- Dec 29, 2008
OI: Spoilers, however small they may be, will be present in this review. Ye hast been warnedeth.
Now, I'm very well aware that many of you are sick to the hospital of hearing about Mass Effect 2, or as is it shall be referred to, Badass Simulator 2. However, I'm still gushing over it, having beaten it twice and starting a third, looking under every nook, every cranny and every other generic metaphor under the Sun for fun new things to find, little snippets of dialogue I haven't heard or just more of the involving, intriguing universe that has been established.
For those who do not know, and let's be frank, there are none of you who don't know, Mass Effect 2 is the sequel to the excellent Mass Effect, released in 2007. Now, if you like Mass Effect, you'll almost certainly love/have already bought Mass Effect 2. However, if you're in the camp that disliked the "dumbing down" of the inventory, or the emphasis on action in combat, then it will undoubtedly have been RUINED FOREVER.
Mass Effect 2 starts with a huge explosion and ends with one. Bookends, if you will, except with more stuff on fire. The beginning is exactly what you need to get back into the Mass Effect universe, before hopping on the time train two years into the even further future, with Shepard back from the brink, and in my case, a handsome new face and magical space-powers. You're quickly introduced to several new characters, such as Miranda Bitchface, and Jacob McBoringpants. Also introduced is the elusive Illusive Man, a man with strange eyes, a silly name and the best voice ever; that of Martin Sheen. Chucked onto a planet and having a new threat hurriedly introduced, it's once again up to Shepard and the Justice League to save the galaxy from bug men/starships. Humans are being abducted en masse, and the Illusive Man wants you to find out why.
The eventual payoff for this is exciting, a little bit scary and very satisfying. The lead up to the end is... different, story-wise. As opposed to the first game, it's not really a single coherent storyline, but each character you recruit tells their own tale, and has their own mission tied to that. It's intriguing, if rather hard to explain. The characters you meet are all great, with the exception of Bitchface and Boringpants, each character has an interesting backstory and a profound depth, should you choose to explore their dialogue options. Whether it be Mordin's unexpected guilt pangs, or Jack's disturbing childhood, they all have a story unique to them and it's deeply satisfying to see them through to the end.
That's a word I've already used quite a bit; satisfying. It's a great word to describe Mass Effect 2. Each class will be satisfying to someone in their depth and nuance, the story is satisfying in it's conclusions and engrossing atmosphere and the universe crafted is satisfying to explore, with each and every aspect of your weaponry, equipment and alien best buds described in what can be called too much detail in your handy Codex.
The real meat of the game for me was exploring, taking in the sights and picking up on all the loose threads from the first game. It's satisfying, even to recieve an email from a character in the first game who you may or may not have helped and find out how they're getting on. I won't spoil it for you, but you'll be surprised at how referential this game is to the first. This is also the games biggest problem from a storytelling angle. If you haven't played the first, you'll be missing out on a lot. You'll be confused, "Who the hell is Conrad Verner and why is he such a tool?", you may ask. And you won't get an answer until you play the first through. It's 14x more satisfying to have a save game imported from the original. This is a deeply personal game, full of choice and unexpected consequence, to the point where you must really think about what you do.
To somewhat contradict that is the new interrupt system. Every so often during a conversation, a little doo-dad in the bottom left of the screen will flash up, red for a Renegade (Type A Badass) interrupt, such as pushing an uncooperative merc out of a window or shooting a Krogan detailing his galactic domination plans, or blue for a Paragon (Type B Badass) interrupt, such as healing an injured soldier, or punching someone in the face (it makes sense in context). This gives a sense of urgency to the conversation, and a sense that your actions matter. What's better is that these are entirely avoidable, scenes will definately play out differently depending on the interrupt you choose, if any. This just hits home the notion of meaningful choice, your actions will have consequences, often in ways you don't expect and may even affect who lives and who dies
Obviously, a great deal of effort has been poured into Mass Effect 2's combat. With it's great blend of real time shootyshooty and paused magic the game has a greater sense of tactics and squad placement than the first. You can now control your squadmates independently, giving a greater sense of freedom in your tactics, and with more hotkeys to assign to powers the game really encourages you to stay in the action and think on your feet. Having played a few classes, I have to say that the Vanguard is the most entertaining. An expert of close-range combat, I would often use Biotic Pull to drag an enemy, kicking and screaming, through the air and pop him in one shot from my shotgun. Endless combinations between powers, weapons and squad talents makes for fun combat. Just the right balance has been struck between talky and shooty that it's hard to get bored in Mass Effect 2. Unfortunately, the squad AI is riddled with niggles. Like squadmates not following you when you tell them, not using powers as instructed, walking randomly into the center of the battlefield like a small child in the motorway and generally just being a nuisance. It gets frustrating to have to use more and more precious MediGel to revive Thane for the 6th goddamn time because he can't move out of the way of the damn Husks!
Another disappointment is the much-lauded N7 missions. While planet-scanning (a strangely hypnotic affair) you may rarely come across an anomaly. These range from saving a city from missiles to stopping a crashing spaceship to guiding an impossibly slow mech through the most tedious environment ever they are rarely more than "walk through here, read a datapad then kill some folks". Still leagues beyond the original Mass Effect's "walk through here, kill everyone then repeat ad nauseum" nonsense. That may actually be a testament to how dreadful side-missions were in the original.
These little niggles, however, are nothing to detract from this beast. This glorious, monumentous artistic achievement. I haven't even touched on the astounding, original art style, the epic music or the hilarious asides. According to Raptr, I've played for 62 hours and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. This game is amazing, I urge you to buy it.
This has been T-Bone, your guide to the world of opinions.
PS: I would appreciate feedback.