few glitches.
Graphics/Sound: This game will without a doubt make your jaw drop upon playing the prologue mission. The amount of detail on every character is insane. Bioware has once again put most developers to shame with the character facial expressions in this game. Every single movement and animation feels fluid and natural. The motion capturing for this game is unbelievable. Some of this games intense cinematic flare is due to these animations during cut-scenes. Combine this with wonderful voice acting by Martin Sheen, Carrie-Ann Moss, Jennifer Hale, and more and the result is an experience that rivals the feeling of watching a movie. Every planet looks different aesthetically and feels different. The visuals of every planet, every character, every object, every environment just make your jaw drop. It is breathtaking and makes you want to explore the world even more. It runs fine technically too. There are minor frame-rate hiccups during a few scenes in the beginning but that is all for negatives. The game sounds impressive too. Everything from the orchestrated soundtrack to the Afterlife clubs techno rave music to every little sound on the battlefield sounds absolutely amazing.
Re-playability: This game takes around 25-30 hours to beat and around 35-40 hours to get everything done. My finished play time was around 28 hours. New Game+, endless story possibilities, being paragon or renegade, the desire to get every achievement, 4 different difficulties, and unique character classes will keep you coming back for more though! If that is not enough then there is the free download-able content with every copy of the game. I am not too crazy about the DLC mission and extra character but it is there. I have put in 50+ hours over 2 play-throughs already. The game is addicting and there are a surplus of reasons to keep playing.
Verdict: Buy Mass Effect 2 or get familiar with the franchise. Bioware has once again proved why they are some of the most talented developers out there. This series is the Star Wars of gaming and every gamer needs to play it.
Excellent Mixture of 3rd Person Shooting and RPG Elements
Fantastic Voice-Over Work
Beautifully and Deeply Multi-layered Characters
Very Deep Character Interaction
Lots of Exploration
Boss Fights Could Be Better
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Mass Effect 2 (US, 01/26/10)
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