There’s a common term in trilogies: sequel-itis. When a new series like Mass Effect is introduced, it’s important to note how well the first game is received. Obviously, the first was a success, and I bet it is sitting on your game shelf right now. When it came time for the series second installment to be released, people became skeptical yet excited. You see, when a sequel is released, people become uneasy. Halo 2, Empire Strikes Back, even hits like Left 4 Dead 2 drew much criticism. So, people will generally become weary when that second game comes along. I can tell you now, Mass Effect 2 breaks all of the rules. Not only is it phenomenal, it could be the best game I have ever played. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Check out this Mass Effect 2 review to find out exactly what I mean.
I went into Mass Effect 2 with an open mind. I didn’t particularly like the first game, and I never enjoyed the wordiness of BioWare games in general, but this game hit me with a one-two punch to the stomach when I saw what has essentially become an art style. Everything comes together perfectly, and when you begin to look deeper into the game, a feeling of awe comes over you. The story is as epic as the first, with a better supporting cast and an even larger amount of places to explore. I won’t even bother explaining how the game handles, simply because it is identical to its predecessor. No, what truly matters is the plot and how well it compares to the previous game’s accomplishments.
You will either continue to create your own legacy with your character from the first game, or create a new account and choose all the basic info to create your character’s back story. I chose to continue the story of my own future self, Mr. Brandon Shepard. I don’t want to prematurely crush your skepticism, and I will refrain from revealing any spoilers, but I will say this: the very first thing you do in Mass Effect 2 is die. I’m sure you know this already, and can easily draw the conclusion (hint: look at the available DLC), but it is also a major plot point that has received much attention since the sneaky little bastards at BioWare let out that smidgen of leaked info. Cerberus, a human-supremacy group of sorts, sees the opportunity in this and seizes the moment, bringing Shepard back to life with state of the art technology. After going through this process, the antagonist of the story is introduced. It appears that an alien race, The Collectors, are capturing entire human colonies. Cerberus, being their human-loving selves, wants Shepard to put an end to this by all means necessary, which will commonly include taking names and kicking ass.
As the story advances, Shepard must collect his own little task force, a team of the best killers in the universe. This is where most of the side missions come in, as well as where most of the back story is portrayed. These sidekicks range from the ultimate biotic experiment to possibly the coolest assassin I have ever seen in a game. I will hold back on the rest of the cast to avoid spoilers, but know that if you chose to continue your save file from the first game, your choices will affect who you can recruit. Oh, and expect some friendly faces.
In an odd change of pace, Mass Effect 2 ditches its RPG roots for a more laid back version. Fans of role playing may be saddened to know that looting armor and weapons has been reduced to simply changing color designs on a preset suit and upgrading predetermined weapons with collected resources. While you can find new weapons laying about, they seem to be inconspicuously placed on the player’s main path, almost as if they are a part of advancing the story. The game also isn’t as heavy on experience. Unlike in the first game when you were generally rewarded experience for every kill, ME2 only really notifies you on an increase when you collect hidden items or or the end-of-mission report. You will still level up, but it seems the only true point is for bragging rights or that 10 gamerscore achievement.
When you talk about a BioWare game, you know that the presentation will come into play. BioWare has a knack of pushing the 360 hardware to its limits, while still achieving relatively smooth gameplay. One of the biggest gripes about the first game was about the texture pop-ins and the odd stutters, but I can assure you that they have been fixed. Well, for the most part. I did notice slight stuttering during larger fights, but nothing noticeable, and there are still some slight pop-ins during cutscenes, but never during actual gameplay. Simply put, the game is stunning and I would easily hold it up against games such as Uncharted or Metal Gear Solid, which are known for their visually stunning presentation.
As you may have guessed, Mass Effect 2 will be receiving a high score. You see, there rarely comes a time when a game will do everything perfect. Usually there is some sort of faulty feature, something that mars the otherwise flawless game. I can sit here at my computer and tell you that Mass Effect 2 could indeed be the closest we as an industry have come to creating the perfect game. BioWare set 2010 off with a bang, and from what I have seen, game of the year prospects will have to step it up to top this amazing piece of entertainment.
- Amazingly executed plot
- The best looking 360 game to date
- Possibly the best overall 360 game to date
- Pop-ins and stuttering is fixed, but can still rear its ugly head
- RPG elements are few, a let down for those who enjoyed them
- Long elevator rides were replaced with long loading screens
- Random Fact:
- Much like Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect 2 included a one-time use code for the Cerberus Network, a digital distribution system for ME2. It currently contains two free downloads, with a third in limbo due to certain issues. People who buy the game used will have to shell out more money to get the otherwise free content.