Review by dsver11

Reviewed: 02/22/10

Mass Effect 2 = Dumbed down Mass Effect 1

Mass Effect 2 wants to be Gears of War (which isn't a bad thing), but also wants to forget everything that made Mass Effect 1 so great.

As an Action RPG, Mass Effect 1 had a good balance between the action (real-time combat) and the RPG (inventory, leveling, etc.) ME2 keeps the action, but severely reduces the RPG elements, basically dumbing it down.

The graphics are amazing, but that's par for the course for Bioware. The Illusive Man's office was particularly stunning. The voice acting is also top-notch, but again that's a Bioware staple.

This is not a review on character creation, because I didn't create a character, per se. I imported my ME1 character into ME2. This, hands down, is my favorite aspect of ME2. It's so brilliant that not only your character, but also the decisions and story that he/she lived through can be properly continued in the sequel. This aspect makes ME2 a true sequel and raised my hopes that the rest of the experience would be as involved.

Now, this is the big negative in my review, and the reason why I'm not enjoying ME2 as much as ME1. Collecting weapons, armor and mods was a major part of ME1. Some people felt that it was too tedious, too much like a traditional RPG. I can see their point. At the latter stages of ME1 you might have dozens of weapons and armor suits. BUT, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of specific weapons/armor was easy.

You didn't need a "dungeon master's" guide and a calculator to figure out which gun was better. The comparison system in the inventory clearly pointed out which stats were better and which weren't. You could decide to go for more power over accuracy, or better shields over damage protection. The choices were fun. And the mods meant you could really tweak a weapon or a suit of armor.

Was the amount of weapons/armor available a little too big? Maybe, but the solution to that would be to reduce the number of possible weapons/armor/mods SLIGHTLY. ME1 had dozens of choices; ME2 has 4-5. That's too big of a reduction. And now, you can't just buy or find weapons/armor/mods, you also have to research them using mined materials...yes, you have to mine planets now (just as fun as it sounds).

You have also lost the ability to mod your teammates, beyond which weapons they take and a few character-specific mods (that have to be unlocked and researched).

Biotic powers are similar to ME1, but you can pretty much max out everything within the first part of the game. There are no choices as to which areas you want/need to focus on. It all just feels limited and dumbed down.

As I mentioned before, the ACTION part of Action RPG is the main focus of ME2. There's more emphasis on cover, and it is now possible to individually target body parts. This basically means headshots. Oh, and you can actually melee attack now in a normal way.

ME2 now has an illogical thermal clip (read: ammo) system that becomes pure frustration. It's ammo, but it's not ammo. Maxed-out, your shotgun will hold 15 shots. It doesn't matter if there are more clips lying around, 15 is your limit...WTF!

And in the two years since ME1, medigels apparently don't heal you any more. No, they're meant for reviving teammates. So you can be bleeding out, with a pack full of medigels, but you can't use them. Instead you have to find a dark corner to recover. Hey, that's the GoW way, which is fine, BUT in Gears your character can roll and dive around, run with his head down and move from cover to cover fluidly. ME2 can't do ANY of those things. If the **** hits the fan, you can only run away stiffly. It's a half-assed attempt to be Gears of War.

STORY 7.5/10
Again, a big bonus to ME2 for being able to port your ME1 story to ME2 (via character import), but ME2's story is a little flat. Finding a team is the majority of what you'll do. And it's literally just that: finding a team. It's not an organic process like in ME1 where people you encounter in certain missions may join your team.
The biggest letdown is that the whole Mass Effect universe now seems so hollow. No one really cares about you, you don't really trade with anyone (because there are only about 15 items in existence to buy), and there are barely any sidequests. You don't feel like you're in the Mass Effect universe, you feel like you're on the Disney-ride version of the Mass Effect universe.

Vehicles, what vehicles? The much-maligned Mako is gone, replaced by a non-controllable shuttle and planet scanning/mining. Now, I admit that the Mako had it's flaws (verticle jumpjets...), but it did give combat some variety. I would have like have seen an improved Mako with some vehicle-on-vehicle action.
Instead, in their ME2 style, Bioware just got rid of it. There is a DLC vehicle (Hammerhead), but it hasn't been released yet, and I'm not sure what function it would have.

I loved Mass Effect, but saw places that needed improvement. Mass Effect 2 isn't about improvement, it's about changing things just to change them. Mass Effect 2 is a dumbed down, hollow sequel that looks shiny and promising until you start playing. Bioware needs to decide if they want to make mediocre shooters or top-notch Action RPGs. I guess we'll see if Mass Effect 3 comes out.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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

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