Published on February 7th, 2010 | by Stephen Colfer4
Mass Effect 2 Review
I was a little sceptical coming up to the release of Mass Effect 2. Ever since Modern Warfare 2 became the most popular thing ever and somebody discovering that if you make games to make money then taking money from the development team and putting it into advertising instead is guaranteed to increase your sales, I been very cautious of a game that you can see everywhere coming up to its release. Thankfully Bioware and EA Games seem to have gotten the balance right because Mass Effect 2 (PC, Xbox 360) is not over hyped shoot ‘em up rubbish, it’s really damn good Sci-Fi and even better role playing combined with better than average shoot ‘em up bits.
You play commander Shepard, a character that cannot be described because he or she is your character. He could be an old and militant frontline soldier or she could be a young and shy sniper. Interestingly you have the option to import your Shepard from Mass Effect 1 along with all of his or her choices, experience and traits. This means that a hell of a lot of Mass Effect 2 potential story depends on choices made in the first game, from which characters are still alive to who’s calling the shots as head of the Galactic Alliance. Annoyingly there’s no way to make these choices if starting Mass effect 2 without importing a save game and default Shepard’s previous choices automatically make him a bit of a dick. Overall though the import a save feature is one of Mass Effect 2’s most impressive features, to the point that watching another person’s Shepard play though their version of the game feels like some kind of bizarre dream.
No matter what version of the galaxy you play in the basic goal of Mass effect 2 is quite simple. Fly around the galaxy and recruit a crew of various aliens, sexes and professions then ensure said crew are loyal by doing some sort of personal favour before attempting the final mission. It’s how you carry out this task that makes Mass Effect 2 truly great. You are Captain of the Normandy, a spaceship, but not just any old video game third person ship that you fly aimlessly through space with no sense of scale. This is a ship that you can explore, a ship that is driven by a whole crew who are under your orders, you can point it at a planet then head off for a ship inspection, visiting crew members in their own quarters, hang out in your very own Captain’s Cabin, stare aimlessly into space from the observatory or even visit THE ENGINE ROOM! A dream come true for sci-fi loving gamers everywhere and one that even the recent Star Trek Online managed to completely fail at.
Missions themselves involve landing on a planet with a team of three. These environments are wonderfully diverse from a snow covered crash site to a planet where direct sunlight is so strong sticking to the shade is essential. Missions are either a linear Gears of War cover based, blast your way through to the end affair or more story driven exploration where conversation and mystery solving is the key. RPG elements of combat have been greatly simplified from the original. Though you can still alter weapons characters are pretty much auto equipped with the best you could give them. Levelling involves giving points to individual skills rather than an overall stat increase. Should you mess up a character the option to redistribute their skill points is available for a price. The biotic powers available to some characters offer some amusing and fun combat tactics turning off gravity for three enemies at a time then watching them float hopelessly away never gets old. Thankfully every team member gains experience per mission even if they didn’t fight. This means you never have to worry about balancing the teams experience and are free to take whichever characters are your favourite as much as you like. Additional upgrades to the ship and character equipment can be made by spending raw materials mined from planets via a scanning mini game that involves looking at a graph, thankfully the rewards are frequent enough so that all this graph staring only gets a tiny bit old before the game is out. The exploration missions tend to depend on your conversation options. Shepard has Paragon and Renegade levels that increase as sensible or more rouge actions are carried out, depending on this you may be able to solve situations with words or quick shots to the head at the right moment but the scales raise themselves quite slowly and often game changing decisions rest on dialogue option you don’t have access too. Bizarrely you are sometimes given bonuses for maximising a skill meaning at one point I became a nicer guy because I was a really good sniper…
You’ll spend a lot of time worrying about your crewmates and as such some are well written characters you’ll become attached to and others are… well… a bit crap. Crewmates Miranda, Thane, Jack and Garrus all have complex and diverse back stories which often cause conflict between the characters themselves. However the mystery man funding Shepards new mission could have had a hell of a lot more to him. First of all why is he called “The Illusive Man?” Every time anybody says his name out loud I’m waiting for them to giggle to themselves as let’s face it, it’s a bit silly. Of course Mass Effect 1’s controversial relationship side quest returns. Any male character (if you’re a lady) or female (if you’re a chap) can be seduced via presents and conversation which could eventually lead to steamy, sometimes interspecies cutscene. However I’m afraid I can make no comment on this as try as he might my poor Shepard could not get himself laid. Miranda put a hand on his bicep once and said maybe when the mission is complete but once it was she then claimed there was “a lot to do.” In the mean time any other potential love interests seemed to all “like him as a friend”
Story of my Life really…
9 Enterprises out of 10 but play through Mass Effect first and it’s even better.