February 4th, 2010

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2

The highly anticipated sequel to the 2007 Bioware game hit shelves this last week for the X-Box 360 and PC. Did the game live up to the hype? It’s no secret that I’m a Bioware fanboy. Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age, and the original Mass Effect are some of my all time favorite games. So does Mass Effect 2 get to join that list? No. Does that make this a bad game not worthy of your $60? Lets find out. I’ll try to keep this spoiler free but a few minor plot points will be revealed.

One of the great things about the original Mass Effect was the epic storyline, customization of your characters, amazing graphics, combination of role playing game elements and 3rd person shooting mechanics, and an amazing score by Jack Wall (click to see our interview with Jack Wall who’s an amazing guy). Now out of those things listed above most make a return to the sequel, although some things are altered, arguably for the worst.

Lets first focus on the most important thing to me in a game, story. Mass Effect 2’s story seriously feels phoned in. We start off the story with our hero, Shepard, being killed off in the first scene only to be brought back to life in the second scene by a pro human terrorist group, Cerberus. Cerberus sends Shepard on a mission to investigate the disappearance of human colonies on the outskirts of the galaxy and the connection they have to the reapers (the threat from the first game). The plot is intriguing (especially if you’ve played the first game) but the way the story plays out is really disappointing. Before you can take care of this threat you must first assemble a new team of characters. Meeting and trying out new characters is one of the funnest things about RPG’s. What isn’t fun about this is that it’s pretty much the whole game. Almost every mission in the game is meeting a new character, half of which you don’t even need to get. There’s really only four story points to a 40 hour game with very little character development available for the 12 people you add to your cast. What’s worse is after you finally assemble everyone the game basically turns into a snuff film for the last 2 hours making you pissed at the first 35 hours spent putting the damn team together.

The weapons and customization system in the first game is regarded by some to be tedious and unnecessary. Well they attempted to fix this only to replace it with another tedious and unnecessary system of endlessly upgrading your weapons by spending hours mining planets. And to get a good ending in the game you have to upgrade your characters and ship pretty much forcing you to endure hours of staring at the surface of a planet while you stare at an orange bullseye while it looks for precious ore. I wasn’t really having fun with that. I basically just listened to podcasts while I mindlessly went about my surveying tasks like I worked for the damn government.

Graphically the game is beautiful. It’s a major improvement on the last game which is saying a lot because the first game was probably the best looking game on the X-Box until this came along. They have a great film grain to the graphics which enhances every cutscene and makes you feel like your watching a movie. The character expressions and acting are so life like and genuine that it really delivers the emotion of the story. Bioware set a new bar for visuals in all games.

The battle system is tighter and more natural. The cover system works almost exactly like Gears of War’s which is indeed a compliment. They replaced the weapons overheating with having the traditional ammo system most games use. This makes it easier for noobs (yes, I said it) to understand the general system of weapons. The coolest addition to the combat system is the heavy weapons. Everything from a mini nuke to a singularity generator (preorder only) is now added to your arsenal of asskickery. The new armor system is easy to use as well allowing you to interchange pieces of armor to get different effects depending on how you want to buff Shepard.

Jack Wall returns to do the musical score which is even more epic than the original. It’s subtle when it needs to be and in your face like Star Wars at just the right times. I would actually love to have a copy of the soundtrack to just listen to from time to time.

By far the coolest addition to the game is the fact that you can import your character from the first game. This means the decisions you made in number 1 will affect the story of number 2. You’ll also receive bonuses to your money and experience level based on how built up your character was from the original. They also say you’ll be able to do the same thing with your character in number 3 making it the first game to ever attempt to do something like this (at least to my knowledge).

The game is in a lot of ways an improvement but also lacking in really important areas. If you’re a fan of the first one I think you’ll really enjoy the second, especially because it’s setting it all up for number 3. If you’re a fan of Bioware you’ll love it too, but I think a side by side comparison to me has the original to be slightly better. I did enjoy the hell out of it but I think the story was really dry with not a lot of substance.

Let me know what you think,


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