Game Review – Mass Effect 2 – Bioware (Xbox360, PC)

So, after 2 weeks and over 45 hours gameplay, I have finished ME2 and what a ride it’s been!

The story takes place 2 years after the events of the first game. Shepard has been declared dead his/her team scattered across the galaxy. In a coma for the past two years, Shepard has been brought back to life with a rag, a bone and a hank of hair, by shady organisation Cerberus.

The galaxy is under threat, mysterious Collectors are kidnapping entire human colonies, and Cerberus has Shepard and her team investigate and ultimately fight this threat. This is a game in three acts, the first part focusing on getting the team together, then ensuring their loyalty and finally their mission to stop the Collectors, potentialky suicidal but necessary.

Players of the original ME can import their Shepard from the first story, which means decisions made in that game can affect stories and characters in this one.

This is an epic game, with a wide range of stories to tell. Each of the team members has a loyalty side mission, you don’t have to play it, but gaining loyal teammates gives you a far better choice of success. The team is bigger than ME1 and some of the side missions are pretty dark, asking you to make some interesting moral choices. As ever you can choose to play Shepard as a Paragon or Renegade, both will get the job done, but you wouldn’t take the Renegade home to meet your mother.

Bioware have made significant improvements on the general gameplay second time around. There are no endless lift journeys, no travelling around in the piece of shit Mako vehicle and the weapons/armour/biotics upgrades are far easier to manage. For once less is more. Getting the upgrades involves buying them, finding schematics and then using minerals mined from unknown planets to pay for them.
(And a word about the planet mining, you can get terribly OCD about it and it will prolonge your playing time, if not your actual main gameplay. Neatly done Bioware, very neatly done).

The combat feels easier and a little more intuitive but that may be because I’ve played a lot more combat games since I first picked up ME1. Enemies will push forwards to attack, so staying in one place for too long is not longer an option. Bioware have also extended their area of attack, so now rather than assailants in 45 degree in front of you, you find yourself in situations where you’re being attacked from a 180 degree radius. As ever I’d recommend judicuious use of the save function before the next wave of enemies arrive.

Once again there is the opportunity to develop a relationship with a fellow team mate, and this has been sensitively done, not titilating. (To all those fanboyz who wanted to see sideboob, get a life, or at least a real girlfriend).

The import from ME function is cute, allowing you to feel some sense of continuity. Characters you met in the first one reappear, some for good, some for ill. It gives you a strong sense of where you are in the ME universe and shows that life has carried on in the intervening two years.

Criticisms? Well it would be good to compare team talents before you put a team together for a mission, and the fact the team is much bigger than the first time round means you won’t be able to level everyone up before the denouement.

However the main bugbear is that this is just too short. My original ME1 game save was over 68 hours, this was just over 45. Now even taking into account the lack of boring Mako missions, and my increased ability with combat games, that’s a big shortfall. I’m hoping that the DLC for this is going to be and it does bear replaying, both to make different moral choices and also to play with different combat abilities.

To be honest, these are minor niggles. The story is clearly progressing through a major arc (the final shot of the game is a killer tease for ME3) and this chapter has been engaging, shocking, funny and emotional. I care about my feisty grrl Shepard and all the team, be warned some choices you make may affect your team’s mortality, and I know I would have been gutted to lose any one of them.

It is a game where you get out of it as much as you put in. You probably can rush through it without doing all of the loyalty or side missions, but to do so would miss the point of the whole experience.

One last thing, it would be nice if Bioware focussed on the female Shepard in some of the advertising. The vocal work by Jennifer Hale is amazing (arguably better than her male counterpart Mark Meer) and FemShep is exactly the type of kickass female character we should see more of in high profile game releases. The trailer video above, featuring FemShep was actually fan made because Bioware saw no reason to pimp their female lead. (Bad Bioware, no cookie for you.)

All in all a fantastic game, a brilliant sequel and already in the running for my game of the year.

This was originally posted on 13th February 2010 at my old blog

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~ by moviegrrlreviews on May 25, 2010.

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