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Mass Effect 2

Shepard Returns With A Suicide Squad Of New Allies And Improved Combat
by Joe Juba on Sep 29, 2009 at 06:03 AM

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Platform PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher Electronic Arts
Developer BioWare
Rating Mature

Commander Shepard isn’t dead. Despite rumors to the contrary, the galaxy-saving hero from the first Mass Effect is alive, well, and ready to take on a new mission in this highly anticipated sequel. However, Shepard isn’t out of danger yet; according to BioWare, the Mass Effect 2 teaser trailer that hinted at Shepard’s demise was meant to introduce players to the idea that Shepard could die during the game. Considering that the plot involves Shepard recruiting allies for an apparent suicide mission, it may even be difficult to avoid.

The story was the main draw of the original game, and BioWare’s desire to include cinematic action and shocking twists hasn’t changed. However, judging from our time playing Mass Effect 2 at E3, the gameplay supporting the epic sci-fi tale is undergoing a host of improvements -- particularly in combat.

Firefights have a more natural flow thanks to the way BioWare streamlined the issuing of orders to allies. Your two party members are each assigned a direction on the d-pad, and pressing that direction sends the character to whatever location you’re aiming at. If you’re targeting an enemy instead, pressing the d-pad directs your ally to use a pre-determined ability on your foe. This mechanic allows you to position individual allies and use their powers without having combat grind to a halt by pulling up the command wheel.

Shepard’s combat capabilities are also more refined. The concept of overheating weapons has been scrapped, replaced by a more intuitive ammo clip appearing under your crosshair (not circular) reticle. The supply of bullets for most weapons is still infinite – you just need to reload when your clip empties instead of managing the overheat meter. These enhancements alone could pacify many players who complained about the first game’s gunplay, providing that BioWare backs up the changes with environments that take full advantage of their potential.

Addressing one of the most prevalent criticisms of the original, the team is creating more variety in all of Commander Shepard’s duties, so it won’t feel like you’re raiding the same cookie-cutter bunker every time you answer a distress call. The role of the planet-roving Mako is getting a total overhaul; in addition to improved controls, aimless driving won’t be such a major component of missions and sidequests.

Despite all of the areas where fans cried for change, the huge following garnered by Mass Effect is a testament to the game’s quality. The rich world and cool characters came together to create a riveting adventure, and gamers can expect more of those elements this time around. For instance, one new character is a penitent assassin named Thane, who brutally takes out a group of soldiers and his target – then prays for forgiveness. Scenes like these, along with the looming shadow of Shepard’s possible death, lend Mass Effect 2 a darker tone. When you are the only hope for the galaxy’s survival, making the tough calls is all a part of the job.

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Mass Effect 2

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
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