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Review – Mass Effect 2 | Level Up News

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Review – Mass Effect 2

 

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Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare Edmonton
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PC
Genre: RPG, Third-person shooter

Rating: Mature 17+
ESRB Content Descriptors: Blood, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content

The Scoop: The sequel to 2007’s Mass Effect has finally been released! (Note: This review is for the Xbox 360 version. You can find the PS3 review here.)

The Setup: Commander Shepard is back (barely) and has formed an unlikely alliance for a suicide mission to stop an ancient alien race from abducting human colonists.

Editor’s Note: I highly recommend playing Mass Effect before playing Mass Effect 2. While not necessary, playing the first game will not only help you understand the overall story, but appreciate the references to the original and improvements of the sequel.

What’s Hot: Creating a follow-up for a game as complex and vibrant as Mass Effect was isn’t an easy task. But Mass Effect 2 pulls it off with such ease it’s amazing. The game truly feels like a sequel instead of another game with the Mass Effect title slapped on the box.

Like with my Dragon Age: Origins review, I’ve broken up the good bits into highlights:

  • Importing Mass Effect Shepard: The most anticipated feature of the game is also my favorite; it’s what gives Mass Effect 2 the “next chapter” feel. I imported my Level 60 Female Shepard and was, for the most part, able to pick up exactly where I left off. In the beginning, the game reminded me of my major, locked-in decisions from Mass Effect, like who survived Virmire and whether the Council was sacrificed. As the game progressed, seemingly miniscule details from my save file carried over. Mass Effect 2 knew which random NPCs I killed/didn’t kill, whose lives I changed, what I’d done on side quest planets. There is the ability to start over with a brand new Commander Shepard, but word of warning: This isn’t Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords where you tell the sequel what happened in the first game. I started several games with a brand new Shepard, and each time the game randomly chose the outcomes of both major and minor decisions for me. If you want to start anew, that’s fine. But I highly recommend importing a Mass Effect save file for the most rewarding gaming experience.
  • Shepard’s Customization: As for the “for the most part” clause above, you are given the option to change some things about your Shepard, such as her class, facial features, hair color, the sort. In addition to modifying what Shepard physically looks like, you also have the ability to modify what her armor looks like. No more choosing fashion over function. If you want your Shepard to run around in Barbie Pink N7 armor, you can make it so with the press of a button. Think Sims 3 color and facial customizations.
  • Returning Characters: To anyone who’s seen a Mass Effect 2 trailer, it’s not spoiling anything to reveal that two returning NPCs from Mass Effect—Garrus and Tali—are recruitable party members. And it’s great to have them both back! (Yay, Garrus!) But in addition to the fan favorites, random characters from Mass Effect will pop up now and then, sometimes in the least expected places. So far I’ve run into several characters from two of the main quest planets in Mass Effect: Noveria and Feros. It’s fun to see these people again and see where they’ve gone to and done since last encountered. It’s a great little touch. And let’s not forget the ability to reunite with Shepard’s old flame from Mass Effect. (Yay, Kaidan!) Sure, Shepard can romance any number of characters in your party, but Shepard can also stay true to her first love.
  • New Characters: There’s a small army of new characters and recruitable party members that are just as dynamic as the returning ones. As for new party members, their stories and backgrounds are extensive and well thought-out and really add to the overall story. You can’t help but come to care for them, making it difficult to choose which two will accompany Shepard on various missions. It’s like trying to choose which of your dysfunctional alien children your favorite is.
  • Combat: Mass Effect placed a lot of emphasis on the game’s new approach to role-playing and how extensive the dialogue trees and options were, with little emphasis on making the game’s combat elements challenging. Mass Effect 2 has completely overhauled the combat elements in favor of something reflecting Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Long gone are the days of micro-managing your squads weapons and armor, hoarding various guns, selling weaker ones, and running all over the galaxy looking for Spectre grade assault rifles, frictionless materials, and Colossus armors. Now there’s no such thing as unlimited ammo. Weapons need to be loaded and reloaded, new ammo packs found and stored, even armor and ship modifications bought and installed. Though it seems an unsettling change from Mass Effect, once you’re used to the improvements, it works pretty well.
  • Graphics: Mass Effect was gorgeous. Mass Effect 2 surpasses that. The characters look even more detailed and realistic than they did in the predecessor, lip sync more accurate, and movement more fluid.
  • Level Up System: The original system in the first Mass Effect allowed players to custom tailor Shepard and NPCs abilities, favoring, say, heavy biotic abilities over combat, or strength in shotguns instead of sniper rifles. Mass Effect 2 starts out by giving characters four ability options to choose from, two of them reserved for the type of ammo that character can use, with other abilities available after being unlocked. Instead of having one or two points to spend on talents each time a character levels up, talent points have to be hoarded then distributed once enough have been earned. At first, I was not a fan of this new system and wished things had been just like the original game. However, the more I play the game, the more I appreciate the simplicity of the leveling up system. It’s something that’ll grow on you.
  • Hacking overhaul: In Mass Effect there were three ways to open up locked crates and lockers—color match with the control buttons (for Xbox 360 users), move the cursor around the maze without getting hit (for PC users), or omni-gel. Mass Effect 2 has gotten rid of Simon Says and Frogger and gone with two variations of a matching game, one involving symbols and one involving color and pattern matching. While different, and definitely an improvement, it can be a little confusing at first. Overall, though? Much, much better than Frogger.
  • No Mako: The six-wheeled Jeep that could scale cliff sides at 85 degree angles is no more. Instead, Shepard and her crew must hike it all over the map. While the Mako proved to be both a frustrating and hilarious feature of the first game, I support its removal from the sequel.
  • Story: Awesome and fantastic! Look for a wholly separate article on Mass Effect 2‘s story coming soon!

What’s Not: As much as I love this game, there are some frustrating downsides:

  • No Medi-Gel Healing: A Geth shoots you for massive damage in Mass Effect? No problem! Tap Y and medi-gel heals all your wounds. Not so in Mass Effect 2. If Shepard is shot, duck and cover and hope your other teammates take out the baddies before you’re shot again. While medi-gel exists in Mass Effect 2, it’s only used for Unity—the magic button that brings fallen squad mates back to life. This, again, is something similar to how Uncharted 2 handled injuries and healing. But for those of us who have played Mass Effect (a lot), we keep hitting Y out of instinct wondering why Shepard is still bleeding.
  • Repetitive Dialogue: My housemates have created the Mass Effect 2 Drinking Game—take a drink every time someone says “Just like old times”.
  • No Map: Technically there is a map if you bring up the main menu, but I would much rather have a smaller map on the bottom right-hand side of the screen for quick reference. And flags!  For the love of Pete, flags!  It would save a lot of time instead of having to wander aimlessly around space stations missing where I’m supposed to go. Clicking the right analog stick will bring up a split-second compass so I can see if I’ve passed my goal, but the chime that accompanies it is rather annoying. Give me back my map! And while I’m at it, put everyone’s health bar back in the bottom left-hand corner. Walking around with my team’s portraits on Shepard’s butt isn’t helpful. Who thought that looked good?
  • No Inventory: Again, technically there is an inventory, but not like the original. This one favors a collection system like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, where new weapons and armor are immediately sent to one big inventory on Shepard’s ship, and weapons already owned are not collected multiple times. This saves a lot when it comes to micro-managing guns and outfits, eliminating having to constantly check if every member of the team is equipped with the best your inventory has to offer. However, you equip the shiny new weapon immediately, and if you don’t like it, you can’t switch it out until you find a weapons locker of head back to the Normandy. The armor modifications work completely opposite. So that new armor plating you just bought? Can’t equip it until you’re back in Shepard’s quarters.

Final Verdict: It’s not easy to have a successful sequel for this type of RPG game; Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II proved that one the hard way. But  I’m extremely impressed by Mass Effect 2. It’s the little things, like reappearing characters and remembered decisions that make the blending of the two stories together look seamless. Mass Effect 2 was well-worth the wait. Fans of and newcomers to this series will not be disappointed.

Review - Mass Effect 2, 5.0 out of 5 based on 6 ratings
 

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About the author

Ever since her father introduced her to arcades at age four, Jennifer has been a gamer. Known around the office as the walking Star Wars encyclopedia, her favorite games include Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Metal Gear Solid, and Mass Effect. Follow her on Twitter! @jennifervolpe

 
 

Comments

  1. Abe Arceo says:

    I’m completely impressed with Mass Effect 2 as well! I liked the changes made to the hacking system and scanning for minerals actually became addicting. This is one of those games that should not be passed up – it’s a completely rewarding experience!

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  2. beffyb0b says:

    after playing and beating both games im inspired to read the books. bravo bravo

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  3. required_name says:

    Top contender for game of the year. This game needs a PS3 port.

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  4. de_lux says:

    Bioware should have brought back the Mako or another to drive. Oh well, maybe next time. It’s a great game no matter how you slice it. Mordin FTW.

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  5. Joey Caltabellotta says:

    I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite store on the Citadel!

    Mining gave me the urge to stab people, especially elders. That’s the only arguement I have with BioWare. Other then that, it’s a very good game. I thanked the Gods when I found out that they brought back all of the voices for the original ME characters. A new voice on Shepard would have pissed me off.

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