Game Review: Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2, like its predecessor, scores a Busy Gamer 1

First Glance:
Bioware’s sequel to one of my favorite games ever. ‘Nuff said.

The Short Story:
Bioware has, in my opinion, a hit and miss history with sequels. I was not fond of the sequel to Baldur’s Gate but I was completely taken with the “addons” for Neverwinter Nights. So it was with some trepidation, and no small amount of excitement, that I dove into Mass Effect 2. There’s another huge game to be told here with some of the best voices in the industry, graphics that far outshine its predecessor, and a substantial universe to explore… again.

The Score:
If you read my review of Mass Effect, you know I loved the game. The only problem was that it was not Busy Gamer friendly in the least. A single playthrough could be accomplished in roughly ten hours but you were robbing yourself of one of the best game experiences you could have. The same holds true for the sequel. With the changes to the exploration portion of the game, you could easily invest several hours a day to gathering resources and finishing side missions without ever touching on the main story. As such, I’m forced to give Mass Effect 2 our lowest rating, a 1.

Body of review:
To say that I was addicted to Mass Effect would be an understatement. I had five complete playthroughs and a ton of different classed Shepherds to my credit when I finally took the disc out of my 360. I invested over a hundred hours and it was the only game to date for which I actually wanted all of the achievements. I’m telling you this because my expectations for Mass Effect 2 were the highest I’ve ever had for a sequel. Some aspects of the game failed to meet my expectations, others exceeded them. I’m going to start with the bits that disappointed me…

First, there was an overhaul to the weapons system. While the first game’s method of having to skill up in each weapon individually could be frustrating at times, I became used to it and actually enjoyed the process as I proceeded. The bonuses for excelling in a weapon felt earned and I had to learn to compensate for my characters low skill in a particular weapon which I felt to take additional skill. Anyone low skilled in a sniper rifle will tell you it took timing and patience to take down a target when you first got started. However, the ability to use any weapon in the game that your class is able to use is somewhat refreshing.

A skilled assassin and a tattooed biotic psycho as teammates... Behind me. I am a brave man.

Then there is the lack of “loot” in the game. Constantly on the lookout for better armor and weapons in the first game was something of a habit before too long into the story. My OCD lead me to try and get the same “skinned” armor for each member of my squad and I was constantly shuffling items to avoid having to convert items to Omni-gel. The ability to purchase new pieces for Shepherd and customizing the look of the armor is a nice touch but I miss decking out my team members in matching armor to look more like a squad.

This leads me to my next complaint… I don’t feel like there is nearly enough weapon love in the game. Part of this is the inability to change the “modification” loadout for the weapons. You purchase a weapon, you use it, it never changes. I liked being able to change out the ammo type or modifying the mods to add more damage or to shed heat more quickly. And now there’s ammo for the weapons. Still based on heat, the weapons have to have “thermal clips” which essentially have to be ejected once a certain amount of shots are fired. Granted, I had the assault rifle in the first game where you could essentially lean on the trigger which felt a bit overpowered but I’m still undecided on how I feel about the ammo requirements.

I also miss the Mako. While I enjoy the new planet scans (you have to move a targeting scope across the face of the planets to scan them for missions and minerals), I miss the freedom of landing on a planet and driving from place to place looking for trouble. It makes the on planet missions feel more compartmentalized and less about exploring then about getting to the next bit of the mission. Which brings me to the things I love about the game…

Dare I say... BOOM! Headshot!

Bioware took the old quest system from the first game and left it relatively intact. The small changes they did make, however, make it so much easier to figure out where to go or who to talk to next. One of my few complaints about the original ME was the difficulty you could have picking up where you left off on a quest after an extended absence. ME2 provides waypoints and specific information on where you are in a quest, giving you much more specific information on what goal you are trying to achieve. The quest log still feels a little cluttered but the streamlining of how the quests are presented makes it much more acceptable.

The graphics are incredible, I can’t stress this enough. After a few moments of watching how blocky my character imported from the first game seemed in comparison to the new models, I went back and made a few minor modifications to the way I looked and ended up with a considerably more graphically appeasing face for the cutscenes.

The addition of the active Paragon/Renegade choices during the cutscenes was inspired. Think someone is taking too long to give their little “I’m a bad guy” speech? Chances are Bioware gives you the opportunity to cut it short with a little violence. Some of the actions are downright ruthless while others give you the opportunity to show off you virtuous side.

What? No Frisbee Grenades? I suppose this BFG will have to suffice.

The voice acting and sound effects are top notch. With somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 lines of dialogue, it can be easy to forget you’re playing a game instead of  taking part in an interactive movie. The list of talent in this game reads like a who’s who in the science fiction industry with names like Michael Dorn, Claudia Black, Adam Baldwin, Tricia Helfer, and Keith David just to name a few. Of course, Seth Green returns as the voice of Joker and Shepherd is voiced by  the returning Jennifer Hale and Mark Meer, the female and male versions respectively.

The feel of the game’s story is an epic tale of good versus evil, the survival of the human race, and, if one takes the time to develop the relationships, a romantic tale. There’s the return of old friends and foes, the realization of the desperate measures required for the continued existence of the universe as we know it, and the lengths each of the characters is willing to go to in order to ensure victory over the forces of evil.

While this may not be a Busy Gamer friendly game, I would be doing you a injustice to say it’s not worth the time investment. Yes, it’s long, and yes, it’s hard to squeeze in short play sessions of any sort. But if you played the first game and enjoyed it, you *will* enjoy the second game and the continuing saga that Bioware is weaving for us… I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens next.

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Posted By Gritskrieg

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