Mass Effect 2 Review
|Release Date:||January 29th, 2010 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
Honestly, I've been sat here for a while trying to think of an imaginative introduction to this review, but rather than try any clever wordplay I'm just going to say what I feel - this game kicks ass.
That's the best way to describe Mass Effect 2 in all its glory - it's a huge improvement on the first game (which was brilliant in its own right) and ticks all the boxes for both space epic and top next-gen game.
Putting you back in the environment boots of Commander Shepherd, Mass Effect 2 picks up shortly after the events of the first game, but while you can start again with a new Commander Shepherd, gamers who graced the halls of the Normandy in the previous instalment will probably want to import that save file into this game, warts and all.
In my play-throughs I played once making the decisions I would make personally (which turned out well, thankfully) and once playing as a renegade psychopathic lesbian (don't read too much into that).
Upon importing the first save file, I found the galaxy of ME2 has reacted to my actions in the first game, making the whole experience feel like your own personal story, and one which is apparently going to continue into Mass Effect 3- so keep those save files.
While I would like to go into the specifics, I'd hate to spoil the frankly brilliant plot, so to summarise: Shepherd must assemble a team to travel into a dangerous part of the galaxy and stop some evildoers, and it's up to you whether the mission is a success, or if you're going to die in the attempt - yes, if you don't do things right, it could be a suicide mission.
Bioware has been careful to tackle all the issues raised by the first game- combat, loading, exploration and length. First off is the combat, which has had a huge overhaul, disposing of the clunky cover system and terrible squad AI and replacing it with something more akin to Gears of War.
A press of the 'A' button will stick Shepherd to cover, with the same button making him or her vault over it or do a GoW-style roadie run. Once in cover Shepherd can peak out to fire, or throw biotic attacks at enemies.
The power wheel also makes a return, allowing you to utilise your two partner's attacks in real time, or order them to change weapons for specific enemies. You can also order them around with the d-pad, and the AI is thankfully clever enough to pathfind its way from cover to cover with no problems. Biotic attacks have also had an overhaul - there are now more attacks available and you can now bend them around corners or over barricades, rendering the combat more fluid and fun.
The weapons available have also changed a fair bit. Rather than carrying every weapon, each crew member only carries the ones they are proficient with, including Shepherd. He or she also gets to take advantage of the newly-added heavy weapons, which are ideal for taking on Krogan or the huge mechs standing in your path.
Along for the ride this time are a diverse team of operatives Shepherd will need to recruit for his mission. The roster includes a powerful but unstable biotic, a pure-blood Krogan, a deadly assassin and a decent selection of humans, all who have their own motivation and whose trust you have to earn if you want to keep them on side.
Your ship will also need upgrading along with you armour and weapons, as you can't just buy new armour and upgrades at the store, and instead need to find and research them yourself, using resources mined from the myriad planets of the galaxy.
The exploration aspect of Mass Effect has also improved exponentially. Planets are scanned from orbit, allowing you to locate and mine resources without ever leaving the galaxy map, and unlike the first game many of these planets have side missions to attempt, ranging from stopping slavers to recovering operatives, all with considerable bonuses to levelling up your squad, which is still as essential and easy to do as ever. The Mako APC has been dropped however; so don't expect to go bouncing over the hilltops any time soon.
There is also a definite 'gritty' feel to the locations on offer this time. No longer is Shepherd frequenting the high-and-mighty planets, this time he's visiting the dregs of ME's society - drug dealers, slavers, pirates and all the scum of the galaxy, but rather than going the 'emo' route so many games have dipped into in their second iteration, ME2 instead offers a rounded look at the galaxy, offering both the order of the Citadel and the grime of Omega - a mining station, and hive of scum and villainy - it's just more fun to be on the outside, with no rules or regulations and a galaxy to save, or doom - it's all down to your choices.
Graphically the game is a cut above its predecessor, and the problems with graphical pop-in have been largely dealt with. There is still the occasional problem with loading textures, but it's minor at best.
The tedious 'elevator' loading screens have also been cut, replaced instead with Star Trek-style information screens displaying the inner workings of the Normandy. There is, however, still a lot of loading screen to stare at, and this can get a bit tedious at times.
The game is also a little buggy. While they are only minor flaws, on my first playthrough I encountered conversations that wouldn't end, a rotating Krogan who appeared to be dancing and the incredible flying Shepherd (I took off after being hit by a rocket), but these are few and far between, and do not mar the game in any significant way.
Sound-wise the game is as good as ever. Bioware have once again produced a brilliant score, and all the voice actors are on top form, especially when paired with the excellent facial animations in game. The combat has also been improved with a raft of new noises and the general battle noises of a modern universe- it's visceral and noisy, and all the more compelling for it.
If I could encapsulate Mass Effect 2 in one word, it would be 'more'. There are more planets to explore, more people to meet and more to study. There are more difficult decisions and more mistakes to make, there's more to see and do, and a more compelling storyline than ever before, shot through with issues of trust and loyalty. And, though the loading screens can be excruciating, this is one suicide mission you won't want to miss.
Of course the fact that you can buy a 'space hamster' to keep as a pet in your personal cabin never hurts either.
- Loads to see and do
- Streamlined gameplay
- Brilliant plot
Not so good stuff
- A little buggy
- Looooong loading times