mass-effect-2-review

Mass Effect 2 is an action role-playing game by Bioware and published By Electronic Arts. With the upcoming PS3 release of this game and Mass Effect 3 around the corner I decided to finally fully jump in and see if it lives up to the hype.

If you have a save file from the original Mass Effect game then this sequel changes to match decisions you made in the first game. Allies, enemy’s and other plot details from your play-through of the original game will carry over to Mass Effect 2. I had not played the original Mass Effect game and thus missed out on many references at the beginning of the game. As a first time player I found it hard to stay interested and felt like the game thrust me in a situation that lacked enough context. It took a few hours of play to learn enough about what was going on to get really interested in the people I was interacting with and the overall story. I think they could have done a better job of indoctrinating new players as it seemed like this sequel was built for a fan base that was very familiar with everything that was going on.

MECHANICS
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Players will either find themselves walking around talking to other characters or involved in corridor shooting segments that play out like your typical third person shooter. Dialog is a huge part of the game. What you choose to say to other characters can dramatically change the course of the game. In this way Mass Effect 2 plays out like a ‘choose your own adventure’ game. The dialog ranges from good/heroic, to evil and also neutral. Good or positive things you say will increase your ‘Paragon’ level. Think of it like good karma. Evil or ‘Renegade’ things you say will increase that ‘evil’ level as well. The more you go in one karma direction the more of those types of speech options will become available to you. Saying certain things will create enemy’s or gain loyalty. Embedded in these speech options are also big decisions that effect who joins your team or whether you choose to complete a mission or side-quest in a heroic or renegade way. Each will grant you different rewards taking the story though mostly your relationships in the game in a particular direction. The dialog mechanics in the game gives it replay-ability. Some may want to play the game as a renegade if they were paragon the first play-through and vice versa.

One of the major flaws I found with the dialog system is that the dialog descriptors can be misleading at times. On occasion I found myself selecting a dialog option thinking it meant one thing and after the fact the characters said something totally different. There are times when the options are vague and you will not know if a particular option will have a good or renegade tone and they will say something completely different in a different spirit than you intended.I found this very annoying.

If you save frequently then for the most part you can ‘cheat’ the system by reloading a save file and saying something different to see if it garners an outcome you find more desirable. If the dialog options were more consistent with the resulting speech then perhaps making the things you say more final would be interesting. In Heavy Rain you only get one save file that auto saves frequently. Something like this in a future iteration of Mass Effect would be interesting though only if your dialog options are described more accurately as well. I think making your choices more final would create more tension.

COMBAT
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When you are not exploring your environment or talking to other characters you will most likely be engaged in shootouts with various enemy types ranging from robots to organic aliens. In battle scenarios you will always be accompanied by two other allies. You can choose the weapons load-out for your team before beginning all missions.

In battle you can give commands to them to perform a certain special attack, to stay back, or move forward. Mostly they will move around, shoot, and provide assistance to you as any co-op player would and their AI is for the most part is good.

The shooting sequences play out like your standard third person shooter. You enter a room or are advancing through a corridor and you have to dispatch the enemies on the other side of the room. The animations are good and as you shoot robots pieces of them wil explode. Also head-shots do deal much more damage than regular shots. In this sense the game feels more like a real shooter than other action RPG’s like say Borderlands.

As you progress through the game you level up your weapons so it takes less shots to destroy enemies though knowing where to shoot your enemy’s always makes a difference. Some enemy’s you will want to shoot in the legs and some in the head. Upgraded weapons and some you find later in the game have more kick to them and as I progressed though the game the shooting became more fun. There are special ammo types that can have different effects on different enemy’s which adds another layer of strategy to the shooting. You can use disruptor ammo on robots and incendiary ammo on organic enemy’s for added damage.

For the most part the shooting is more of the stop-and-pop variety. The weakest part of the shooting sequences in the game was the enemy AI. I played the game on normal mode and found it relatively easy through most of the game. The enemy’s did try to flank but never was it especially challenging. The final battle could have been epic and actually looks epic though I found it to be not challenging in the least. Players that are veterans to cover based shooters may want to consider playing the game on hard mode for more of a challenge. The shooting mechanics are not bad but also not great. I would like to see more refined controls in the next game. Jumping over barriers and running feels clunky and not smooth enough. Overall the controls could be refined more though in this game they get the job done.

GRAPHICS
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The graphics are very detailed and colorful. For the most part I was impressed by the amount of animated cut-scenes in the game and the quality of the visuals. The characters you speak to are expressive and do not suffer from the weird eyeballs that many CGI characters have in games. The environments are varied and as you progress though the game you visit various planets, bases and spaceships that have a varied look and feel. The visuals are very good overall as are the character models and the kill animations when you destroy robots. mass Effect 2 is one of the better looking Xbox 360 games no doubt about that. The PlayStation 3 version uses the Mass Effect 3 engine so it no doubt looks good as well.

SOUND

There are not a whole bunch of tracks that I remember from the game in terms of music. The most notable track is the music being played in Afterlife. In terms of music it does its job though the game has some of the best space themed sound effects I have heard in a game to date. The laser and particle sounds as you shoot, hit, and miss targets is really good. Mass Effect 2 has a great surround sound mix for those with home theaters. The music is there and does its job to set the mood though the sound effects take the prize and this game should be cranked up when you in battle.

The voice-over work is also very well done. There are so many dialog options that its crazy to think how much work had to be put into the voiceovers. Hardly ever does the voice over audio come across as uninspired or bland. A very important aspect that was well executed.

VERDICT
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Mass Effect 2 is not a game for everybody. Those that give it a chance may find that there is much to like. A great story you help to create, good gun battles and many hours of entertainment await. It’s certainly worth the price of admission for both Xbox 360 owners at the now discounted price and PlayStation 3 owners at full price. My first play-though ended at about the 26 hour mark. Yes, there is room for improvement but not many games have compelled me to see it though to the end or care for the characters I recruited like this one did. Try Mass Effect 2, its worth a shot for sure.


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