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Review | Mass Effect 2

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Format: Xbox360/PC | Genre: RPG | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Developer: BioWare | Release date: 29/01/10 | RRP: £34.99 – £45.99

You know that thing where you’re looking forward to something, and you know it’s going to be great, but it turns out to be even better than you could have hoped? That’s Mass Effect 2. Where do I begin, though? A game as rich in diversity and content as this becomes a hard thing to pin down in terms of explaining why it’s so good, without the review descending into a boring list. I’ll try to avoid that.

I loved Mass Effect. I enjoyed every single second of it. It was pretty much what I’d always wanted out of a sci-fi roleplaying game. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but it really didn’t matter. As soon as I’d finished, it I immediately began looking forward to the second instalment. Now, just over two years later, it’s here. It’s actually here. And I’ve played it. And I’m a really bloody happy man.
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In terms of the core mechanics, not much has changed. It’s been refined and streamlined. It’s been made better. Combat is improved – although, to be honest, I thought it was good enough the first time around. That said, when the action happens, it does pack more of a punch in terms of feedback and noise. Remember the big gun battle in the film Heat? It’s quite like that.

The various other changes – such as the resource and fuel management, the way uncharted worlds are explored and the inventory system (there isn’t one) – all get my seal of approval. “Tell us more!” you may be crying out. But I’m not going to. I’m on a mission to give out as little information as possible here, because spoiling this game would be criminal. I want you, dearest readers, to have the best possible experience with the incredible masterpiece that is Mass Effect 2.

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So, the basic stuff is brilliant, as expected. But what really raises Mass Effect 2 over its peers and then urinates on them from a great height is its extraordinary story and characters. If you thought the story in Mass Effect was exciting, then – to coin a phrase – you really ain’t seen nothing yet. It’s much darker in tone than before. The threat of the Reapers is still there, along with a more sinister and immediate threat to the galaxy. The core story is a simple one: assemble a team of the best and most dangerous the galaxy has to offer, and then go on what is essentially a suicide mission. It’s like The Dirty Dozen, only in space, but what makes this so special and ultimately turns the story’s simplicity into one of complexity and incredible depth is the array of wonderfully colourful and interesting characters. This is the most three-dimensional group of NPCs I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering in a game, bar none.

What makes a person interesting if not his or her flaws? And flawed these people are, sometimes deeply so. This isn’t a group of clean-cut space heroes; this is a group of renegades, assassins, psychopaths, bounty hunters and worse. Even the nicest characters have the darkest of secrets. And this is a world in which others don’t need you, meaning you generally have to go through some kind of hell to get them on the team, and even then you’ll have to earn each team member’s loyalty.

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13 Comments

    10 out of 10? The battles better be much better than the first time around then…..

  • I haven’t played the full version of this yet, but from my time with a preview build back in October, the combat did seem markedly improved.

  • Its not that much different to be honest. But then you see, I didn’t see anything wrong with the combat the first time around.

    Its definitely louder though.

  • It also lets you choose Hard difficulty from the beginning without you having to complete the game on Normal first. Great for those of us who are as tough as Krogans.

  • Like you JD I loved the original Mass Effect and couldn’t wait for the next one to come along and Mass Effect 2 is fantastic is every way. I 100% agree with the 10/10 review, it’s truly a great game.

  • I disagree, the combat is completely changed, and most definitely for the better. The two straightforward ammo types definitely narrow things down in terms of the ideal choice in different situations, not to mention combat is now smoother due to the auto-upgrade system, better cover controls (though rockets annoyingly push Shepherd back out of cover) and generally smoother information receipt through new health bars and the armour system.

    That said, JD, good review – I’d love to see a long rambly post on your blog about it, as it seems like you’ve tons more to say as a fan :).

  • Christos, I really do have so much more to say on Mass Effect 2, so much more! I will do a blog post!

  • No PS3 release? :-(

  • Nope :(

    This is why I prefer the Microsoft exclusives to be honest.

  • Just about everything in this ME outing was better, and I can see why it gets a 10. For me, though, it was a 9 – still amazing, and one of my favourite games of all time, but I disagree about the story slightly. The new cast of characters was great, and I liked the missions to help flesh them out, but honestly? I don’t consider that to be story, just exposition. The main plot this time was an intriguing concept that never quite hit… ahem… critical mass, and it was over all too quickly. Plus the ending was unexpected, but not all of it in a good way. It felt a bit rushed (not the game, just the story), and I wanted more.

  • To clarify, I did actually state that the story was ‘a simple one’. Its the individual character stories that give it depth because I consider all those part of the story of Mass Effect 2.

  • No, I absolutely understand your point – “Dirty Dozen, only in space” and all that – and I completely agree with both why you scored it 10 and why it appealed to you. It’s that, for me, I wanted more forward momentum with the story. That is my only real gripe about the game. But that’s my own personal take, and I don’t disagree with the score from what you’ve written.

    Good review.

  • Mass Effect 2 is hardly a better game than ME1, in fact it’s not even close. It has a partly stupid story, horrid menus, no loot, nerfed level up system, stupid ass thermal clips, no mako, piece of crap planet tool, making the player control other caracters than shepard, the list goes on… I don’t understand how this game could harvest so many good reviews when it’s such a let down to the mass effect universe and the original game.

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