Review – Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 Is Unparalleled In Scope, Heart, Gameplay; Defines What A Game Should Be

It’s hard for me to explain just how amazing Mass Effect 2 is. Awe-inspiring, beautiful, vastly improved and emotionally gripping, Mass Effect 2 is one of the greatest games ever made. It is a game that should be bought and played several times. It is a revelatory gaming experience that sets the standard for what all games should aspire to be.

Mass Effect 2 opens with the Normandy, Commander Shepard’s spaceship, being attacked by a massive battleship of unknown origin. As the crew escapes, Shepard finds himself tossed out into space, air hissing out of the back of his suit, dying. Fast forward to two years later and Commander Shepard awakens on a ship that’s under attack. Escaping, he soon learns that his body was collected from deep space by Cerberus, a private corporation that pursues human interests, and has been brought back to life by incredibly advanced technology.

Mass Effect 2 finds Shepard working with Cerberus towards a shared goal – discovering what forces have been eliminating human colonies without leaving any bodies behind – and eliminating the threat. In the story, Shepard must recruit dangerous warriors from around the Galaxy to join his cause. Doing so requires tackling enormous challenges and each character brings their own personal quests to the mission as well.

Mass Effect 2‘s story is more emotionally affecting than any game ever made. Mass Effect 2 features a large host of characters, many of whom return from the first game in the trilogy, and nearly all of them are people that I grew to care about. Throughout the game Commander Shepard has ample opportunities to speak to his crew members, to travel to unique destinations with them, and, in the middle-portion of the game, Commander Shepard may choose to help his crew members tie-up loose strings and find closure before they embark on their potentially suicidal mission.

These missions help make the characters truly feel alive. They are highly personal journeys that reveal that some characters are more than just a cold shell, that others have regrets and that others yet have memories they would prefer to forget. These missions, which, when completed, help Shepard gain the loyalty of the squad member, are the most interesting in the game because of how they grow the characters and open them up to Shepard. It’s possible to simply recruit the squad members from around the galaxy and tackle the suicide mission without helping your squad mates close loose ends and come to grips with their past, but the emotional weight of the Mass Effect trilogy lies in its characters. Mass Effect is a stirring story of galaxy-saving heroics against impossible odds, but more than that it is about the galaxy and the people who live in it. There has to be a reason to want to save the galaxy, and the characters that inhabit the Mass Effect universe, both big and small, make it worth saving.

In all of the missions of the game Shepard will be required to use incredible biotic powers as well as superior firepower. Bioware has streamlined the game’s biotic power management so that pursuing powers requires less tinkering than in the first game. Shepard has the ability to fine-tune several biotic powers depending upon his class and each level of the power requires points earned when leveling up. The first level requires 1 point, the second 2, the third 3 and the fourth (and most powerful level) requires 4. This means that players may have to skip adding points after leveling up in order to reach the third of fourth level of a biotic power. The result, though, is a process that requires much less point management than in the previous game. Undoubtedly some RPG purists will miss having as much control over point management, I found, after initial reluctance to the new system, that it worked well.

Bioware has also fine-tuned the shooting experience in Mass Effect 2 to create a more robust game. Mass Effectsuffered from an identity crisis. It was an RPG but it also tried to be a shooter, gamers used firearms and the shooting controls, while sufficient, were clunky when compared to Mass Effect 2‘s finely tuned shooter controls. Indeed, Mass Effect 2 can be classified as an RPG / Shooter where Mass Effect was an RPG with shooter elements. The shooting works as well as in Gears of War and other third-person shooters and the cover system works incredibly well, too. Sprinting towards a wall will automatically move Shepard into cover. Or, if jogging, pressing the “A” button will make Shepard take cover on the nearest wall. He can peer around corners and over the tops of obstacles, allowing protection and strategic consideration amidst a hail of bullets.

Throughout the game Shepard will find rare minerals in levels and can also find more by scanning planets for the raw materials. These materials allow Shepard to perform upgrades to weapons, armor and, importantly, to the new, improved Normandy. Planetary exploration is a much improved aspect of Mass Effect 2. No longer does Shepard roam awkwardly around in his planetary rover. Now, you can scan planets for spikes that indicate rare materials and you will occasionally hear strange radio signals that will lead you to missions from finding hideouts to discovering downed ships. It works well and is far superior in providing an interesting method of exploring planets and systems than in Mass Effect.

Mass Effect 2 offers a huge variety of things to do. There are numerous side quests in addition to a powerful main story that is emotionally and physically wrenching. Furthermore, Mass Effect 2 touts the ability to carry over your saved characters from Mass Effect. I highly, highly recommend that players purchase Mass Effectand play through it before playing Mass Effect 2, and not because Mass Effect 2 isn’t accessible to people new to the series – it is, very much so – but because the first two games of the trilogy should be experienced and every gamer should have the opportunity to experience the consequences, both good and bad, of his actions.

I intend to not only play through Mass Effect 2 again, but through Mass Effect also so that I may make numerous, different decisions throughout the game to see their effects in Mass Effect 2. The ways in which Bioware integrated your previous decisions are fantastic. I had people thank me for the things I did in the previous game, I heard news reports of mysterious “Rachni” ships after I chose to free the Rachni queen in Mass Effect and there was palpable tension between humans and the other races as a result of my decision to not protect the Council in the first game. Furthermore, the decision whether to pursue a relationship with anyone in the second game was difficult for me. I felt allegiance to Ashley Williams despite the fact that she barely shows up in the second game and isn’t a squad member. I was torn between remaining faithful to her in the hopes of a rewarding relationship in the third game or pursuing a relationship with the intriguing, funny and down-to-earth character, Tali Z’Orah. There are numerous relationships that Shepard can pursue in Mass Effect 2, but like everything else in the game, there is a risk and reward system for doing so.

At the end of the day, Mass Effect 2 is a game that forces tough decisions and truly makes you consider every action because of the consequences that may carry over to Mass Effect 3. At the end of the game you must make a difficult decision and what you choose to do may change the outcome of the war against the Reapers in the finale of the trilogy.

Mass Effect 2 is what a sequel should be. It is superior to the first game in almost every way. And when the game it usurps is one of the greatest games of the generation, it speaks volumes to the achievements of Mass Effect 2. Mass Effect 2 is the greatest game I have ever played. It is a game that puts action and character development on equal footing. It features gut-wrenching decisions and there is nothing quite like knowing that the decisions you make will have consequences in the final game. Mass Effect 2 is a game that should be played by everyone. It is a game that sets the bar for what a game should be. Buy it now.



10


Pro’s

+ Stunning, huge galaxy to explore

+ Decisions that carry real weight

+ Ability to carry over characters from Mass Effect

+ Stunning character development

+ Beautiful worlds, beautiful graphics

+ Improved inventory, upgrades and biotics management system


Con’s

– We may have to wait a couple of years to finish the fight. Need…Mass Effect 3…now.


* This review of Mass Effect 2 is based on the experience on the Xbox 360.