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Mass Effect 2 Review

Mass Effect was a big hit on the Xbox 360 when it was first released, hailed as being a truly magnificent sci-fi tale where your character, Commander Shepard, was trying to rid the galaxy of the evil Saren, who was in turn working for a race of ancient machines intent on destroying all life in the galaxy – the Reapers.  The game suffered from bad texture pop-in, but the PC port - along with its redesigned control scheme fit for mouse and keyboard - came along and solved most issues. Here we have the sequel, but does it stand out as much as its predecessor?

Just as a spoiler warning, the first half hour or so of gameplay is mentioned in this review, but if you don’t mind, please do read on.  Now that’s out of the way, we can get down to it. In the sequel we again take control of Commander Shepard, who can either be a brand new character, or an imported Shepard you have from the original game. In the games prologue, we see Shepard and his crew aboard his ship, The Normandy, which promptly gets blown to bits by an unknown ship. Our good Commander makes sure everyone gets to the escape pods, but as he is saving the ships pilot, Brittle Bone Disease sufferer Joker, he gets blown into the vacuums of space, and meets an untimely end. This is where our real game begins.

Mass Effect 2 

Moving forward two years, we find out Shepards body has been recovered by the pro-human group, Cerberus, who are genetically rebuilding him. This is where the character creation comes in – if you have started from scratch, you can choose a male or female Shepard, then select class / background and so on. If however you have imported a Shepard from ME1, then you can change everything except the sex of Shepard. This can make it a more personal experience for the player, as you can stick to your previous Shepards exact looks, and if you so choose, abilities. Of course, you will have to earn these abilities again through levelling up as the game progresses – you will start at level one, unless you imported level sixty Shepard, who will begin at level five.

Once you have created your character, you are awoken by a woman called Miranda, who will then guide you through the Cerberus facility you are on, which is currently under attack by their own mechs. This serves as a training level of sorts, which will accustom you to the games new shooting mechanics, wholly Gears of War style with you sticking to cover like glue and popping up to take a few shots.

Mass Effect 2 

After this training mission you are brought before the head of Cerberus, the Illusive Man (voiced brilliantly by Martin Sheen). He informs you that you were brought back at great expense, to help with the current problem facing the galaxy. Human colonies have been disappearing and suspicion has fallen on the Reapers. It’s your job to find out who is really abducting the colonists, and if the Reapers are truly involved.  From here you will get classic Mass Effect gameplay, where you can travel from planet-to-planet, seeking new crew members for your newly rebuilt Normandy, all leading up to the games conclusion.

As with the original Mass Effect, conversation plays a big part in the way things around you turn out. As an example, at one point, you will recruit an Asari alien, Samara into your crew, and she – like all other squad members – has a specific side-quest. During this side-quest, your actions can result in two totally different outcomes, one of which will can potentially have consequences later on in the game.

Mass Effect 2 

The Paragon and Renegade options return here, and while they are largely the same as before, there is a new interrupt system in place, where you can forcefully interrupt a conversation with a positive or negative action. For example, the scene shown in a few trailers, where you can interrupt a man talking and push him to his death through the window. While these can be ways to get results quick, they can have some unexpected consequences so you have to think before you just jump and hit the button to perform an action, as it’s wholly possibly to ignore these interrupt actions altogether.

In-between recruiting new crew members and doing main missions, you will be able to embark on a number of side-quests that will take you off the beaten path. These can be found randomly by scanning planets, or by chance if you have a conversation with a certain NPC. These are massively improved from the original game, as each new side-quest I’ve found so far has been just as exciting as the games main missions. The collection of minerals from the previous game has returned, but it’s far less tedious. To get minerals from planets, you need simply scan them until you find an area with high activity. From here you can launch a probe from the Normandy down to the planet, which will find the minerals for you  – no more driving about in the fiddly Mako vehicle, which is now gone.

Mass Effect 2

The minerals you collect can be used to upgrade your armour, weapons and the Normandy itself. While I didn’t see the importance of this the first time round, I certainly saw it necessary the second time I played as it changes things dramatically towards the end.
The game looks downright gorgeous sometimes, with some of the alien species in particular standing out having been terrifically designed, and they look perfectly in place in the game world. The sound is great in general, but the voice acting stands out as being fantastic for the most part. I preferred playing as a female Shepard, as Jennifer Hale does a better job as the female Shepard than Mark Meer does for the male counterpart.

Mass Effect 2 

Nearly everything you do will have some impact on the game world. Be it big or small, something will have changed, from someone living or dying, to you getting a discount in a shop somewhere. Things are always affected, and that’s what makes Mass Effect so compelling. There have been many games which have promised consequences for all your actions, but only a few have delivered this. Mass Effect 2 is one of these games; and while the decisions you made in the first game aren’t massively important in this game, they do add a little personality to it, allowing you to meet certain characters again, depending on your actions in the original game.

The game was released with DLC readily available through the Cerberus Network, an in-game network giving you various news stories from the Mass Effect world on the main menu. Everyone who buys the game new will get a code to connect to the Cerberus network, and those who buy the game second hand will be able to purchase a code from Bioware to access it, as the codes are single use only.

We have been promised a trilogy, and certain actions taken in this game are obvious nods to things that will possibly happen in the third game. But Bioware has made a bold move in this one, which you will find out for yourself.

Only time will tell where Bioware will go with the franchise, but as a middle game this stands out as one of the best games so far this generation. It’s a good mix of shooting, story, light RPG elements and has plenty of charm and character to keep you hooked right through to the end. Highly recommended.

9.00/10 9

Mass Effect 2 (Reviewed on Windows)

Excellent. Look out for this one.

Only time will tell where Bioware will go with the franchise, but as a middle game this stands out as one of the best games so far this generation. It’s a good mix of shooting, story, light RPG elements and has plenty of charm and character to keep you hooked right through to the end. Highly recommended.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
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POBmaestro-1428097466 - 11:42pm, 3rd April 2015

I finally completed this last night after nearly 4 months (about 38hrs game timeI think). Overall a good game in my opinion, but not brilliant - I think the sound is of the highest order and the graphics are pretty good too. I enjoyed the story and the shooting was decent too, but I do not feel as an experience it was as good as the original. I can only describe it as 'dumbed down', with fewer in-depth missions and half the time spent scanning planets, a really really poor concept in comparison to the exploration with the Mako. The missions you do find involve a lot of hard work for no reward. Still, I am sure the atmosphere and story will bring me back for the final chapter. Overall I'd give it 8/10 :)

Adam2208 - 11:42pm, 3rd April 2015

I liked Mass Effect 2, but I didn't love it. I thought it was good but I really didn't see what all the fuss was about.

icaruschips - 11:42pm, 3rd April 2015 Author

I prefered the first one myself, but had a good time with the second and I stand by the score. There's not much like it in terms of character and story when it comes to TPS' (I'm past calling it an RPG). Something sharing similar gameplay, like Gears of War, can simply be laughed at when comparing stories and characters to this.