Mass Effect was probably one of the best games from Bioware for a long time, a deep science-fiction story set in a rich universe that left the player with so many unanswered questions, what were the Reapers, why did Saren ally himself with them and just what was humanityís role in the Galactic Stage?
So now weíre in 2010 and Mass Effect 2 has finally been released onto the planet. For those of you who just want to skip to the chase and get the gist of the review right here, this is a game you need to pick up, it changes a lot of core things from ME fundamentally, but the same rich universe and background is there along with a tighter shooter control and refined dialogue system.
Also: the lifts have been removed and many of the tedious scenes have been replaced with an animated loading screen that gives you some information on the event. Such as docking or landing on a planet. There are also lavish cut-scenes for arrival/launch/planet landing...most of the scenes can be skipped with the X button.Story
It would be impossible to explain ME2ís story without hitting spoiler territory, for those of you who still havenít yet played and experienced the much darker tale of this one. Itís a solid story with twists, turns, and some really epic moments that get the blood and adrenaline pumping. Thatís all Iím going to say.Gameplay
ME2 is going to feel like a cut-down RPG to many people. Gone is the tedious inventory management that bogged the last game down, removed to make way for a seamless experience that leaves you in control rather than constantly making minute changes to your teamís load-out/weapons/armour. Thereís no more messing with weapon and armour mods in this instalment of the game. Bioware have used Weapons Lockers that allow you to swap out weapons in a mission, usually before a big fight or a boss fight.
You can now customise your armourís look, picking from various parts and pieces that combine to give you a unique appearance as Commander Shepard. These parts can be found in various shops throughout the Terminus Systems and many of them add a game benefit as well as a cosmetic change. Some might give you boosted health and better shields for instance.
You can also pick your appearance on the Normandy from amongst a few stock uniforms; no doubt thereíll be more added to the roster through DLC.
The weapon wheel is back and so is the power wheel, pausing time so you can issue orders to your squad with a quick/simple system. You can map powers to the left bumper or the right bumper; you can even map powers for your squad to the left and right D-pad directions to give you even more of an edge on your opposition. Many of the powers, especially biotic ones can be arced by aiming the reticule to the side or above your opponent, curving the power around or over cover.
The D-pad can also be used to issue orders to your squad in real time. You can order members to move to specific locations this time, via the left or right D-pad; regroup with you on the down direction or focus fire on a single enemy with the up direction. It takes very little time at all to get to grips with this new system and hitting enemies with multiple flanking moves or powers becomes second nature.
Cover has been drastically improved as well, you can use the A button to enter cover with a single press or sprint (storm) towards cover Gears of War style and slide into it when you let the button go Ė you can also leap over some cover with a press of the A button whilst pushing forwards. Peering out from behind or to the side of cover is natural, it doesnít feel forced and cover saves your life in more ways than one. Even on the Casual difficulty itís pretty easy to get spaced this time since Bioware listened to criticism on the first game and made sure that this one is a challenge.
Enemies now have various defences that work well against your attacks, in a rock/paper/scissors style method. You canít target certain powers on enemies with armour or shields/biotic barriers. So you need to remove/disable those defences before you can lay them to waste. Overload works well on shields, shredder or incendiary ammo against armour and so on. Some of the nastier enemies have weak spots that you can target to inflict maximum damage.
Talking of targeting, you can now aim shots at various body parts. Head shots will do significantly more damage than regular shots. Leg shots can slow an enemy down or topple them right over. In the case of mechs, it can cause them to crawl towards you in an amusing manner. So combat has been drastically improved, itís more tactical and there are a lot more options in terms of your squad.
Bioware has removed the Mako and replaced the repetitious driving sections with a series of missions on unexplored planets, these N7 missions are quite numerous and each one is hand crafted/themed. They fit into the overall core story and can take upwards from 5 minutes to nearly an hour to complete depending on the mission itself. Some of them are linked to form a story-chain and only open up after you find the first link in the chain. Some of these N7 missions are found via in-game email as well as scanning planets.
There are also Ďloyaltyí missions that are given from each squad member, these are optional stories that give you a glimpse of your companionís place in the Mass Effect universe, as well as unlock their unique squad power for being loyal.
ME2 adds a very X-Com style research system to the game and ties it in with the new mining mini-game that allows you to strengthen your own abilities and those of your squad. There are upgrades available for all squad members as well as the Normandy. You can find the raw materials to make these upgrades on missions, N7 missions and so forth. You can also find the blueprints for various new weapons, upgrades allowing you to make them via the Normandyís tech-lab.