Game Review: Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2

The game of the hour. Long-awaited treasure.

Mass Effect 2 is one of those perfect sequels. It is what everyone has waited the past two and a half years for, and they won’t be disappointed in the results. Everything about it is an improvement over its predecessor, and a crowning achievement in its own right.

From its opening moments, this game will leave you hooked, with an explosive reintroduction to the galaxy of the future. Commander Shephard may get beaten like an African drum, but he comes back heartier than ever, with a whole host of new characters ready to help him every step of the way, and dozens of new locales waiting to meet his own special brand of justice.

The plot, while nothing extravagantly new in terms of the sci-fi world, is brilliantly executed and deeply engaging. Characters possess a wealth of personality, and invest you in a way the first game could only scratch. They are distinct, they are unique, and it’s not only the main cast that draws you in—even the obscure have been given life; thought was put into each detail, and the words “generic plot hook” rarely applies. Both the characters, and the world itself, compel you on. You want to know more about them. You want to see more of them. You become invested—and the knowledge that you CAN lose them makes them all the more enthralling.

In that same vein, as fun as the beaten path is, it’s when you take a step off it that you see the true superiority of Mass Effect 2 over its predecessor. Whereas before the scenery that wasn’t in the main plot seemed a wash—a swirl of the same planet, the same space station, or the same ship set to slightly different colors or arrangements, every planet and adventure here is unique. The side quests that result from many of these ventures are granted as much care as the main plot, and they are diverse, well thought out, and genuinely fun to hunt down.

Of course, doing so will take you hours above and beyond the call of duty. And that, let me just say, is another thing I LOVE about this game. Games simply don’t have length any more. They appeal to the mainstream—the logic of get you in, get you done, and get you moving on to the multiplayer. Mass Effect 2 has no multiplayer and it doesn’t need it (although it would be an interesting thing to look at for future reference Bioware…). Completing every quest, side quest, and meticulously exploring this immersive universe would take dozens of hours logged, and even the main plot is nothing to shake a stick at there. And you will want to explore. You will want to see what is there. The game will see to that.

Everything looks and sounds gorgeous. Voice acting is top of the line all around, and even includes notable Martin Sheen as the loveable chain-smoking prick that spends the game telling you to go fetch. Seth Green reprises an expanded role as the comical semi-cripple “Joker,” and they are joined by other a host of more than 80 others, including cult classic favorites Adam Baldwin and Tricia Helfer.  The script is well-written, and the dialogue well-delivered. Also, the “choice” has had a bit of a makeover, and conversation prompts now allow you to affect the conversation in new and delightful ways—and renegade especially makes for some of the most badass scenes in the game. Trust me, you’ll love it. Also, the art design is flawless, and put to HD, there is nothing to describe it but “beautiful.”

Your allies’ AI seems to have improved significantly in their time away, but so has your enemies’. Combat is frequent, fun, and downright challenging at points. Your allies are under your direction and do their best to keep up on their own, but you’ve got to be careful—your enemies will overwhelm you if you’re not. Rushing into battle doesn’t work. You genuinely have to think your encounters through—or at least know how to use cover. Fortunately, new weapons and powers are available to help you in your time of need, including some real heavy-hitters that will absolutely decimate your enemies while leaving you slavering for more.

Little glitches do emerge from time to time, but nothing that will ever break the experience. A momentary stick in the environment, a brief sound issue or two—but small prices to pay for success, and often easily remedied. The annoying Simon-says-style mini-games of the past that applied to…well…just about everything, are gone, replaced by more satisfying and realistic methods of mining your ore and hacking tech.

And last, but not least, the bloody Mako is gone. Thank god. I don’t mind roughing it through the most brutal reaches of the galaxy, but make it fun! I want something that can actually drive—not something that’s going to flip every ten seconds or glitch its way into a mountaintop.

ME2 is the best game I have played in God-only-knows how long. I don’t mean to gush, but I absolutely love it. And while it may be a bit too talky-talky for the purely action folks, for anyone already looking in this direction, this game is a powerhouse that cannot be missed.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars!

ME2 Launch Trailer:

~ by Chris G. on February 5, 2010.

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