A Work Of Bold Ambition - Mass Effect 2 - Xbox 360 - www.GameInformer.com
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Mass Effect 2

A Work Of Bold Ambition

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 this sequel.

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 old acquaintances, and if you talk to them, the conversations will play out like a chance reunions.

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.

The 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.

The 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.

In my 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 latest gear.

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.

BioWare 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.

With its 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.

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Second Opinion:

9.75

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.

User Reviews:

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  • 9.75
    Opinion on Mass Effect 2 by Bony 4D What I like about Mass Effect 2 The larger variety of enemies In Mass Effect 1 I didn’t like the fact that I was mostly killing Geth. Sure I fought the husk and other aliens and zombies, but most of the time it was the Geth that came between me and my objective...
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  • 9.50
    Mass Effect 2 "Science Fiction At Its Greatest" Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC Creator/Producer: Bioware and EA ESRB Rating : Mature Genre : Third Person Science Fiction R.P.G. It took me almost three years to decide if I was going to buy this game. Three. Im not really a fan of sci-fi stuff...
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  • 9.25
    Best Alien game out there.
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  • 9.50
    Everything in this game is flawless nothing more to say. You must try this before you buy mass effect 3.Because there is more story and more planets to explore. I recommend this to anyone.
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  • 9.25
    I'm not too sure how to kick this one off. I could start with how the introduction completely hooks you in & ends with a bang. Or I could narrorate the epic scale & the grandeur of the universe for this series. I could also compare & contrast the vast differences of Mass Effect 1 &...
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  • 9.50
    I loved "Mass Effect 2" just i didn't live up to my expectations. All the media hype and the high coming of the first one, I was ready for amazing story, gameplay, and music. I got the gameplay and music but not the story. I really started to pick up on the story issues when you start to...
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