Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mass Effect 2 Review

 Seth Green returns to voice the hilarious  Joker.One of the most cliché yet possibly most difficult questions to answer would be the fabled “greatest game of all-time” inquiry. With virtually unlimited variables, everyone has a completely different opinion and with good reason. Can a multiplayer focused title really beat out a single-player title with an engrossing plot? Can an action game with gratuitous decapitations take on the adrenaline rush of a high-impact arcade racer? How about the intelligence and tactical nature of a strategy game compared to the immersive feel of a shooter? This usually leaves the debate at a standstill with names of great games being tossed around to supplement the absence of that one true answer. Endless as it may seem, I’ve found the answer.

Mass Effect 2 is one of those games that’s so engrossing from the very start that when you try to put it down something happens and all of a sudden you’re under its infallible grasp for several more hours. The game continues the adventures of the ambiguously gendered Commander Shepard in his or her attempts to secure the galaxy from the cusp of total annihilation. With Saren destroyed, the Geth quelled, and the Reapers slowed, a mysterious race known as the Collectors have appeared and begun assaulting human colonies for unknown reasons. It’s up to Shepard to build a team to find out who the Collectors are and what they have to do, if anything, with the menacing Reapers.

 This is Grunt, one of the many new crew  members.Some may argue that Mass Effect 2 is playable without having touched the first game, but that’s farfetched. Without experiencing the main plot, characters, and conversations that made the first so memorable, much if not all of the sequel’s charm and weight will be lost. With that said, the story may seem incredibly commonplace, however that couldn’t be further from the truth. As events unfold and characters are met you’ll begin to see how involved this universe is. Everything you do, everything you say has an effect on the universe and the people around you. I’ve never cared for more characters in a video game than this one. Constantly I’d find myself roaming the decks of the Normandy in attempts to hold just one more conversation with the crew. The writing simply blows every game out of the water and with superb voice-acting complementing that, you’ve got the best story-telling system in gaming at your finger-tips.

A very unique option to import your character from the first game is also present. If you decide to do this, all the choices you committed to in Mass Effect will carry over and have resounding effects in Mass Effect 2. These aren’t small, menial distractions either. Depending on what you’ve done, the game could be completely different by just shifting a single choice. Experiences will be drastically different, worlds will change, and some colleagues of yours could end up dead; not the temporary kind.

Explosive  combat.Like any good developer, Bioware has listened to complaints from the first game and in turn overhauled the sequel. Gone are the clunky and cluttered menus and the tedium of Mako exploration. The brain-dead AI has also been beefed up, the limited galaxy has been expanded and an effective gunplay system installed. Mass Effect 2 couldn’t be more different from its predecessor. While this will anger those who enjoyed collecting multitudes of items and exploring worlds with the Mako, the way Bioware has streamlined their new systems is nothing short of marvelous. It also helps that the game looks nothing short of breathtaking.

Perhaps the biggest, most noticeable change is the combat. At the game’s onset you’re asked to choose a class which, believe it or not, all play very differently. The Adept, for instance, is a biotic specialist that doesn’t have much armor or weapon variety, but decimates with special abilities. Along with new class changes, Mass Effect 2 instills a much more effective cover system along with immensely satisfying gunplay. The game plays more like a conventional shooter now. Enemies react heavily to being shot, headshots do much more damage, enemies with armor dampen biotic power, and you can even arc certain biotic powers around cover. The inclusion of ammunition is also a fresh change that puts a spin on combat. No longer can you lay down unlimited fire as doing so will put you out of business quite early. All these combat changes have made the fights of Mass Effect 2 much more dramatic and all the more pleasing. It comes together so well it makes the combat in the first game look like it should have been on the Atari.

 The Illusive Man doing that whole mysterious  thing.With all the good, Mass Effect 2 isn’t without faults. I happened upon several glitches that caused me to restart my game multiple times. Once, I was levitated off the ground and pushed into the ceiling with no enemies around. Normally I’d be aggravated beyond reconciliation but the game auto-saves often and, if you choose, allows you to restart that individual mission at any point. The only other issue I had was with the new planetary excavation mini-game. Since the Mako is gone you no longer have to explore the surface of planets. Instead, you can fire probes from the safety of the Normandy which earns you materials necessary for upgrades. It’s much better than traversing redundant and boring landscapes, but scouting a planet can take upwards of 15 minutes to do. Later you gain upgrades to make the process much faster, but you’ll end up skipping the excavating process on more than a handful of planets anyway.

Mass Effect 2 is an anomaly. Not only is the writing and story-telling grade A, but the gameplay makes every encounter note-worthy. The relationships you develop with your crew members and the missions you attempt are so enthralling you’ll put well over 30 hours into it before continuing on and starting a second playthrough. Bioware has taken change to a new level and given us an adventure of a lifetime. Skipping this game would be a sin to humanity.

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