Review: Mass Effect 2

One of the most, if not the most, anticipated games for 2010 is Mass Effect 2. Fans who had played the first installment, and also newcomers to the world of Mass Effect had eagerly awaited for the release date of January 26th. Today we look at Mass Effect 2 and hopefully answer some tough questions. How does the story tie in? Can it compare to the huge success of its predecessor, and does it live up to all the expectations we have set? Yes the story is epic, yes and yes it blows everything out of the water. Stop reading reviews and go experience the game!… is what I would like to say, but Dan who runs Gameolio would probably not be too happy with that review. So, let’s start off with the story.

Last year you may of read my preview which explained how Mass Effect 2 will take in consideration the choices you made in the first installment, by using a clever way of transferring your profile save game from the first game, and then using this in Mass Effect 2 – I suspect this is why the game now comes with two discs in order to cover all scenarios. Well, Bioware have accomplished this perfectly; the story has a seamless connection from the first and is interwoven amazingly. As you are playing throughout the areas you will run into old friends that will reminisce on past events, and others who will not be so happy on the actions you took in Mass Effect. Before you ask, yes your level and items will be reset to zero, but this is not to say you will have a slow start to build up again. The story throws you right into the thick of things, exactly where you left off, and not to disorient the player completely (bare in mind there are players who have not played the first in the series) it will give you a brief moment to compose yourself, by providing a quick tutorial on gameplay.

I will not go over the story of Mass Effect 2 in detail as there are too many other points to cover. But, to summarise; human colonists have gone missing on many worlds for unknown reasons, and the Alliance who was your former employer, denies and refuses to believe the evidence. As usual, the council (who I believe are based on the International Whaling Commission) are useless to act and cannot be persuaded in any form. So you find yourself working for a shady group, which you may recall from Mass Effect, called Cerberus.

Mass Effect 2 has an identical feel to the first allowing for an easy learning curve – particularly for returning players. You will find the overall layout familiar, from the interface to again travelling from world to world in order to build up a team. On these journeys you will run into old team members, and this is where your previous save file also comes into play. You will notice dialogue between NPC’s (Non-Playing Characters) and party members will relate to the previous actions of our hero.

On top of meeting old friends, Mass Effect 2 brings with it a whole variety of new characters, and you may find yourself making some unusual alliances – possibly a Geth? Again, a lot of this all depends on your save profile from Mass Effect and how you decide to play out the second part. Keep in mind that it is highly likely that your save profile will be used in the final episode, Mass Effect 3.

Although I mentioned the feel and interface of the sequel is identical, this is not to say the game is just a doppelganger. There are a lot of improvements and enhancements in the sequel which will have fans breathe a sigh of relief. The clumsy inventory has been completely removed, as you may recall from Mass Effect, you would stumble through your inventory attempting to clear space for new items, and on the console version you could spend a good part of your day doing this. Not to mention, each weapon had several different types of ammunition, which again was a complete pain when outfitting your set-up depending on the mission. Mass Effect 2 has vastly excelled in this area. No longer will the player have the cluttered inventory of old, but will be complimented with a neat menu which is all configured aboard the Normandy. Your types of ammunitions have now become powers and are equipped using the power wheel, which is a breeze compared to before. The armour layout has slightly changed as well. This will again all be outfitted aboard the Normandy and has been changed considerably. It is comparable to Need For Speed: Underground car customisation, allowing players to change each piece of armour and the overall colour and decals of your armour.

The graphics are simply stunning, as they always were in the first, but you will see slight additions and improvements. For example in the characters models you will find more finer details, which was strongly evident in the character, Miranda (you know what I’m talking about). The scenery I found to be fuller and more atmospheric; each level has its own unique environment, from flora to the resident creatures. Being a game that has a player travelling from one world to the next, this is of major importance and the team at Bioware have not made any shortcuts.

Audio in the game is as good as it comes, with voice acting from big names such as Martin Sheen, Seth Green (Joker), Adam Baldwin, Carrie-Ann Moss, Tricia Helfer as the sexy A.I of the Normanday, and our very own Aussie Yvonne Strahovski. The music is epic and uplifting, but I do feel it is slightly toned down in comparison to the original. You will find all audio tracks, including some of the old tracks, on board the Normandy in the Captains quarters for your listening pleasure.

The game is almost perfect, but as with everything in life, nothing is perfect. Mass Effect 2 does come with some flaws and it pains me to mention them as this game is undoubtedly a piece of art. Occasionally, some walls and cover that you use to protect yourself from enemy fire can spontaneously throw your character on the adjacent side into open fire – this can be quite an annoyance in crucial times. When you are severely wounded, the screen indicates this with vulgar red veins across the screen; not the best looking effect and perhaps something more subtle could have been used here. Speech from characters also gets interrupted quite frequently during battles; an effect used on the audio seems to be buggy and randomly slows speech down to be inaudible.

Some players might also be distraught to find out that the Mako M35 vehicle has been removed – despite the fact that it had quite a strong following and the printed t-shirts were even a hit! Personally I feel that this was a step in the right direction, but I was slightly disappointed that it had not been replaced. The cut scenes will show your landing party using a new shuttle nick named the ‘Cockroach’, but you will unfortunately not be able to control this. One last point to mention, the farming of minerals in the game has changed. A positive is the way these resources are used to purchase upgrades for your party and your vessel, but the scanning of planets and mining is still as monotonous as before.

The game in its entirety is truly something special to behold, and will take approximately 36 hours to complete if you do all the side missions, including the main missions. Bioware have created something quite unique here. Similar to those ‘Choose your own Adventure’ books I read back as a kid; the game will play out depending on the path you choose, and we can be certain that part three will again follow the footprints you have left in Mass Effect 2. What we have here is a sequel that has outdone what was already a masterpiece, like Godfather 2 was to Godfather, and The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins. We never see any review websites ever give a game a perfect rating, but I feel Mass Effect 2 deserves this privilege. Now go out there and get yourself a copy! =)

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★

About the Author

Nightshadow is an avid PC gamer, but occasionally strays off to the Xbox360 for some console action. Frequent writer for Gameolio - he has a strange obsession for uniquely flavored soft drinks such as Cherry Coke, Passion Fruit, and Buzz Monkey. Currently Playing: - Mafia II - Age of Conan - Red Dead Redemption