Review of Mass Effect 2

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Well it was certainly one of my own most anticipated releases for early 2010, Mass Effect 2…where do we start?

Graphics

Mass Effect was a beautiful game, especially considering it sat on just one DVD with no HDD installation requirements.  It had it’s issues however, very poor texture pop-in (even when fully installed to the Xbox360 HDD) and some odd clipping at times too.  Mass Effect 2 seems to have eliminated the pop-in issue entirely and as well as more detailed graphics everything seems a lot more ‘solid’. Everything is smoother, brighter, glossier and sexier…almost to the point it is better than reality…ok, well maybe not, but its still impressive nonetheless.

As with ME1 there are cut scenes and by using the in-game engine to generate them you will be wearing the outfit and gear you choose. Whilst this can cause some issues with the models (i.e.  Shepard went to sit down and placed her hand about 6 inches above the floor whilst leaning on it) it is hardly noticeable and I actually prefer cut-scene style narrative on these types of games being done by the game engine. It adds a touch of extra immersion.

Sound

The soundtrack is a nice accompaniment to the game and rarely intrudes enough to distract you from the voice acting or any sound effects. A number of situational soundtracks are present, such as in a club or your cabin on the Normandy where it is loud and adds to the immersion.  I didn’t often want to stand in the cabin listening to various tracks however but couldn’t work out if changing the music there had any impact on anything outside of the room. If it did I am afraid I didn’t notice.

There are nods to ME1, such as when traversing the galaxy the same galaxy map music plays. The voices of characters from ME1 are faithful as are the Shepards.  Knowing the number of famous people involved in the voicing of Mass Effect 2 I tried to play a game of spot the famous voice. I wasn’t very good. After my second playthrough I shall look in the manual or the credits to view who was what. I’ve definitely got Worf (from ST:TNG) pegged though, Michael Dorn I think his real name is…I just call him Worf!

Sound effects and voice acting is superb. The only complaint I have is, once again, the same as other games, they never get a character cutting off another correct. For example:
Char 1: “You know that is just total Bull-“
Char 2: “Stow it, Captain!”

Reading that you know that Char 2 interrupts Char 1…in all games why is there always a 2 second delay between Char 1’s dialogue ending and Char 2 interrupting? It’s a real bugbear of mine.

Game-play

Mass Effect 2 brings a lot of familiarity from the first game through, it kind of had to otherwise the seamless story and feel of the games would be broken. At the same time some real progress was made with game-play.  The cover interaction is infinitely better, in fact going back toME1 last night had me at a total loss as to how to get into cover!  Massive improvement on that front.

Combat has been improved too. You can now more accurately direct your teammates to cover individually. Whilst a little buggy at times and your companions deciding they still think they know best, they generally didn’t go down as many times as in ME1 where they’d both try to get behind the same cover or rush into a crossfire with suicidal tendencies.  If you forget you left them holed up somewhere then if you roam they will run to join you, this is good but also at times completely ruined a cheeky flank strategy or two when I must have hit the threshold for their leash…

Gone is the annoying over-heating of weapons, instead ME2 utilises ammo. Overall I found it an improvement but ammo conservation and usage on snipers and hand-cannons was pointlessly limiting until further into the game (I was playing the infiltrator) when more ammo storage was available.  I did miss grenades however, those having been removed from this iteration of the game.

Story

This is by far the best RPG I’ve played to date, ever. I was compelled to play like no other game since the days of Planescape: Torment. The story just sucked me in. As in the first game there are good actions and bad actions (although renamed slightly in ME2) and with the achievements for being a goody two shoes or pure evil removed it meant I felt happy to walk the line and dish out the opinions I wanted to.  Mass Effect 2 introduces ‘interruptions’ where if your relevant good/evil skills are high enough an icon will flash up and using the triggers on the controller you can set off an interruption to the usual dialogue. I admit my favourite was kicking someone through a skyscraper window!

DLC

There is already some limited DLC available, I have the dragon age armour, a pre-order bonus code and also the other Free content via the Cerberus network. What really annoyed me is that I have had to sign up for both the dragon age and mass effect networks online. It is probably to combat second hand ownerships and all that but I’m getting very tired of registering with yet another website and forum every time I want to use some in-built DLC. It isn’t just the irritation of registering but the fact that it is increasing the chance my details will get hacked, the fact I have to make a record somewhere of the details (using a different password for everything obviously to try and limit hacks into other things if one is breached) which I will invariably lose.

The larger irritant of DLC access aside, I am hoping for something a little more substantial in future DLC releases. Saeed was fun to talk to with his stories, but ultimately nothing special, unlike the Shale DLC for Dragon Age.

Conclusion

This game has been a dream RPG experience for me. Not too much dialogue before you need to interact, enough action to keep you hooked and a stunning graphical galaxy that has been given a soul as opposed to the aimless driving around on planets in the first game. 

One play through down and where I usually don’t want to go back through ‘as the baddie’ (as I invariably always try the good path first) the fact that no achievements were attached to using certain team-members or alignment then I really actually want to go back through and try different things this time.

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