by Chris Scott
reviewed on X360
Bigger and better
Like other great popular Sci-Fi epics before it, Mass Effect was able to capture the attention of the general public by creating a near perfect meld of action and adventure with realistic characters that its audience could sympathize with. I was captivated by the universe that Mass Effect set forth but technical issues with the original game prevented me from loving the game as much as some others did. Now a little over two years later, BioWare asks gamers to return to the world of Mass Effect because the universe is once again in need of saving - but they promise that this time it will be a far more polished experience.
From the outset of the game, Mass Effect 2 offers players a unique means of playing the game. As Mass Effect 2 follows the further adventures of Commander Shepard, the primary character from the original game, BioWare has seen fit to allow players to import their characters into Mass Effect 2. Due to a smart and effective plot device, players will not be importing their levelled up Shepard into the new game, though, but rather the implications of their choices and actions in the original game. Also the save file must be at a certain point in the game, so starting a new playthrough and not making it very far will result in no save file being able to be imported. However, if you do run into this issue, or if you did not play the original game, Mass Effect 2 offers a very serviceable Shepard that gamers will claim as their own rather quickly into the game.
Story on the forefront
Mass Effect 2, like its predecessor, is a very story heavy game and as such it should be experienced instead of spoiled in a review. So, suffice it to say that Mass Effect 2's story is deeper and with more twists and turns than the original game. It is still your basic space opera, save-the-universe type of story but it is done on a scale ten times bigger than the original game. BioWare is known for their in-game stories, so no one really had delusions that there was going to be issues with that aspect of the game. However, when it comes to the gameplay and technical aspects of their games they sometimes fall just a bit short of greatness.
Mass Effect 2 has refined the gameplay of the original game straight down to its very core. For some this is going to be a good thing as elements of the first lacked a certain degree of polish that has been rectified with this sequel, while others may have an issue with it because by rectifying certain aspects BioWare fundamentally changed how the game will be perceived.
The original Mass Effect was a role-playing game with shooter elements. The combat was clunky and shooting enemies never felt quite right. Mass Effect 2, on the other hand, is a shooter with role-playing elements and the combat delivers far more punch than the original did. Enemies now are affected by location based damage modelling, thus headshots actually carry some weight in this game. Most importantly, the combat is actually satisfying. As someone who has spent a large amount of time over the past gen playing countless third person shooters Mass Effect 2 holds its own. However, with its shift in tone and feel, classic RPG fans may find the change in style a little off-putting.
However, RPG fans should enjoy the refinements added to the conversation system and character development. The unique conversation system is back for round two and it feels much more organic and is filled with many more options for dialogue than the original. Adding onto the conversation system is the new Interrupt system; at specific points in the game, during specific conversations, the player is given the opportunity to perform a Paragon Interrupt or a Renegade Interrupt by pressing the corresponding trigger on the controller. Activating the Interrupt makes Shepard perform an action, be it punching somebody or giving them some medicine. Ultimately this new feature makes the conversations feel more lifelike.
If I have any complaint about the conversation system, it would be the lack of dialogue choices for the Normandy crew, in particular those on your team. While the entire game is so immersive it kind of breaks the overall feel, when you go to talk to these character every few missions, only to be given the same dialogue choices as the previous time.
Improved in nearly every way.
Less of an RPG than the first one.