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Review: Mass Effect 2 331

Posted by Soulskill
from the that-was-a-joke dept.
Mass Effect debuted a little over two years ago to almost universal praise, getting high marks for the rich story, endless exploration options, and entertaining gameplay. Despite the game's success, BioWare listened closely to player feedback, promising to revamp the parts of the game that needed improvement while developing the sequel. They didn't hesitate to refine the elements they wanted to keep and do away with the ones they didn't. The result is a familiar, but much more streamlined experience. Rather than being a shooter with a great story added in, Mass Effect 2 a great story that often has you shoot things. Read on for the rest of my thoughts.
  • Title: Mass Effect 2
  • Developer: BioWare
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • System: Windows, Xbox 360
  • Reviewer: Soulskill
  • Score: 9/10

The Story

Mass Effect 2 starts off with a bang, immediately putting Commander Shepherd in rather significant peril and setting him to work with Cerberus, an organization of questionable morality that made a brief appearance in ME1. Shepherd often has reason to doubt Cerberus's trustworthiness and stated goals, but has little choice since they're the only ones who seem to be fighting the latest threat to humanity. The conflict between Shepherd and Cerberus's leader, the Illusive Man, is a plot thread that runs through the entire game, and you're given quite a bit of control over how trusting or defiant you want to be. After settling in aboard your ship, you're given a kick in the pants to begin recruiting a new team.

The storytelling in Mass Effect 2 can be divided into three discrete groups of quests — primary plot missions, squadmate missions, and side missions. When you go to recruit a member of your team, you'll do a mission that frees them from whatever they're currently involved with. Later on, each team member will pester you once to solve another problem of theirs, at which point they'll become loyal to you. In fact, after helping a few of them, you'll start anticipating when the next crewmate will come nag you for help. Fortunately, their missions are varied and interesting, and provide good background for the supporting cast. These stories are often quite personal, and in typical BioWare style, aren't afraid of setting up some complex moral dilemmas, which you can choose to solve in several different ways. Shepherd and his team deal with a broad spectrum of emotions, from compassion and regret to contempt and vengeance.

The side missions are minor plot lines you run into while exploring or doing more important things. Some are trivial, like finding a lost item or slapping somebody around; others have more depth, tasking you with determining guilt or innocence, making an arrangement with local criminals, or stumbling across characters you met in the first game. The main story itself follows up on events in ME1, and the scale is just as epic. The Paragon/Renegade system is back, but different. If you respond to an NPC in a typical "good guy" way, you'll gain Paragon points. If you're a jerk to them, you'll gain Renegade points. As you accrue enough of these points, dialog options open up that can allow you to persuade NPCs more strongly, either by appealing to their better nature or intimidating them. You no longer have to spend talent points on it.

Another nice change is the inclusion of quick-time events during cinematic scenes. Normally, I deplore QTEs, but BioWare did it right. At a potential turning point in the story, you'll get a flashing icon on your screen which will allow you to do something particularly good or particularly evil. The decision you're making isn't spelled out for you, but it's often obvious from the situation; for example, if a character you don't trust is inching toward a weapon and the red Renegade icon pops up, clicking it will make Shepherd end the conversation with a bullet. Similarly, the Paragon icon might pop up to give you the chance to stop a friend from doing something they'll regret. There's plenty of time to react to these, and no button mashing involved; it's just a simple way to move the story in the direction you prefer.

Of course, the success of the story rests on the characters, and the strength of the characters comes from voice acting, animation, and dialogue. The writing is very consistent; all of the major characters have distinct personalities and histories, and the different ways in which Shepherd can react to situations all come across as authentic. Some of your lines sound corny, but those are usually the ones that are supposed to sound corny. Far more often, you or your squadmates will sound like action heroes. The voice acting in Mass Effect 2 is excellent. BioWare has proven throughout the years that they take their dialogue seriously and do it well. What struck me was that the actors all sounded more confident in their readings, either through their own familiarity with the games or because BioWare got enough experience with the first game to provide clearer direction. Or both. In addition to the big name talent doing the main characters, there are also a surprising number of familiar voices doing smaller roles (was.. was that Worf?!).

What surprised me most was the quality of the animations. First of all, scenes are framed like you'd expect in a movie, and as any film buff will tell you, good framing makes a huge difference in how a story is viewed. Second, the characters are always doing something, even the ones that aren't talking; leaning against a desk, folding their arms, wincing or shaking their head. They aren't just static props. Third, the body movement and facial animations are quite good. Several times during the game, a character will react to something with only a facial expression, and not necessarily a simple one like shock. I think it's cool that video game characters look more like people than textured stick figures.

Gameplay

Combat in Mass Effect 2 is as simple or as complicated as you'd like to make it. Several of the old game mechanics have been cleaned up. You run around with a shield and a health bar, both of which quickly regenerate if you stop firing and stop getting shot for several seconds. This makes for very little downtime during fights. As you level you get talent points to spend on special abilities. Shepherd and each of your shipmates has a different set of skills — knockbacks, ammo specialties, the ability to hack mech enemies (one character makes a Unix reference) — and you get to choose which ones to level up. You can hotkey special abilities for Shepherd and your squadmates, and you can revive your allies if they fall in battle using medi-gel. Mass Effect 2 uses a cover system, and it's one of the more responsive systems I've played. Hitting your cover button by a corner will make you turn your back to it, and you can peek around with your gun to fire. Similarly, you can crouch behind a low barrier and fire over it. It's an intuitive system, and it almost always does exactly what you expect.

Unlike the first game, you don't have an inventory; just a selection of weapons and abilities. You can still upgrade your weapons and armor, but it's handled differently. As you move through various maps, you'll come across data pads, laptops, and dead foes that you can scan for upgrade information. Once you're back aboard your ship, you can spend resources to research any of these bits of information, and they'll do things like make your machine guns more powerful, or give you extra shielding against certain weapon types. It's much less of a pain to deal with than ME1's inventory. You can also easily control your squadmates, telling them where to go and which abilities to use on whom. The AI is reasonably smart; it can win a lot of fights by itself on the lower difficulties levels. Speaking of which — if you're fairly experienced with other shooters, you'll probably want to bump the difficulty up to the second highest setting in order to make fights interesting. On the other hand, if the fights are just part of the story for you, leaving it on Normal or Casual will let you go through the game with ease.

Ammo (sorry, heat sinks) is plentiful in this game. You'll never be in danger of running out, but you go through it quickly enough that you can't just rely on one weapon all the time. The loadout is pretty standard for a shooter; pistol, shotgun, machine gun and sniper rifle (with variations on each), and also a variety of "heavy weapons," which are fun, but you can only carry one at a time. I didn't find myself using the shotgun too often, but the other guns were fine. One complaint I have about the combat was the layout of the maps. It's always quite obvious when you're about to get ambushed; you'll round a corner and there will be a bunch of low obstacles on the ground, the perfect height for crouching behind. Any time it looks like you're ready to run the 100m hurdles, aliens are about to start shooting at you. The pacing of the combat, on the other hand, was good — another area that showed a director's touch. Individual missions are generally short — 15-30 minutes, perhaps — and the cinematics are interspersed with the combat such that you aren't doing either long enough to get bored.

The UI is well-refined; anything in the environment you need to interact with will be outlined, and extraneous information is kept to a minimum. Your abilities gray out when they're cooling down, and the icons fill in to show you how long is left on the timer. The relevant health bars are always apparent — yours, your team's, and your target's. Your aiming reticle shrinks if you stand still and fire from cover and expands if you continue firing or move around, but either way it's quite easy to see where your bullets are going. You can pause combat to switch weapons, activate abilities or order your squadmates around.

Throughout your missions you'll find bank vaults, doors, and computers that need to be "hacked" or "bypassed." Doing so brings up a short mini-game where you either connect circuits by matching the symbols on them (a la Memory) or match code segments from a scrolling list of lookalikes. These mini-games are cute the first couple times, but they never get harder or more complicated, so they get repetitious. Similarly, the mineral-gathering system is best in small doses. You gather mineral resources by flying your ship to different planets, scanning them, and launching probes. The trouble is that the scanning is done manually. You hold down a button and pass a relatively small scanning area over the entire planet. When you see readings, you press another button to fire a probe, which automatically gathers whatever it finds. Depending on how methodical you are, it can take a few minutes per planet. It's probably not annoying enough to stop the completionists, but anyone who dislikes "grindy" activities will probably get bored quickly.

This brings us to one of the major changes between ME1 and ME2: there's no Mako. BioWare apparently decided that the first game's ground vehicle was not worth keeping, so they excised it completely. Apparently some sort of vehicle will be added in future DLC, but details are sparse. If the Mako was one of your favorite parts of ME1, you may want to wait until that DLC comes out. If you didn't play ME1, you won't notice the lack. You can still find things on unexplored planets — you'll detect an "anomaly" when scanning for minerals, and a shuttle will drop you off, on foot, at the anomaly's location. The space ports and mission maps generally aren't big enough that you'd feel the need to drive around them. Or, if they are, they're sectioned off such that you don't need to traverse the entire area at one time.

Odds and Ends

The graphics are fantastic — exactly what you'd expect from a brand new BioWare game, and quite a step up from ME1. The humans look like real humans — fans of the TV show Chuck will immediately recognize one of your female squadmates — and the high level of detail makes the aliens look like something that could actually exist. While you'll pass through your fair share of typical shooter corridors and warehouses, you'll also see some extremely large and impressive environments. On one mission, you find an enormous crashed spaceship that's precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff. As you navigate the shattered vessel to recover some data, it wobbles and teeters, threatening to go over the edge as debris falls all around you. The audio is quite good as well. I find myself wishing I'd grabbed the version of the game that came with the OST. The sound effects are helpful and unobtrusive. You can glean a lot of information about what your squadmates are doing during a fight by just listening for them.

Another neat feature worth mentioning is that if you have a saved game from ME1, you can important your Shepherd into ME2, preserving a number of actions you took in the first game that will now affect how ME2 plays. It's a cool injection of continuity, and they'll be doing the same thing for ME3 in the future. You have a surprising amount of control over the how ME2 ends, so keep this in mind.

The game does have its annoyances. There was one bug I encountered frequently enough to alter my gameplay — walking near corners where textures meet on the ground will occasionally send Shepherd floating straight up in the air, unable to get down. It forces a reload, which sucks, but fortunately between the quick-save and the auto-save, I never lost more than a minute or two. I played the game on my PC, and while the controls were generally excellent, little effort was made to support things like Tab or the mousewheel, which can make menu navigation a small inconvenience.

Conclusion

Mass Effect 2 is not without its flaws, but those flaws are minor and vastly outweighed by its strengths. The story is top-notch, and meticulously plotted and paced to be fun and interesting from the intense introduction to the foreboding yet flexible ending. It's great to see that BioWare was willing to take feedback to heart and make significant changes regardless of ME1's success. While the sequel doesn't seem as novel and innovative as the first game, it instead demonstrates a great deal of refinement and polish. I'll be looking forward to Mass Effect 3.

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Review: Mass Effect 2

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:02PM (#30983040)
    A lot of people dissed the original combat system in ME1. But I liked it. ME2 has a more "Gears of War" feel to it, and they've stripped away or simplified a lot of the RPG elements that made the original so much fun. Granted inventory management and the Mako were kind of a pain in the ass in the original, but they needed to be fixed, not completely eliminated. On the upside, the incredibly detailed story and background material is still there (the Codex still goes into remarkable depth on alien races, tech, etc.). And a lot of the freedom and sense of exploration is still there (as in the original, once you get the Normandy). And the graphics have gotten a very nice upgrade (with no pop-in or weird glitches). All-in-all, it's enjoyable so far. Again, I do miss the old combat system. But then again, I'm not a huge shooter fan (I actually prefer the old turn-based RPG's like Knights of the Old Republic).
    • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:20PM (#30983328) Homepage

      The simplification in the combat is quite annoying, I especially missed more direct control of the teammates. In ME1 you could tell them to seek a defensive position or attack a specific enemy giving it a tactic shooter feel, in ME2 that is no longer the case. You are limited to telling them what power to use. You can also tell them where to go, but that never worked for me in ME2 as they always ended up running all over the place. They also removed the ability to duck to increase your accuracy, you are limited to auto-duck behind cover, grenades and health packs are also gone.

      Add the lack of Mako and the much simplified level design on top of it and the combat ends up feeling quite monotone.

      All that said, its still Mass Effect and still among the best games out there, but some of the changes feel a little bit like somebody just took the scissor to everything that got criticized in the first, instead of just improving it (elevators are gone, but now you have simplified flat levels and loading screens, not exactly an improvement).

      • THATS what it was!

        I knew some intricate part of the movement and combat was missing but I couldn't put my finger on it. And I kept trying to figure out how to Duck - thinking they changed the control scheme.

        To know that it is actually missing is a huge disappointment for me now. It makes me want to play the original more.

      • The simplification in the combat is quite annoying, I especially missed more direct control of the teammates. In ME1 you could tell them to seek a defensive position or attack a specific enemy giving it a tactic shooter feel, in ME2 that is no longer the case. You are limited to telling them what power to use. You can also tell them where to go, but that never worked for me in ME2 as they always ended up running all over the place.

        You can still tell each party member to target a specific opponent. Movement control seems more effective in ME2 as well, since they do a better just of finding the cover you intend for them to use when you tell them to go stand near a wall or crate or something. Overall I think ME2 offers the same level of party control as the PC version of ME1, and thus much more than the console ME1. Also, grenades were replaced by the much more varied, useful, and interesting heavy weapons. Health packs still work,

    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:21PM (#30983336) Journal

      I highly prefered the combat system in ME1 as well. Every shooter has had the ammo management system, and a few sparingly had the heat management system. I much prefer heat over ammo managing, it means you time your shots or bursts, and doesn't leave you stranded should you miss the ammo crate after a boss.

      And actually, I think that was also an integral part of the story for me in ME1. The idea that we had engineered Mass Effect technology to the point where we don't need ammo, we were capable of taking a particle of Air and propelling it at such a high speed it could rip through people. Or at least, thats what I had the impression of how the guns operated. And that the various addons you had (Heat, cold, poison, etc) were just affecting the air you were shooting.

      And now they've adopted an ammo management system, which they could easily work into the story, though it DOES feel like a step backwards. I've only played say 30 minutes into the game, and I haven't picked it up again. Mostly its a time issue, I've been busy, but something about it doesn't feel the same as the original, so I don't feel the same pull to it like the original did. In the original, the storyline had me rushing home just so I could find out what happens next. This new one intrigues me despite some of its rather cliche elements, but I'm sure given enough time it will come around.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by svendsen (1029716)
        Don't worry it will get much better. I am 25 hours in and so far all I have done is the side quests which have that "just one more mission" addiction. I find the character development and story line much better than ME1, and I thought ME1 was great in those categories. The space exploration part kind of takes me back to the Star Control 2 days.

        My only pet peeve? Scanning the damn planets. Even with the upgrade it is a PITA.

        Other than that I like the no inventory management system and instead focus
        • by PylonHead (61401) on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:46PM (#30983692) Homepage Journal

          Hah.. the planet scanning. It's almost like they said, "We're going to take all out all the boring, monotonous game mechanics for ME2... and then we'll add one back in!"

        • I never really found the inventory management too difficult in Mass Effect 1 - You could carry a stupidly high amount of items on your character - your partners will own everything if you upgrade their armour ONCE - and you only have to worry about your own guns and armour afterwards, which is easy to compare once its in your inventory. Than anything else you pick up (Hey, no one uses pistols in my group!) you can just omni gel it.

          The one thing I liked about the Pistol in Mass Effect 1 was that it had the r

          • by grumbel (592662)

            The annoying part with ME1 was that it took ages to keep the equipment of all your teammates up to date, as you had to do a ton of clicking to equip every weapon and then also every weapon module. A way to just auto-equip the best stuff and auto-omni-gel the useless stuff would have been welcome. I think there also was no way to directly switch between teammates, so you had to click on the storage locker of each teammate individually.

      • by sammy baby (14909)

        And now they've adopted an ammo management system, which they could easily work into the story, though it DOES feel like a step backwards.

        I think that above everything else, this is the thing that had me asking "why?" Did they feel that the guns in the original were too powerful? It drives me crazy for two reasons: first, because from a story perspective, it asks the player to accept that having what amounts to an infinite supply of fire was unacceptable because they couldn't quite get the shots of fast eno

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Guspaz (556486)

        The in-game explanation was that the guns shaved off an extremely small sliver of metal from a block, and then accelerated them to extreme speeds in order to get the same energy as a traditional projectile. The ammo was unlimited because the shavings from the ammo block were incredibly small.

        The in-game explanation as to why they added "ammo" was that they decided that dissipating the excess heat from weapons was limiting their firing speed too much (you could only fire as fast as you could cool). The new s

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      there exists no game in the last 10 years I can think of that isn't turn based in one form or another. It's just a question of whether it's done in a subtle enough fashion for people to not realize it exists.

      examples:
      mmorpgs: you only attack/swing/etc so fast. Although turns go by fast, in that sense, there is a set actual "turn". Example: world of warcraft global cooldown, or any game that has cooldowns on abilities.

      first person shooters: you can only fire so fast, delayed by having to reload. Higher damag

      • by tepples (727027)
        How is Dance Dance Revolution turn-based?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by cheier (790875)

          Go to an arcade where it is a popular game and you'll find out real soon.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Swanktastic (109747)

        I dunno man. Your argument kind of falls into "deconstruction ad absurdum" territory of finding something that's probably not there. The whole concept of "turn" is that I take an action, you take an action, till the game is over. Typically, the "turn" involves a significant amount of pause as I think about my action.

        I hardly see how FPS, Simulators, or RTS fall into this turn thing. Turn-based vs. realtime in gaming these days pretty much falls into whether the time elements are discrete vs. indiscrete,

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by HaZardman27 (1521119)
        If you can actually apply "turns" in the way you did here, reality is turn based.
    • I also kind of miss the old combat system.

      The improved cover thing is kind of cool, but I miss heat vs. ammo and longer but non-shared cooldowns on powers. The major selling point of playing Adept or Sentinel in ME1 in my opinion is that you have so many powers that later in the game you can just cycle through them to keep casting -- it's not exactly that you have better powers than a half-caster like Vanguard or Infiltrator (although that's slightly true). In ME2 with all powers sharing a cooldown I'm no

  • Will I be lost? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:02PM (#30983048) Homepage

    I haven't played the first, and don't really intend to based on the reviews I've read. I'm thinking of getting this game though.

    Has anyone who hasn't played the first picked up this game? Will I be lost? Does it explain things well enough for people who don't have all that training in the way the game works?

    • Re:Will I be lost? (Score:4, Informative)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:06PM (#30983096)
      You won't be lost. The Codex will tell you everything you need to know on the background stuff. The rest is pretty self-explanatory (when someone shoots at you, shoot back).
    • Kind of. Sort of like if you watch Star Wars for the first time - you will pick up on exactly whats happening, but once you watch the entire series, and then re-watch the original Star Wars, you know so much more about the characters and what leads up to each event.

      I would -HIGHLY- recommend playing the first one first.

    • by Draek (916851)

      Gameplay-wise you shouldn't have a problem, specially if you've played any shooter with a cover system. Story-wise, however... I'm not that far into it but from what I've seen, while knowledge of the story of the first game isn't necessary, it does increase your enjoyment of it greatly.

      Can't see why you wouldn't pick up ME1 but be interested in ME2 though, care to elaborate on that one?

      • by MBCook (132727)
        I've already got a log of games I'm playing through (I'm currently going to through the Ratchet and Clank series, among others), and ~40 hours for a game that isn't quite my style is just a lot of time. I'm not sold on playing this either (it does look a little too third person shooter), but I'm currently interested.
      • by PylonHead (61401)

        Can't see why you wouldn't pick up ME1 but be interested in ME2 though, care to elaborate on that one?

        Yeah, this is what got me. ME2 is very much a continuation of ME1. They are both excellent games.

        If you weren't going to enjoy ME1, you're probably not going to enjoy ME2 either.

    • by Itchyeyes (908311)

      Most likely, yes. Like all Bioware games, Mass Effect is very story and character driven. There are a lot of returning characters and a lot of references to previous events from the first game. In addition, actions and decisions you make in the first game are carried over to the sequel (ie if you killed a character in Mass Effect, they won't be showing up in ME2 and vice versa). I would seriously recommend playing the first game. The sequel is a vast improvement over it, but it's still a decent game.

    • You'll be fine, but you'll be missing out on all the callbacks the game has to the first. Nearly every side quest in ME1 is worked into the game somehow, be it just an email from one of the persons involved, or even the basis of an entire mission in the game.

    • by grumbel (592662)

      I would strongly recommend you to play the first Mass Effect first. You might not be totally lost in ME2, as most missions are rather self contained and most characters in your squad are completly new, but you will miss out a lot when it comes to reoccurring characters and all those little references to the first game and the game really is full of those.

      That aside, Mass Effect 2 is simply more Mass Effect universe to play in and if you enjoy that, there is absolutely no reason to not enjoy the first one to

    • by brkello (642429)
      To each their own, but I would recommend giving the first one a chance. It is actually quite well done.
    • by flitty (981864)
      Your enjoyment of this game will increase greatly if you play ME 1 first. it's kinda like watching Serenity without seeing Firefly first. While an enjoyable experience, some of the most emotionally engaging moments won't have the same resonance. There are too many callbacks in the second game that the context will be sorely lacking without plaing the first game. They explain the story fairly well, but the story, I would argue, isn't the most important part. It's the development and interaction with oth
    • Re:Will I be lost? (Score:5, Informative)

      by poetmatt (793785) on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:41PM (#30983616) Journal

      I'd suggest watching something awful's "let's play" for mass effect 1 [somethingawful.com](they play through the entire game - ~30min video by video, with explanations of the what and the why, they speed up past boring parts, etc), and also to pick up a savegame [annakie.com] from mass effect 1 to go with it. Once you understand the first game, the savegame you select and it's rammifications, it'll make the second game more fun.

      As a note: lets play for mass effect 1 costs you $0 to watch. So you're "picking up" the first game, in a sense. Also you can get mass effect 2 on PC via demonoid quite easily if you want to see if it's worth the buying. I'd say that it kinda is, except that you get shafted on having to buy DLC either way.

    • This is the most scaled back, hand-held *game* I can remember. It's basically an interactive movie. a monkey tied to a chair could *beat* the game without playing the first and never feel lost.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Pick it up, It's $6.00 at most gamestops in the used bin and is well worth it to play before you drop $70.00 on this one (Plus the cost of DLC as it start emerging....)

  • Quite a year for Bioware. Dragon Age and now this. Interestingly, playing Dragon Age caused my wife re-purchased Baldur's Gate to play through it again.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      The problem for me is that EA bought them, and now I can't bring myself to buy their games anymore...

      I know EA hasn't turned them to shit *yet*, but I also know they *will*. Plus, the last thing the Games Industry needs is more people lining EA's pocket.

      I do have a copy of Mass Effect that I got before EA bought them, maybe I'll just replay that instead.

  • I hope they fixed the terrible monotony of all the side quests in Mass Effect 1. The voice acting in Mass Effect 1 was spot-on, and the story was intriguing. I will be playing this game, regardless of side quest monotony...
    • Aren't side quests generally quite monotonous anyway? Mind you, if the reward doesn't outstrip the effort then it's not worth it.

    • by Itchyeyes (908311)

      It has been fixed. In general the balance has been shifted so there are a lot fewer side quests and a lot more plot-relevant quests. Also, there's a lot less empty space. You can't land on a planet unless there's a mission for you there, which means that instead of wasting time creating a lot of repetitive environments you'll never see, a lot more effort has gone into making each mission and environment unique.

    • Most of the voice acting in ME1 was good, but the Benezia sequence makes me cringe because it is so bad.

    • by grumbel (592662)

      They didn't fix it, they basically completly cut it out. There is no more Mako driving or planet exploration. There are also no longer recycled level architecture, every mission is unique.

      This in turn makes ME2 a much more streamlined game, sometimes however it ends up being a little bit on the repetative side at times. As the Mako and open planet exploration did add some good amount of variety to the combat, even so it might not have been perfect. Now its basically all Gears of War. With the openness remov

      • by flitty (981864)
        If by "openness" you mean "time spent driving vast expanses with nothing to see" then yes, it is more linear. If you can go somewhere, there is a reason for it. There is much less of wandering around, either driving between 2 points on a planet, or backtracking across the G*D* citadel for the 5th time to do a fetch quest.

        There is so much Game here, i'm happy to throw out a little bit of open-world feel.
  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:12PM (#30983182) Homepage

    Read on for the rest of my thoughts.

    you mean your inner monologue actually sounds like a press release / paid game review?

    BioWare listened closely to player feedback, promising to revamp the parts of the game that needed improvement while developing the sequel. They didn't hesitate to refine the elements they wanted to keep and do away with the ones they didn't. The result is a familiar, but much more streamlined experience.

    • This is the third person I've seen use the word "streamlined" to describe ME2. The mere fact that this game has limited ship fuel, limited probes, and manual planet scanning completely negates the description of "streamlined".
      • by Pojut (1027544)

        I used the term "streamlined" in my own review [livingwithanerd.com]. Here are six reasons why:

        1. Weapon upgrades apply for your entire team, not just a single character.
        2. Once you research a weapon, anyone on your team who is able to use that type of weapon can use it simultaneously.
        3. Armor upgrades that have been researched apply to the characters specified regardless of what armor they are wearing
        4. You can completely customize each individual piece of armor you are wearing from a single screen
        5. Yes, weapons require

    • by Fallon (33975)
      Having played through about half of the game so far, I'd have to say the review is pretty much spot on. It's a dam good game & it does address some of the annoyances of the first one.
  • When you say the story is good, do you mean it's "good" in the way ME1 was, or that it actually is good, and not just a mashup of the most worn space epic clichés combined with wooden characters and a ridiculous idiot for a main protagonist? I'm not just being facetious here - I like Dragon age, even the writing manages to be quite tolerable, but the original Mass Effect was one of the few games I genuinely regretted paying money for. So is this more of the same old or did they do it better?
    • by Simulant (528590)

            Well, it's a cheesy, implausible space opera through & through but it's VERY well done.

      I'm not much for RPGs but I might actually finish this one. It seems to have the right combination of action & cinematics. I played for 7 or 8 hours this weekend and I'm itching for more. The characters have as much if not more life in them than any other video game I've ever played.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It just goes to show that everyone has different taste -- I honestly can't think of a better story told in any video game than ME1. (Although there are a few that are on about the same level for me.)

      • And that's why I asked. I'm suspicious of ME2 precisely because the reviewers say the story is good, and they said the same thing about the first one. The question for me is: is it radically different from the first or not. I assume not.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Brandee07 (964634)

          The story has much more depth, and more interesting, fleshed-out than Gears of War or Halo.

          I kind of want to kill myself for that sentence.

          For a BioWare game, it's weak. Really weak. I'm not done with it yet, but there's so much LESS choice than even ME1. Your choices from ME1 come through loud and clear with consequences and characters who remember you, but there are no NEW choices I have made, and I am 15 hours in. The dialog wheel doesn't control Shepards actions, it just controls how much a dick he is a

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        I honestly can't think of a better story told in any video game than ME1.

        Really? You haven't played Bioshock? Prince of Persia: Sands of Time? Hell, even Halo 2?

        A good game story leaves you so emotionally involved at the end of the game that you're either running around the room yelling "that was awesome!" (like Halo 2) or in tears (like Bioshock or Sands of Time). When Mass Effect ended, I just said, "eh" and moved on to the next game.

        Now I'm not saying Mass Effect is a bad game, not by any stretch of the

    • by grumbel (592662)

      In terms of story it is mostly more of the same. The story this time feels however a little less connected, as you are mostly doing self contained side missions to collect your squad. The main quest itself felt rather short and uninteresting, as there are no big plot twists or discoveries going on and the ending is kind of meh this time around, ending in ME1 was far more interesting.

  • Great game (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:19PM (#30983308) Homepage Journal

    I still haven't finished it (hey, I've put in 25 hours in the last six days!), but BioWare has improved literally everything that was broken in the first. I do miss some of the RPG elements during combat, but there are still a ton of fun RPG things to do while in the hub worlds or on your ship. If you've ever played a game in the Suikoden series, you have to play Mass Effect 2.

    ME1 is one of my favorite games of all time, and it's incredible how much BioWare improved on it.

  • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@g m a il.com> on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:22PM (#30983350) Homepage Journal

    Every side quest in the game uses the exact same map. The story for many of the side-quests is the same. A soldier or family member is missing. Go to location X, kill enemies, and find the dead body of the missing person.

    Some of the voice acting (Benezia scene) is embarrassingly bad.

    Exploring in the Mako is fun at times, but on some worlds the Mako struggles with really steep climbs which is just frustrating.

    You are handed most of the companions very early on. They don't have great introductions. I feel like I barely know any of them even by the end of the game. In many ways, the story falls short of Bioware standards.

    They created a universe that I find interesting. The story isn't bad, it just isn't great. I love the overall concept. Mass Effect is *ALMOST* a great game. I hope Mass Effect 2 improves on the first, which was a near miss.

  • by SoTerrified (660807) on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:28PM (#30983420)

    I finished the game on Sunday. It is a very different game than ME as far as game mechanics, but they kept what made ME great, the sense of controlling a riveting story. The story in ME2 is just as good.

    My one flaw with the game is the obvious planet scanning time sink. For those of you not playing the game, when you come to a new planet, you need to scan it for usable minerals, minerals needed to progress in the game. The scanning consists of holding down your right mouse button, then slowly waving the mouse back and forth over a picture of a planet from orbit. You slowly move back and forth until a graph on the right side spikes. Then you click the left mouse button to extract the mineral you 'found', and then you do it again.

    Even explaining that, I'm almost falling asleep. It was so jarring to find this obvious time waster in a game that was so tightly scripted and enjoyable. All I can think is they completed the game, and said "Hey, we need to add another 5-10 hours onto the gameplay." "Ok, so instead of just pushing a button that says 'Extract all usable minerals from planet", why don't we make them mouse over every square inch of the planet? That's gotta add 5-10 hours! IN FACT, even if it only adds 5 hours, it'll make the game seem much longer because it's so boring!"

    And that's why this game is good and not great.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      You do know you can cut planet scanning time in 1/2 by scanning at the edge. press left on both sticks and the scanning speed is doubled. simply rotate and slowly move up or down depending on where you started.

  • Warning (Score:5, Informative)

    by hyfe (641811) on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:29PM (#30983438)
    This game is essentially unplayable on a regular CRT TV. The text is really small, and the conversation choices aren't bounded in small coloured boxes. The colour-bleed of a regular TV will make it impossible to read. Other than that, it is a great game, but really didn't capture me like the first one did. The mining mini-game is essentially hell on a XBOX too. The last one worked great on XBOX, but this one really is best on the PC.
    • by alen (225700)

      what is a CRT TV? is that some kind of new technology?

    • CRT TV ... a regular TV

      A "regular" TV? Where do you live, that a CRT is considered a "regular TV"? You can't even give CRTs away these days! HDTVs are the new "regular," and have been for a couple of years.

      Next thing you know, some guy will be complaining that the game is unplayable on his reel projector because his phonograph keeps getting out of sync.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      Where do you live where a CRT is still considered a "regular" TV? Somalia?

  • the ability to hack mech enemies (one character makes a Unix reference)

    OK, I'll bite. What was the Unix reference?

  • Ammo (heat sinks) (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I have two problems with the switch to ammo in this game:

    1) They try to spin it like it's an advance in technology.

    In both the manual and the game, they explain how the ammo heat sinks are based on advanced Geth technology and how the Alliance went through the trouble to retrofit every weapon with it. But it feels to me like moving backwards when the old weapons allowed unlimited shots.

    2) Leaves me searching for ammo when I should be rushing forward.

    I'll finish a battle, and one of my teammates will say, "

    • by lattyware (934246)
      Well, I presume the idea is the weapons are all x times more powerful (just so happens everyone's armour is/shields are too) and so output so much heat it can't be handled by non-ejectable heatsinks. It's a little weak, but at least they tried to explain it.
  • My Review (Score:5, Informative)

    by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Monday February 01, 2010 @01:55PM (#30983822) Homepage Journal
    (Just quickly, no major spoilers here. And no minor ones, hopefully.)

    Mass Effect 2.

    I'm going to answer the main question simply. Yes, You should buy it. It's an excellent game and you will get more hours of quality enjoyment out of it than most.

    This review tends to focus on the negatives. Don't be fooled, it's a great game that will provide more enjoyment than most, and for a lot longer. I got 23 hours out of my first playthrough, and have already started on another. The replayability here is massive, and I'd expect most people would be able to put 100 hours into this game easily without loosing enjoyment. If I havn't pointed it out here specifically, you can presume it's excellent, otherwise I'd mention it. That's what I'm saying.

    To put it into perspective, this is from one 23 hour run through of the game, as a soldier and going for the paragon (good) side. I've started another (around 2 hours in) as a renegade vanguard, and the experience is very different, and I'm still finding new stuff and hearing new, interesting dialogue.

    Is it better than the original? Probably not, but it's not worse either. I'd say they kept it on the same level somehow, which isn't a bad thing - Mass Effect ranks up there as one of my favourite games of all time.

    I'm going to go for the storyline first. You are playing as Sheperd again, this time fighting for Cerberus, a pro-human group, instead of the alliance.

    It's a good plotline, that expands as you go on through the game. That said, it does feel a little weaker than the original. There seems to me to be less of the main plotline than in the original, which is dissapointing. That said, what is there is fun.

    The team over at BioWare seem to have taken the issues people had with the original and focussed on them: the inventory, the mako, the way people tended to play with the same companions and weapons all the time. Unfortunately, they seem to have overcompensated.

    The inventory system in the original was a little overcomplicated, and did have it's problems - especially the 150 item limit that forced you to turn items to omni-gel one at a time if you went over it. I would have settled for a little bit of simplification and a 'turn all to omni-gel' button. Instead they have pulled the entire system and give you a choice of weapons each time you leave the ship or come across a weapons locker. Nice idea, but the problem is that the choice of weapons is abysmal. You get around 2 of each type of weapon, and around 5 heavy weapons. It's also not a case of buying weapons much, but rather finding them as you progress through the game.

    The mako in the original was a little annoying. The tasks often seemed dull and without much reward. The driving segments were not the best ever, but they were not horrible. Again, I think a little change, offering mako upgrades, reducing the amount you had to use it, etc... would have been fine. Instead they have completely removed the mako from the game. Replacing the mineral analysing bit with a boring planet scanning/probe dropping minigame, which really isn't an improvement. If anything, it's worse as the mako at least had good moments. The scanner is just dull.

    The way people tended to keep the same weapons in use has been taken on with the ammo system. They have replaced the overheating mechanism (which I liked) from the original with a system of 'heat clips' (clips of heatsinks that take the heat from the weapon). At least it's well explained. Most people would say this was to try and create a more standard shooter experience (like the move to a crosshair over a reticule). This is probably true, but I'd say it's more to try and get people to vary which weapon they use more. Ammo (which is standard accross all weapons) is always in short supply, mainly due to the fact you can only carry very limited ammunition, with all of the armour upgrades that allow increased ammo capacity, it amounted to around 12 rounds for the sniper rifle, 30 for the shotgun
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      one glaring problem. Combat is predictable. so predictable that you can fire a shot and watch the guy pop up and get killed as you start the combat sequence. bosses act the same, they typically ignore your team mates and zero in on you.

    • The games best strength is in it's dialogue.

      But...if I want dialogue, I'd rather read a book.

      In fact, I'm getting sick of these linear, story-based games that neglect good gameplay. If I want to experience a story while having little or no interaction with how it comes out, I'll read a book or watch a movie. Games like this just look to me like a movie (or two, since there are two endings) that you have to perform work for in order to see the ending.

      I played ME1 and it was okay. ME2 sounds like it's a be

  • Maybe it's because they just finished Dragon Age and are as such underwhelmed with the story and characters of Mass Effect 2. They also complain about the gameplay and think that Bioware should stick to RPGs and not try to insert shooter-style gaming into their products. They're pretty confused about the good reviews the game is getting.

  • Western RPGs, and BioWare games in particular, really draw from the openness of D&D at their roots. The main character is an avatar, whose name and face and personality the player fills in, and whose choices affect the entire game. In direct contrast, Japanese RPGs offer fully-fleshed out main characters, whom you follow but don't control the decisions of.

    Mass Effect has lost sight of this, and is edging towards the Japanese model without looking like it is. The good/evil system is crap. Paragon and Ren

  • Difficulty Level (Score:4, Interesting)

    by denton420 (1235028) on Monday February 01, 2010 @02:55PM (#30984660)

    Being the kind of gamer that enjoys a good challenge I am pretty disappointed with ME2

    The story is great! The game is a cake walk even on insanity difficulty. I think they made combat way too simplified and the AI is simply annoying. There could be a few simple changes to make combat a lot more enjoyable.

    There could be "behavior" buttons to toggle for your AI partners. Defensive, somewhere inbetween, and full out attack.

    Yeah I am playing on Insanity but it is annoying when my AI partner decides to not take cover when he/she has just been hit by 2 rockets in rapid succession and thinks its a good idea to keep firing his/her heavy pistol at 5 synthetics. I just end up killing all the enemies and then waiting for them to get back up, not worth the medi gels lol.

    To counter this I pause the game and make an effort to set up my AI partners behind cover that is wide enough to support 2 people. This way you can alternate cover positions to keep the AI moving which keeps them from getting hit. It works well but a simple button to tell them to take some damn cover is not asking for too much.

    However after getting to around level 14-15, after the collector ship, its a non issue since any enemies encountered are dead within seconds. (tip: cloak + incisor rifle = win)

    BioWare get it together please. Dragon Age on insanity was not easy on my first play through, but it was not hard either. DA was much harder than ME2 though.

    I wouldn't even dare put Baldur's Gate 2 on the highest difficulty. That game scares me with how hard it can be. I want to have some respect for the hardest difficulty level in a game on the first play through at the very least. It could just be that I was about 12 when I played BG2 for the first time though =)

  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Monday February 01, 2010 @03:01PM (#30984728)

    The truth is ME2 is basically now gears of war in the Mass effect 2 universe, the RPG system is laughable, the only thing you end up doing is upgrading your powers but most of the time you can rely solely on guns and powers are kind of redundant.

    They took out some of the best parts that just needed fixing from ME1, I loved exploring planets in the mako but even I knew it could get tedious and boring only because the team didn't know how to improve it or where to take it, they could have done a lot with it if they had the right people who knew where to take it.

    Also if you are going for paragon/renegade you pretty much have to go soldier for the bonus's or import a mass effect 1 save (which you can now find online).

    http://www.annakie.com/me/ [annakie.com]

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