Review by Galactus21

"Bioware's masterpiece for the ages..."

Mass Effect 2 is the second game of Bioware's trilogy. Albeit a very good game, the original Mass Effect had some flaws in its armor. Luckily for us, every hole that was present in Mass Effect has pretty much been addressed. The combat system felt much more refined and polished. The annoying driving sequences of the Mako have been stripped out. The frame rate issues have been rendered non-existent. The side quests have meaning and provide interest for players to get involved. With these issues addressed, what you have now is an rpg juggernaut that will be talked about for ages. Simply put, Mass Effect is not only the best rpg I've ever played, but it's perhaps the best game I've ever played.

Dive into this incredible fictitious world

One month has passed since the end of Mass Effect. Commander Shepherd and the rest of the Normandy quickly find themselves under attack. Through a chain of events, Mass Effect 2 will forward you 2 years. Your team has split up and you are now working for Cerebus (an organization that doesn't have too much positive press). Mass Effect 2 introduces one key person that I felt made the story as intriguing as any story out there. That key person was the illusive man (the head of Cerebus). The mystery that surrounds this man, as well as his calm, yet commanding demeanor portrayed an effective figure in this powerful narrative created by Bioware. Mass Effect 2's way of narrating this story is both a combination of the main storyline and your interactions and bond with your team members. Simply put, Mass Effect 2 has one of the best stories I have come across in a video game.

The reapers, an ancient race that makes an appearance to destroy sentient life forms every time sentience grows to a certain degree began showing up in the first Mass Effect game. In Mass Effect 2, the reapers are now utilizing a race called the Collectors. In order to defeat this new foe, Commander Shepherd needs to ally himself with power team members. Most of the game will be spent finding and recruiting these team members. Each team member has their own individual background. As you dive into that background and build your relationship with them, the story begins to flesh itself out and rallies one to the cause of these heroes and their fight for good.

At the beginning of the game, the player is given the choice to import a character from the original Mass Effect. What's especially cool about this is the player's decision in the original game will now directly affect things in the second game. A love interests that you may have had in the first game will hold true in this game. The current state of the galaxy was also decided by your play through of the first. What this potentially does is turning the Mass Effect trilogy into one of the greatest series of all time. Imagine all the different possibilities you could have based on the decisions you make in the first, then the second, and eventually the third game.

It might surprise some, but Mass Effect 2's combat system might be one of the best features in the game. While an rpg at heart, its third person shooting elements rivaled that of Gears of War (one of the best in the genre). The game play in the sequel plays similar to the original Mass Effect. The combat system just feels so much more polished. Everything felt smooth. The improvement in the combat system was also enhanced with a more balanced difficulty. I utilized strategy much more in this game by taking cover rather than running and gunning. Fire fights were intense throughout the game. The targeting system was slick and provided great controls for mowing down the wave of enemies. Enemies were also much more diverse than the original Mass Effect.

Additionally, Bioware opted for a simpler leveling up system that I thought worked out for the better. This time around there is fewer options for you to allocate your points. I believe this allows one to focus more on important attributes rather than fluff that would waste your points. The upgrades to your weapons and ship throughout the game also felt meaningful. Choosing to upgrade your accessories provide value to your squad as it directly affects them. By game's end, your characters become world class or galaxy class soldiers in this case by game end.

Characters from the first game also make appearances and at times become part of your side quests. Additionally, the neat thing is you get to hear about what happens to those characters based on the decisions you made in the first. This puts so much more meat to the story. It enhances the richness of the Mass Effect universe…making it one of the best told stories thus far in video game history.

Like all Bioware games, Mass Effect 2 presents decision tree type dialogue. Like the first, players should be aware of the decisions they make in Mass Effect 2, as it could directly affect how the Mass Effect universe will look by game 3. With that said, I will probably have plenty more play through with different scenarios spanning both games in preparation for Mass Effect 3. I imagine by end of Mass Effect 3, the story told through these 3 games will be something to remember for a long time to come.

Instead of forcing players to go through the Mako again, Bioware has heeded to our displeasure and provided us a better method to explore planets without the chore of exploring lifeless planets in a vehicle with fairly poor controls. Instead, the game now introduces to you to planet scanning with plenty of planets to scan. Now this becomes a bit more of a chore as well, but isn't quite as tedious as the Mako. It's not the best way, but it is a streamlined way of exploring through the numerous planets in Mass Effect.

Mass Effect 2 at its core is a little different than other games. Its main storyline revolves around your squad mates, or at least that's what it felt like for me. I'd spend most of my time recruiting team members in preparation of the final battle. A big part of the game is spending time getting to know your squad mates and earning their loyalty. Unlike Mass Effect 1, Mass Effect 2 introduces loyalty missions for each squat member for you to gain their loyalties. Based on whether the member is loyal or not could affect how they fight for you. I thought this concept was really interesting and provided a lot of depth to the character interaction and relationships.

One thing that threw me off in Mass Effect was the game's frame rate. You'd figure with the 360's technical prowess that it would be able to at least maintain 30 frames per second, but at times it has trouble doing that. Fortunately for us, Mass Effect 2 has been stripes of these problems. The game runs beautifully. In addition, Mass Effect 2 has beautiful graphics to boot. The character models were highly detailed. The cut scenes were also a sight to marvel. While not the best graphics out there, the game still has many technical features to love.

There have been plenty of games with fantastic voice acting, but I must say there probably is none better than Mass Effect 2. Every note, mood change, and delivery was nailed with near perfection by the actors in the game. They provided fantastic voice over befitting of the current occasion. The game also had a musical score that provided the right tunes during intense situation…for the entire game for that matter.

I completed the game at about 30 hours, with all loyalty missions completed and quite a few side quests completed. The side quests were much more entertaining this time around. Given the different scenarios one can have with Mass Effect 2 and its effect on the third game, I'd imagine when this is done; I will clock in hundreds and hundreds of hours on this game. The longevity of this game is enormous.

The wait for Mass Effect 3 will be that much more excruciating.

The wait for Mass Effect 3 is going to be painful, especially considering how good Mass Effect 2 is. Everything that was wrong with the original has been erased in this game. Bioware has created a masterpiece for the ages. This is a masterpiece that has surpassed all their masterpieces. Not only that, this masterpiece has surpassed its peers that span multiple console generations and multiple greats. Simply put, it is without a doubt that Mass Effect 2 is the best game I've ever played. If you are even a mild fan of video games, then Mass Effect 2 is a must play. I can't imagine anything being better than this, but if 3 is even better, and we will have a trilogy for the ages.

Let the countdown to Mass Effect 3 begin

Graphics – 10
Game Play – 10
Sound – 10
Value – 10
Overall – 10/10

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/01/10

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

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