Mass Effect 2 ReviewDustin Wright
The sequel to the greatest sci-fi epic of this console generation has finally been released for the Xbox 360, as well as the PC. Bioware's Mass Effect 2, without a doubt the most anticipated game yet this year has finally hit store shelves and promises to be even better than the original.
For those unfamiliar with the Mass Effect trilogy, it follows the story of Commander Shepard, a man who leads the fight against an unknown force bent on destroying civilized galactic civilization once again. Add to the fact that the human race is looked down upon by other species in this galactic political landscape and things seem to get pretty complicated for Shepard.
The sequel begins not long after the original and very quickly basically becomes the Empire Strikes Back. Much like Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope has a good triumphs evil ending and the next episode in the saga starts with all hell breaking lose, Mass Effect 2 begins the same way. For those that played the first game, everything that was worked for, every personality that was encountered, even the ending itself suddenly becomes irrelevant and the realization that Shepard's greatest challenge is ahead of him sinks in.
After the beginning chaos is over and the player begins to play the game, it becomes apparent that Bioware wanted to outdo the original in almost every way. The game, much like the original, borrows from some of the greatest sci-fi aspects across different mediums. From what I have discovered, the cities the player will encounter (especially the rundown cities) look much like parts of Los Angeles in the film Blade Runner. The robotics, the sci-fi action, as well as the drama and sense of urgency all borrow from Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars, respectively. In addition, the heavy galactic politics and unique alien races borrow from Star Trek as well. Of course I missed something, and of course other people will see different things borrowed from different mediums (in fact, probably an entire book could be written on what Mass Effect has borrowed from other works), but it just goes to show that the Mass Effect saga really is a love letter of sci-fi created by the team at Bioware.
The gameplay is for the most part the same this time around, which is not a bad thing as that was one of the original's best characteristics; good solid gameplay. The cover system is just as good as the original, with players being able to duck under cover, fire to the side or above their cover, and vault over and sprint to the next form of cover. Bioware was wise to not change anything in the gameplay department, as it is just as fun as the original. The locations, the personalities encountered, the sound itself and the soundtrack are still just as good as the original as well.
What has changed is in the way the game presents information. What I mean by that is no more will the player have to go to a menu and find different side quests. Instead, Shepard will receive messages from people he has encountered or those who have heard about him directly. So instead of an authority telling Shepard he needs to investigate this planet or travel and destroy a slaving facility in this galaxy, people will directly contact him and tell him they want his help.
For example, I was going to tell a mercenary I wanted to hunt someone for them. Behind me, a teenage boy was walking up to the mercenary to tell him he wanted to hunt the same person too. This transitioned to a cutscene, where I had the option of breaking the boy's gun and telling him to not attempt the kill or I could have left him alone. I broke the gun, and when I returned to my ship several hours later I found a message from the teenager thanking me for putting some sense into his head. It is things like this that give the player a sense of accomplishment, a sense of reward and make them feel that they are not above the world in this game, that they indeed are helping those in need and making the galaxy a better place, something the previous game never really accomplished.
Mass Effect 2 is just as good as the original if not a little bit better. The small annoyances that were in the original game (mainly how boring the side quests were) are now fixed, giving a much more complete and satisfactory game as a result. If you are a fan of the original, you will want to no doubt play the second one just to see the continuation of the storyline. If you are new to the Mass Effect saga, it might be wise to play the first one to get a real appreciation for the universe you will be thrust into. Bioware promised a much better experience the second time around with Mass Effect 2, and without a doubt they delivered.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.