Review by DMCfreak11
Mass Effect 2: Outstanding
The first Mass Effect was really like a massive brick to the face for me. Before I played it I had been a firm believer that shooters and RPGs should stay the hell away from each other. I originally bought this second hand for next to nothing as something to play in between the generic shooter I was playing at the time and the latest offering by Square-Enix. So you can imagine my surprise when Mass Effect turned out to be... good, wonderful in fact. The classic sci-fi leanings and very accessible story and gameplay made it a joy to play through. Mass Effect 2 takes this game and improves it in almost every way. Why only almost? Read on, good buddy, and find out.
Okay, story Im real happy for you and imma let you finish, but the gameplay is the first thing to discuss every time. Mass Effect 2 has better combat by far than ME1, it feels much more streamlined and has a great flow. Playing through ME2 you definitely notice the difference. Of course, ever the cynic, I have one massive problem with the streamlining. I loved the levelling system in ME1, I loved earning squad points and being able to spend hours (collectively, not every level) choosing where to assign them. Should I increase my skill with sniper rifles, or should I improve my charm? Shotguns or SMGs? It was a very engaging system, and to replace it was, in my most humble opinion, blasphemous. Same with the weapons and armours. It was very gratifying to come back from a mission to find several new guns, each bigger and better than the last. This has all been done away with and been replaced with a much less interesting process, in my no wait, this is very important, IN MY OPINION. Yes, hmmm, anyway, ah yes, a much less interesting system and very limited amount of weapons and armours. I can see the logic behind it. The old method was very clumsy and cumbersome but that was what I liked about it. Redundant point aside, even this (rather big) problem with the game wasnt enough to deter me. Moving on.
The combat in ME2 feels a lot better, it had to really, being as youll be doing a lot more of it. It feels (and this is one of the benefits of the overall streamlining) much more fast paced and smooth. Changing weapon can still feel as clunky as it did before but the actual dispatching of enemies is a lot more fun. The only reason for this that I can deduce is that your weapons feel a lot more powerful. This is sort of contradicting my previous point, I know, but ... shut up. When you make a mechs head explode, or freeze an enemy then blow it up with a grenade you can feel it through the controller, and that is fantastic, even if Bioware was slower on the uptake than Johnny Bravo.
Im going to play the streamlined card again with the gameplay outside of combat too. You see, Bioware has most certainly listened to the complaints put to them by players of ME1. Gone are the hours and hours of tedious Mako driving only to find yet more generic compounds full of geth throwing themselves at you like lambs to the slaughter and and... actually, that was kind of fun. The point is gone are the tedious hours of Mako driving. There are still enemies throwing themselves at you like lambs to the slaughter but this time some of them are actually, you guessed it, wolves in lambs clothing. Enemies are smarter than the previous instalment, taking cover more than usual (unless youre at close range, in which case they seem to think Meh, nuts to this, CHARGE!) which forces you to think more tactically, especially at higher difficulties. Hmmm, Im slipping into combat again arent I? Okay, that was the last time Ill mention it, I promise.
Of course, taking out the only way of exploring planets meant that another one had to be brought in, or risk not meeting the tedium quota that comes standard with every RPG; Im not bashing it, thats just how it is. That or immersion... Yeah, probably the immersion thing. Anyway, the new way of exploring planets is Planet Scanning. The basic idea is that you can scan the surface of a planet from the Normandy and fire probes down to gather resources that you can use for upgrades. This sounds much better than the old system on paper and for the most part it is both faster and easier than the old method. Its main problem is the execution. Much like chopping at wood with a blunt axe, I think that Bioware are going to have to take multiple swings at this before getting it right. Planet scanning isnt as bad as the Mako driving but it is by no means great or even good. You drag a reticule across the surface of a planet, occasionally firing a probe when the scanner says there are some units of various resources. Yeah... riveting. Its not enough to mar the overall experience however, as youll find out.
The story is as engaging, if not more so, than ME1 because, and Im going to play the streamlined card just once more I swear, it flows a lot faster due to the mission system being a lot more streamlined. Going from mission to mission doesnt feel as disjointed as it did in ME1 due to missions, both main and side, feeling interlinked and actually helping you with your main goal. One massive commendation for this game is the characters; the voice actors did a wonderful job, save a few select exceptions that are so funny that Im not sure if they were accidents. Some of my favourite parts of the game came from interactions between my squad and various citizens I met on my mission. Particularly fun times came from Archangel and Grunt, along with every salarian in the game. Also worthy of a mention are the various conversations between NPCs that you can overhear. One of my favourites being between two Krogans on Citadel and the conversation between the Normandys engineers after you visit them for the first time. Little things like that really draw you into the game and make it very immersive. Other things that draw you in like that do-dad on an angler fish are the messages you receive from people you helped (or hindered) detailing their thanks that actually made me think, Aw, isnt that sweet. They took the time. Until I realised it was a game and punched myself in the face for talking to the screen again.
So yeah, I could go on for hours, well, pages, talking about this game and I would have liked to spend more time ripping on it but, unfortunately I couldnt. This game is spectacular, not perfect by any means, I made that point clear, but sufficiently great to allow free passage through the Keyboard of Death. This is a wonderful game. Get it. Its dirt cheap now and is exceedingly fun to play even if you havent played through ME1, although if you havent played that... what is wrong with you. Go and get that too. Now.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Mass Effect 2 (EU, 01/29/10)
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