Without giving away spoilers, Mass Effect 2’s story holds a quality that we rarely see in gaming. Few games have put you into a world where the storyline and dialog are even more engaging than the actual action itself. Mass Effect 2 is one of those games. You are not just playing the game to shoot shit up, or to race to the end as quick as you can. Mass Effect 2 is an experience that you wish was never ending, because it makes you really feel apart of the world, It makes you really think that you are Commander Shepard. Because of the fact you want to be on such good terms with the other characters in the game, you will put off rushing through the main missions, to complete side quests for your crew, just because you’ve grown to care about these characters so much. In short, Bioware has made the universe of Mass Effect 2 so alive, that you really feel like your putting a part of yourself into the experience.
I don’t need to touch on the storyline of Mass Effect 2, because I am sure you do not wish to know spoilers. The most I will say is that the game has certified it’s position as one of the most engrossing video games ever. There have been a number of PC games to do what Mass Effect has done already, so to those gamers this is nothing new. However, Bioware bringing this caliber of game to a console, and pulling it off so well, means that they should be hailed as one of the elite developers. So let me give you the short run through of the games story.
You start off back in the Normandy (whether you import your Mass Effect character or not), but you quickly run into trouble. Your ship then needs to be evacuated. Long story short, Shepard looses his team, then hooks up with a new organization to take on a new threat (the collecters), whom you find out have ties to the Reapers. You must then build up your squad, to ensure you are fully equipped to take on the new problem head on. I know everyone was eager to see how their decisions in the first game would effect Mass Effect 2, but they hardly make up too much in the games storyline. You may feel disappointed with the lack of things relating to the first games decisions, as there aren’t a significant amount. However there is enough references to your choices there to make you think “Oh yeah, I made this happen”, or “Oh yes I remember this character from the first game”. The amount of new faces you will bring on your squad may also make you a little skeptical. At the moment I have only come across two people from the first game that I was able to bring back on my squad to fight, but this is forgivable seeing as how the new squad members are all very interesting people.
Visually the game is stunning, with only a few minor hiccups. Compared to the first game, Mass Effect 2 takes a huge leap forward, even if they had to sacrifice the convenience of having the game on one disc. Yes the game is on two discs, but it is highly forgivable and just looking at the amount of detail in the game, it becomes reasonable to see why. The game is definitely one of the most beautiful things to look at in the Xbox 360’s library all together, and the facial detail on the characters makes everyone seem unique. Even the aliens that are meant to all look the same, have differences in their facial appearance which can be picked out, and the fact that there are thousands of NPC’s in the game makes that even more amazing.
When it comes to combat, a lot has changed since the first game. Mass Effect 2 is definitely more action packed, and less like an rpg (as far as the combat). There is no more choosing your equipment from the start menu, that has been scrapped, and perhaps for the best. Now you just choose your guns and spray away. Of course your equipment can still be upgraded, but this is done back on the ship before you head off for combat. Meaning there’s less messing about in the start menu once you venture out on a mission. When it comes to armor, you only have one standard costume. Don’t panic though, the costume is fully customizable and supports add ons to help you perform better in combat. You can change the color of your armor, and attach add ons such as medi gel attachments. If you feel like mixing things up, then Bioware will provide us with different set’s of armor, via DLC. So far I have the Dragon Age blood armor, which looks amazing. The only upset is not being able to remove the helmet.
As for the action itself, it is more head on this time around. There is less messing around with menus, and more attacking. You still have your special attacks related to your class, and you can even map your favorite one to either the Y button or the left and right bumpers on the controller (Xbox 360). Overall though, the fun is in gunning down the enemy, and aiming for the head. The soldier class in the last game was kind of boring to play with, but this time around I can see how it would be the most enjoyable class to use. The team AI has improved a great deal also, you can send them into a covered position and they will do their job. Of course you can also order them to use one of their own special powers, to help break down enemy forces. Cover is a must in this game, and Bioware did a great job of implementing useful cover positions in the level designs. I must say though, the cover system can get annoying. When you press the A button to get into cover, sometimes it takes a while to respond, causing you press it again, which makes you snap out of cover instantly. This can be a factor that leads to your death, very often. Another fact which may annoy some, is the fact that you now have to use ammo for your weapons. This change isn’t much explained in the game, but it works in the favor of making a more action packed experience. Ammo is not hard to come by, so it shouldn’t cause a problem for anyone.
The sound in Mass Effect 2 is very authentic. In usual Bioware fashion, there is tons of dialog. Which means theres a whole lot of voice acting (with no Nolan North in sight). Fortunately the voice acting is superb, there are even celebrities lending their voice to the game. I’m not sure how much Bioware spent on the voice acting, but it must have been a huge part of the budget. There are so many different characters, and the ones you speak to have tons of dialog. The best part is, everyone sounds different.
There is not much more I can say about Mass Effect 2, besides telling you how much of a fool you are for not buying the game. The game is a near flawless experience, full of engrossing drama, and non stop gun blasting action. In my opinion, this is the best the Xbox 360 has to offer to date, therefore there should not be an Xbox 360 owner without this game (including the first one). Even if you didn’t play the first game, there is no reason for you not to play this one. Bioware has designed the game to be friendly to new people, but to also reward the people who played the first game. The game is also very lengthy this time, if you choose it to be. Currently I am 18 hours in, and I still have a lot of side quests to do. If I wanted to I could of course pursue the main missions and race to the end, but with this game you want to soak in the experience as much as you can on the first play through. Though be prepared to play the game through a couple times, just so you can see how different decisions pan out in the story.
To summarize, Mass Effect 2 represents what next generation gaming is about. Mass Effect 2 defines video gaming, and it is evidence enough of why the industry has surpassed Hollywood. Mass Effect 2 is one of the most engaging experiences in video game entertainment, one that should not be missed out on.