Mass Effect 2 - Staff Review  

Massively Streamlined
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Mass Effect 2
Xbox 360
20-40 Hours
+ Great streamlined gameplay
+ Wonderful voice acting
+ Great unique characters...
- ...that oversaturate slightly
- Not enough customization
- No playable Elcor!!!!!
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   The original Mass Effect was my very first BioWare RPG. While I was a big fan of the story, characters, dialogue, and world, the combat and other mechanics didn't really cut it for me. The gameplay was too much of a shooter and all of the RPG components were more cumbersome than anything. So when I heard that Mass Effect 2 had vastly improved the shooting aspects of the game and cut out a lot of the RPG features, I didn't really know what to expect. What I found was a streamlined game featuring decent third-person shooter fundamentals with the RPG fat trimmed off. While not a flawless experience, for the most part Mass Effect 2 offered more of what I wanted and less of what I didn't.

   What is really impressive about the game is that combat is fast and easy to maneuver, especially to those who are less experienced with shooters. Players will be unloading clip after clip into waves of enemies, firing off skills as needed to compliment the experience. Ammo is easy to find, so players will only be hunting the ground for ammo when careless. The shooting aspects are straightforward and the job class system helps add a level of diversity. However, customization options are fairly limited outside of initial class selection. Each of the classes Shepard can be offer a small handful of abilities available. This is somewhat limiting, but can be countered with good teammate management. What the game's combat lacks in variety, it makes up for with fast-paced, fun action.

alien sex That encounter suit looks good on you, but it would look better on the floor.

   Mass Effect 2 features less interaction and exploration than the original. This can be off-putting for those who enjoyed those aspects of the first game, but it mostly cuts out areas that were extraneous. Instead of side missions consisting of exploring uninspired, empty worlds, Mass Effect 2 focuses more on story missions. These missions are hefty and are much more enjoyable than battling through pointless areas, but there are just not enough of them. In place of being able to explore lots of planets with tons of missions, players are stuck with only being able to scan planets in a mini-game type mode. While not required, it does help to do this in order to upgrade Shepard's vessel and have a better chance at survival. One other issues comes from a lack of inventory. In an effort to streamline the game and fix the horrid inventory system from the original, it was completely removed from the sequel. There is enough other content and customization available to where this doesn't hinder the overall game, but it does cut down the amount of variety offered.

   The heart of this game is its story. Instead of hopping from planet to planet on a mission to save the world, Mass Effect 2 offers a focus on gathering a team and bonding with those members in order to complete a mission. Shepard has joined an elite, secretive pro-Human group known as Cerberus and is out to find out why Human colonies are going missing throughout the galaxy. In order to complete this mission, Shepard needs a team of specialists and is sent out to recruit them. The majority of the game is focused around this team gathering process. It's hard to complain about it too much, as it's the best part of the game, however the problem comes from most all of these individual missions seeming isolated from the overall story arc. So however amazing one character might seem in one mission, if that same person is tagging along in a second mission they offer next to no input as if their quest never happened. The biggest problem is that it would be nice to see these characters in action, expressing their well-developed personalities seen during their personal quests, but instead any further development is limited to brief talks around the ship. It just feels disjointed, as if there were too many characters and not enough time to develop them all.

romance Thankfully, neither is a romance option.

   One thing of note is that decisions made in first game will play into this title, though none seem to have a major impact on this game's story. They mostly serve as backstory, but when combined with some of the major choices offered here it adds up to a grander experience. So while Mass Effect 2 does seem to focus more on characters than story arc continuation, the overall experience never feels less than impressive. It's like complaining that a huge slice of chocolate cake just didn't have enough icing on it. It's a solid experience through and through that could have just used a little more glue to hold it together, because it was busting at the seams.

   One thing that is hard to deny about Mass Effect 2 is that the game looks beautiful. Characters are well-designed, though not completely flawless. The voice acting is also wonderful, especially Jennifer Hale's return as the female voice of Shepard. The other party members are well-designed and very unique, each offering a great vocal performance, even for some of the minor characters. Cutscenes are visually impressive and add a cinematic feel to the game. One small failing is in the lack of variety in enemies. Too often it's the same few faces over and over. And there are still some graphical problems that pop up from time to time such as characters disappearing mid scene, but it is rare. The music is very fitting within the realm of the game, giving an epic feel when needed and being unobtrusive when not. The presentation does a great job of supporting the game as a whole, especially the voice work and the delivery of some fantastic lines.

   Mass Effect 2 is a much more streamlined experience than the original. Some may find this limiting, but I embraced those limitations and enjoyed what I was given. Combat was very simple, and for those who care more about characters and plot, that's not going to be a bad thing. The story is very well-written, all the way down to the minor side quests, though the main plot seemed to be overshadowed by too much content and not enough to do with it at times. Having all these characters, it often felt like having too many employees working on a shift. All are quality, but you can only spend so much time working with each. Mass Effect 2 is an excellent game with a few minor issues that need to be ironed out for Mass Effect 3. Adding back a few customization related RPG elements, focusing more on the overall story arc, and bringing all the choices together from the prior two games will help, but as it stands Mass Effect 2 is a great bridge between the two ends. It merely appeared as if BioWare had too many ideas and not enough time to implement them all. The game is outstanding, if limited, but I'm ready for more.

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