The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The second chapter in the Mass Effect trilogy is more of an enigma
than the first, weaving enough moral ambiguity, ghost-like images, and
misleading plot twists to make the writers of the TV show Lost
take note. Who are the Collectors? What interest does the mysterious
Illusive Man have in Commander Shepard? Where are the Reapers? Why has
Cerberus come out of the shadows? Why is mankind the only species in
the universe being hunted?
Lost has teased its viewership
for years with mystifying answers that lead to even more questions, but
in Mass Effect 2, the scribes at BioWare slowly pull the curtain away
to reveal the answers you seek. By the time the credits roll, most
questions are addressed, Commander Shepard’s role in the universe is
cemented, and the last image that appears on screen makes the wait for
Mass Effect 3 seem unfair.
If you import your save file from the
first game, the connection you have with this adventure is heightened
to the point that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you create a
new character. The save transfer retains your character likeness,
remembers all of the decisions you made, and ultimately delivers the
sensation that you are sculpting the story and are not a passenger on a
prescripted ride. The state of the universe is very much how you left
it, and the decisions you make moving forward will carry over into Mass
Effect 3. If characters died in the first game, they won’t return in
Mistakes you made in the past could come back to
haunt you. You’ll see the aftermath to decisions you thought right at
the time. And don’t be surprised if you stop dead in your tracks to get
a better look at familiar faces on the streets. These characters may be
an old acquaintance, and if you talk to them, the conversation will
play out like a chance reunion.
With this kind of depth, Mass
Effect 2 revels in its relationships. The bond created between
Commander Shepard and his or her crew is much stronger this time
around, with their personal lives sewn tightly into the plot. As they
come to know Shepard, their tormented histories, relationships with
loved ones, and ghosts from their pasts are dissected. The cast is
likeable, and their stories tug at Shepard’s soul in myriad ways.
situations you are asked to dictate are not as black and white as the
first game. Doing what you think is right at the time could backfire
later, or lead to a teammate shutting down emotionally.
narrative bounces between engaging mysteries and moments that attack
your conscience, all while pulling you deeper into a game universe than
you’ve ever been. BioWare’s scribes have not only created one of video
games’ greatest stories with Mass Effect 2, they have redefined how
stories are is told in this medium.
As familiar as this universe
will feel for fans of the original game, the majority of the gameplay
will feel alien. Most of the role-playing elements have been removed
outright. Weapon and player customization – two confusing menu-driven
distractions from the first game – have been stripped to the bones.
Most of the role-playing content is replaced with modern day shooter
conventions, such as regenerating health and limited ammo.
soldier class playthrough, I only discovered 14 different firearms.
None of the weapons are technically better than the other – they just
offer different functionality. You cannot apply individual upgrades to
the firearms like you could in the first game, either. All upgrades (of
which there are few) are automatically applied to every weapon in the
same class. Likewise, the inventory system has been removed in favor of
a similar armor upgrade system. Since this is all automatic, you no
longer have to deal with making sure your team is outfitted with the
The shift away from RPG-style customization may
sound like a major setback, but the new format keeps the focus on the
action. The combat scenarios deliver more excitement, not to mention a
wider breadth of enemy types. Teammates no longer mindlessly shoot
walls like they did in the first game. Rather than acting like
flashbang victims, they demonstrate intelligence on the battlefield as
they take cover, advance, and unload everything they can on the enemy.
also rethought the control mapping, allowing players to assign biotics
to buttons and view cool-down meters mid-battle – both of which remove
the need to visit the pause screen. From a tactical standpoint, you are
no longer shoehorned into relying specifically on Shepard’s class
specialties. You can snipe from ridges, create biotic and firearm
combos, and even use melee/shotgun-style assaults. All of these options
feel great, and are balanced to create exciting battles.
amazing storytelling and combat, it may seem BioWare can do no wrong,
but this journey is littered with unpleasant minigames tied to planet
mining, computer hacking, and lock bypassing. Each of these diversions
are as mind-numbingly dull as they are repetitive in design. Given how
heavily they tie into the gameplay, you’d think BioWare would have
given them the same care that clearly went into the rest of the game.
Although unwanted, the minigames don’t derail the experience. The only
element of this finely sculpted game that stands out as a grievous
error is the last boss’ design – its look screams X-Men more than it
does Mass Effect.
The loss of RPG elements may hit some people
hard, and the repetition in minigames may lead to yawns and tired eyes,
but none of these faults hold Mass Effect 2 back from being a work of
bold ambition, and one of gaming’s most exciting sequels.
Email the author Andrew Reiner, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.
BioWare doesn’t fix problems. It gets rid of them. Thought Mass
Effect’s inventory system was a mess? Don’t worry, in the sequel you
don’t have to manage a single piece of ablative plated armor. Didn’t
like the Mako’s handling in the first game? That little rock crawler
has been taken to the scrap heap. Surprisingly, I missed none of the
features BioWare unceremoniously removed from the franchise. Everything
that’s important about Mass Effect has been improved. The combat feels
like a more polished shooter, the additional hotkeys let you utilize
your biotic and tech powers to a greater degree, and the side missions
feature more variety. Even your allies have a larger role to play this
time around, and your relationships with carry a greater weight. Most
importantly, the Mass Effect universe is displayed in impressive
detail. Whether you get stuck watching an advertisement for funeral
homes after a billboard addresses you by name, you overhear a hapless
Turian’s attempts to pick up a Quarian at a spaceport bar, or you are
exploring the confines of a derelict beached starship, the worlds in
Mass Effect 2 are filled with a million little untold tales. The end of
Mass Effect made it hard to wait for the sequel, but the end of Mass
Effect 2 makes the wait for number three almost painful.