PAX ’09 Coverage: Mass Effect 2

Commander Shepard comes in peace. His "little friend", however, is angry.

Commander Shepard comes in peace. His "little friend", however, is angry.

If any of you have seen my Gamertag on Xbox Live, you’ll know that I’m a Mass Effect fan. I can honestly say that Mass Effect is one of the perfect examples of a game that a Busy Gamer will want to steer clear of unless you have: A.) Vacation Time or B.) The desire to completely alienate your friends and family by disappearing for a couple of weeks while you beat the game.

Mass Effect is the only game to date that has inspired me to complete every achievement for the 360. Yes, I even beat the game on the insanity difficulty and yes, I am proud of that fact. There have been very few games throughout my life which could inspire that level of ambition. It’s been over a year and the N7 gamer pic is still flying proud on my profile.

Having explained all of this, it should be no surprise to you that one of the games I was most looking forward to seeing at PAX ’09 was Mass Effect 2. It’s possible that I may have even trampled a small child to get to the BioWare booth for a chance at the playable demo. And once I was done, I had to take a deep breath. While I was mostly pleased with the demo, there were a few things I noticed that made me wonder if I would have the same degree of enthusiasm for the sequel as I did for the original.

The good stuff:
The combat system is intact. Moving into a firefight, the controls felt familiar and I picked them up easily having committed them to muscle memory from the first game. This was Mass Effect at its best. BioWare didn’t fix it because it wasn’t broken. I found myself instinctively taking cover and waiting to line up my shots.

There are now heavy weapons in the game. In the original, you could count on having to use the hell out of your grenades for any kind of area damage outside of making a weapon nearly useless with explosive rounds. The weapons we saw were perfect for clearing out enemies who refused to move from cover. No more suicide runs to try and flank enemies solidly entrenched in an area.

Shepard lets his fear of crash test dummies get the best of him.

Shepard lets his fear of crash test dummies get the best of him.

While there are new characters, there appear to be a few favorites returning. One of the new characters is a Krogan who doesn’t appear to have anything to do with Wrex. Perhaps the story will explain why we replaced our favorite foul mouthed Krogan with the new kid. Tali appears to be around but whether she will be joining our squad or not appears to be unknown at this time.

The choices we made in the first game do apparently effect what happens in the second game. While it does not appear that Kaiden or Ashley will be joining us to wreck alien life forms, it is being said that the human you chose to save in the first game will be present in the sequel.

The graphics look largely unchanged and if anything, look to be even better. The backgrounds and cutscense are still beautiful.

The enemy AI appears to have been improved in many ways. I watched as one enemy used an assault rifle to keep me pinned behind cover as another tried to sneak around behind my cover for a clear shot. The improved AI also allows for greater squad control by allowing us to issue individual commands to our squad mates.

The bad stuff:
There isn’t much I can say about the game that is negative. Although I could go on a rant about not getting Wrex as a squad mate again. But that’s a personal preference.

Weapons have to be reloaded now. Whether this is a result of overpowered weapons in the original Mass Effect (two Frictionless Ammo X mods on your assault rifle resulted in a “Spray and Slay” weapon with practically no worries about ever letting off the trigger) or something the community requested, I can’t say I like this. Yes, my Soldier character had the insane assault rifle but not having to worry about running out of ammo let me concentrate on commanding my squad and making sure they stayed alive.

Old friends and new friends, the Squad you choose can make or break you.

Old friends and new friends, the Squad you choose can make or break you.

This is more of a fear than a bad thing but it looks like we’re going to be seeing a lot more of the Citadel in the sequel. In my mind, I had created entire subplots that could be carried out in the massive space station and only being able to travel to certain portions only fueled the fires of my imagination. Hopefully the mystique of the Citadel will be preserved while allowing us more access.

Overall, the game is shaping up nicely and with a predicted launch date of 2/1/2010, it’s actually closer to completion than I initially thought. I imagine the Reckon Crew will be mysteriously silent that week. Or not if the game fails to live up to our expectations.

We’re watching you, BioWare.

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Posted By Gritskrieg

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