Xbox Live – Download Content
(Editor-in-Chief’s note: This is the final COE review that will reflect the old format.)
You don’t play better sequels than Mass Effect 2. You just don’t. BioWare has designed a near-perfect role-playing franchise. They listened to fans and eliminated pretty much everything necessary from the first title. The battle system is also dramatically improved, and the presentation more cinematic. I’ve reviewed a number of their games before, and they never cease to impress.
Enjoying ME2’s plot will differ depending on if you played the original or not. A completed Mass Effect save can be transferred in its entirety. Never has this been done before. It was attempted with KOTOR 2, but that merely amounted to choosing a few outcomes at the beginning. Here, every completed quest completed and NPC interaction outcome is stored. This makes ME2 feel like your game. It’s your Shepard through and through, and every decision made with him or her has a direct impact in this sequel. Thus, the possibilities are endless. Characters may or may not be present, and both circumstances play a major role. Even minor decisions resurface. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a thank-you email for recovering a man’s wife’s corpse. That required all of five minutes, but the fruits of my labor are no less significant. Even more encouraging is that everything you do in Mass Effect 2 will carry over to trilogy’s conclusion, Mass Effect 3.
The story takes a back seat to character development, which is likely to ensure a grand finale in late 2012 or so. The canon is still interesting, but it’s the character quests that make ME2 addicting. They really build the camaraderie of the crew battling a common enemy. Each personality has unsolved agendas that can be assisted with or not. The back-stories are intriguing, and even the returning cast has plenty to say. You may have favourites, but every supporting role is worth your time. The final boss does prove a bit far-fetched and random though. Still, the game is a wonderful precursor to the party awaiting us in ME3. Like KOTOR and Jade Empire before it, Mass Effect 2 has a strong story.
Mass Effect 2 also handles more as a shooter than an RPG. Don’t panic; it actually makes the game better. Yet I can’t stress enough to play on a tougher difficulty to truly appreciate the campaign. The strategy necessary for Insanity is ridiculous, but it’s never cheap. ME2 comes off as a suicide mission, and it very well could be. As a result, it makes perfect sense that some missions force the use of every last trick possible. A particular scenario could span two hours, whereas the same would take mere minutes on a more forgiving difficulty.
Cover is especially crucial and most fights provide a multiple of refuges. Your powers are vital too, though the core combat is a shooter. Headshots dish out more damage. Areas must be scouted for thermal clips (basically regular ammunition), as you’ll run out quickly. I found the AI to be pretty tight; not perfect, but at least your squad is helpful. They rarely [foolishly] jump out of cover, and have actually saved me a few times. The same can be said about the enemy AI. They can make your life a living hell, yet be stupid sometimes and open things up for you.
It’s tough to critique a game like Mass Effect 2 given the lack of any real faults. Sure, scanning planets for mineral is repetitious. The new mini-games are OK, but nothing close to the casino games in Dragon Quest or others found in classics like Final Fantasy VII. The absence of micro-management might displease the hardcore; there isn’t much character editing to do. You can pick skills to improve and what class to evolve with, but it’s not as deep as before. Even so, some (like myself) will prefer this new, simpler system.
Believe it or not, but Mass Effect 2 finally warranted my purchase of an HDTV. It’s just beautiful, a huge improvement over the original. You don’t do much revisiting, so everything you see is fresh. Every planet is different. The cutscenes are very easy on the eyes. ME2 is one of the 360’s prettiest products. The audio is also solid, supported by the platform’s best voice acting yet. But this is BioWare and you already knew that.
Look up system seller in the dictionary, and you’ll find Mass Effect 2 next to it. I don’t hesitate to recommend this to anyone, even those without an Xbox 360. The original still ranks amongst my favourite RPGs of this generation, but I can’t see myself replaying it after experiencing this sequel. I did four times anyway. The sequel is that much better. Again, you just don’t get better sequels than this. Mass Effect 2 is definitely the first must-buy title of 2010.
Overall (Not an average): 9.6/10