Mass Effect 2 Review

Massive impact!

Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 4th February 2010

Mass Effect 2

  • Developer: BioWare
  • Publisher: EA Games
  • Release Date: 29th January 2010

Despite being released in a storm of controversy Bioware's Mass Effect proved to be a success amongst gamers and critics when it was released back in 2007. With such success comes the inevitable sequel, but Bioware wanted more for its sci-fi roleplaying game and soon announced the Mass Effect franchise was to be a trilogy. Now three years on the second game of the three has arrived.

As with most RPG’s, the games story is pretty complex but nonetheless fairly easy to follow, moving along at a good pace. It’s difficult to say a lot about the story without giving key plot elements away, but Commander Shepherd is basically recruited by the Cerberus Corporation (an organisation many believe to be human extremists) to put a team of specialists together. The majority of which is made up of new characters with one or two of the original Normandy crew returning for starring roles. Fans of the original will also be pleased to see some cameo appearances by some of Shepherd’s crew. Your mission is to find out why human colonies are disappearing without a trace throughout the galaxy. Away from the main story the game serves up plenty of side missions and assignments which combine to give Mass Effect 2 around 25 to 30 hours worth of playing time. But the game also offers great replay value due to the fact in-game events change depending on what decisions you make during the course of the play.

In terms of gameplay Bioware has made some significant changes over the original game, as well as several tweaks and refinements that help make Mass Effect 2 a more rounded playing experience. The first significant change comes in the games character development system. The character system from the original game has been replaced with the one we saw in Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins which was released towards the end of last year. You now only have to award points to key abilities of your chosen class, making characters feel more specialised then in the previous game. Further character customisation comes from the usual sculpturing the look of your character, choosing some special abilities and weapons upgrades. The game does include a nice import function that allows you to transfer your character from the original game to Mass Effect 2.

The games combat system has had a bit of an overhaul, the cover system is much more fluid and the transition from movement to cover is much easier to perform. Shepherd also now hugs the various surfaces much tighter, not exposing so much of himself as he lines up a shot and any enemies ahead. The aiming system in Mass Effect 2 is also much more precise. The cross-hair is slightly smaller and allows you to hit targets at greater distances. There are some other significant changes to combat. In addition to the tweaks that improve combat, it should be noted that grenades don’t feature at all in Mass Effect 2 but have been replaced with heavy weapons such as a grenade launcher and particle beam enabling you to inflict significant damage on formidable foes. Weapons can still be upgraded as in the original, however the system has been expanded and now has much more depth and options available in your fight to save the galaxy. Enemy A.I has also been tweaked with the game now offering a much improved challenge as enemies will put up more resistance and you often feel you are actually fighting for your life. Power use again is another area in combat which has been improved and is much easier to effectively use the various biotic powers throughout combat. These enhancements to the games combat element really have helped to improve the game overall and it’s hard to find anything to complain about in this department. Despite this though, the combat aspect isn’t perfect mainly due to the fact that party A.I can still be the cause of problems. Your party members will often stray to far in front getting into problems, or just lag behind unable to offer support when you really need it which unfortunately can lead to your death, a minor annoyance, especially when you consider they do take out their fair share of baddies.
The game also introduces improvements away from combat. Shepherd still has to take part in numerous long dialogue sequences with various questions to ask and answers to give and even comedy moments included. Just like in the original Mass Effect, the conversation options you select sway Commander Shepherd’s character to being that of a “Paragon” (good) or “Renegade” (bad). This character development system not only opens up unique dialogue options depending on how you are perceived in the game world but it also allows you to perform special actions at key plot points, such as extracting information from an NPC or stopping a member of your crew from making a mistake, of course you can simply ignore these prompts but just like the dialogue options each one has its own consequences changing the outcome of situations further into the game. This not only keeps you on your toes, but also really helps you connect with the games characters and immerses you more into the role of Shepherd.

Visually the game has seen improvements too, facial detail was pretty solid in the first game, but Bioware has still managed to improve things adding even more detail, however the most significant improvements are that of character bodies, the much more detailed with armour looking worn and battle scarred, the games environments are also far more detailed than in the original game and in general things look a lot cleaner and sharper than in Mass Effect. Animation has also been improved and Shepherd now moves, much like you expect a soldier would rather than the casual jog of the original. The games audio is also solid throughout, Voice acting as you would expect is top-notch, with the various actors all putting in a solid performances.

Mass Effect 2 might not make leaps and bounds forward but the improvements really build on the playing experience of the original game. The story is pretty interesting and will keep you hooked until the end, and the various speech and action options give the game real replay value. The game still probably won’t appeal to RPG purists due to it being focused heavily towards the action gamer, but if you liked the original than the sequel is unmissable.

Review Score: 9.5/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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