Review by DocHM1

"Mass Effect 2 Review **Spoilers**"

Just completed my first playthrough. I haven't done a completionist play to do absolutely everything but I've done a comprehensive amount.

Gameplay/Combat/Customization - 8.5/10

I'd say the ammo/heat sink system is a step down, that seems to be a common conclusion. The overheat system was better by comparison since you could invest in skills or armor or upgrades to lower overheat times in Mass Effect 1. There were times when I would just like to rain down shots or suppressing fire but had to worry if I was going to run out of Heavy Weapon Ammo on my favorite weapons. I liked the new cover system for the most part but while I liked sprinting from cover to cover, I sometimes got a little stuck because he automatically ducks into cover when I wanted to just get behind something after a sprint. I miss being able to buy lots of different types of armors, by the end of my first play through I think I only found 3 different types of pieces for each armor type, which was weird considering there are so many different types of armors and weapons in the last game. I'm not sure a very abbreviated upgrade system was a good idea without being able to have at least a considerable selection to choose to upgrade from. I think I misread some of the reports that during coversations you would be able to rotate the camera but I might have confused that report for just a semi-non stationary view where the camera occassionally changes then changes back. *shrug* They took a lot of the useless skills out, which was good, but made no effort to replace them. Instead you have 4-5 upgradable skills that evolve once maxed out. You can do it easily in your first playthrough. I thought the points system was better, albeit the evolution concept was interesting. If only you still had EXP points to drown in, I would have appreciated the evolution at the end more. Overall the gameplay feels similar enough to the previous one to feel improved, only the minor gripes above and one other: the maps are waaaay smaller. Two discs and they didn't seem to have all the destinations they did in Mass Effect 1. I would have at least kept the Citadel/Presidium map big to retain its grandiose feel.

Story/Plot - 8/10

I agree with some of the other reviews that this isn't as captivating as Mass Effect 1, in that, you aren't the big shot in town anymore. Only two years after your supposed death you find your contribution hasn't made the lasting difference you thought it would make. However, there are subtle hints at the things you've changed being permanent in the form of your choices being carried over. I liked that your choices really hold weight in this game, moreso than the first game. A lot more conversations seem to affect this game and most likely the next game directly, adding to the open ended feeling of the game. I enjoyed the romance side quests, it was funny to try and romance multiple characters only to find out that there are events making you choose between your multiple mistresses (caaaat fight!). I did like that each character had missions but I felt like recruiting were the only major highlights of the plot; it was almost like they tried too hard, or took away too much to make your game choices culminate to the various endings you could get, with some/all of your crew, your team or just yourself living or dying. The character personal missions should have been highlights but there weren't many other smaller missions to make them look as good as they were, unlike the first game where you had A LOT of smaller missions ranging from infiltration to treasure hunting to being a "gopher" and running from place to place for semi-trivial reasons. Those kinds of smaller missions would have made the interwoven main plot and character plots look a lot better in my book. The ending was great though, with all the choices to loyalize your characters and upgrade the Normandy resulting in an ideal ending where everyone survives.

Graphics - 10/10

Anyone with a brain can see that the graphics were greatly improved, no more delayed texture loads, which I thought was one of their heavier improvements. The new character designs looked great. They continue to pioneer the way in this area and can ride a lot just on a good-lookin' finished product. Not much to say here.

Sound - 6/10

I thought the voice acting was amazing, on par if not better than the second one. Occassionally an odd conversation here and there, like after the crew gets captured and Mordin or other characters are still saying how polite everyone is lol. But my rating is mainly about the music. It sounded a little too Halo-ish without the iconic feel that went along with that particular score. I was wandering around the captain's cabin and thought I heard an Final Fantasy 8 nod, which was weird to me. I think the music is the only piece of Mass Effect I've ever found wanting, I think such an epic story and character deserve its own recognizable music piece.

Overall - 8/10

I'd say this game is fun enough to play a few times, maybe in combination with the first to see how things can be different. I wouldn't say it's negative points make it an expansion, it definitely feels like a sequel but it has severe middle child syndrome. It's not as interesting as the first and not as innovative or new as the third will probably be. It's a sequel, it's pretty much just here to grease the first and third installments, but I'll be damned if it isn't pretty high quality grease.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/02/10

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

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