Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mass Effect 2 Review

If you happen to be on my buddy list you'll notice that I've finished both Bioshock 2 and Mass Effect 2 within the span of a week and you bet your ass I have thoughts on both, but for now we'll start with the latter. Mass Effect 2, the sequel to the space epic from 2007 of a similar name, has been coined by a single word, streamlined, and while it's true, I would much rather focus on the other aspects that don't get enough attention.

You could consider this paragraph to be chock full of minor spoilers, but if you've spoken to anyone whose played this game for more than ten minutes you'll know everything I'm about to type. The game starts with the Normandy, which has basically been demoted clean-up as they patrol the universe looking for remaining Geth. This glorified form of retirement lasts for a while until, within the time frame of ten seconds: the Normandy detects an anomaly, a bizarre space ship lodged into a rock warps within a hundred yards of the ship, and the aforementioned ship splits the Normandy in half with the same amount of effort that we'd use to split string cheese. You then go about the demolished ship rescuing all you can from the surrounding destruction; this sounds familiar (Knights of the Old Republic 2), well okay, it's not a complete copy, but I think Bioware studied up on  some of their old notes before making Mass Effect 2 (it doesn't help that both are sequels either). You precede to save just about everyone, including everyone's beloved paraplegic Joker. After that, you get blown from the ship and die due to a combination of asphyxiation and being torn up by a planet's atmosphere; cue Six Million Dollar man intro sequence!

The rest of the game is compromised of you forming a team to combat the new menace known as the Collectors. There's no real point in mentioning the main goal any further because it's literally a copy of the one from the original. Instead, we'll focus on the addition that caught my attention the most, the upgrade system. This skillfully deals with an issue that has been plaguing role playing games since their creation, item overload. Instead of being forced to sift through dozens of weapons to find the one you want, you are given a maximum of three to four guns for each category and you improve upon them. This solves an issue and presents an impressive way to emphasize each weapon's key qualities. Secondly, you are only allowed to change weapons at the beginning of each mission or at weapon lockers placed at key checkpoints within the mission, which is a blessing for us afflicted with ADD when it comes to our load-out.

The final aspect worth mentioning is one of the best uses of quick-time events I've yet to see. These events take the form of Renegade and Paragon choices that occur whenever the situation arises. Generally this comes into play with your party member's various loyalty missions and secondary missions. The Paragon option almost always boils down to you stopping your buddy from making an incredibly stupid decision, with the Renegade option usually allowing you to either take an unfair advantage against an enemy or slap someone into shape. Neither of these options are mandatory, but they can have a major impact on the game's continuity and story progression, luckily the game telegraphs when these events are going to occur and gives you over ten seconds to react.

Now of course, you are wondering why I'm not telling you if this game is good or not, that's because you already know this. You and I both know that you've read other reviews and probably played the original, so focusing on the big picture is a waste of time. What I want to do is tip those undecided into purchasing this title by presenting them the game's most glorious positive qualities, but I'm not going to simply flatter the game's developers either, so here is a negative aspect!

The game is far too easy in terms of combat. The only time you die is when you overstep your class's boundaries and go into territory you shouldn't be in. At no point in the game are you required to reload and stock up on stronger upgrades in order to beat a certain section. I personally didn't even go to any of the game's shops until well past the seventy-five percent mark. Secondly, the game generally auto saves before each battle so your only penalty for death is restarting that specific battle over again.What the game lacks in combat difficulty though it makes up in moral dilemmas, prepare yourself for some tough choices that will most likely affect the how the third installment pans out.

This game is all about decisions, decisions, decisions. You will spend more time dwelling over how to help your psychopathic biotic get over her mental scars than you ever will spend in a single battle, and that's a good thing. It presents a completely different style of gaming in a manner that's not threatening to most people and is generally accessible by everyone whose willing to give it a shot due to its sugary coating of streamlined combat, interface, and conversation options. Will you enjoy this game if you enjoy action? Yes. Will you enjoy this game if you enjoy story? Yes. Will you enjoy this game if you like flashing lights and pretty music? Oh fuck yes. Should you get this game? Must you really ask?

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