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Review: Mass Effect 2

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the that-was-a-joke dept.

Games 331

Mass Effect debuted a little over two years ago to almost universal praise, getting high marks for the rich story, endless exploration options, and entertaining gameplay. Despite the game's success, BioWare listened closely to player feedback, promising to revamp the parts of the game that needed improvement while developing the sequel. They didn't hesitate to refine the elements they wanted to keep and do away with the ones they didn't. The result is a familiar, but much more streamlined experience. Rather than being a shooter with a great story added in, Mass Effect 2 a great story that often has you shoot things. Read on for the rest of my thoughts.

  • Title: Mass Effect 2
  • Developer: BioWare
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • System: Windows, Xbox 360
  • Reviewer: Soulskill
  • Score: 9/10

The Story

Mass Effect 2 starts off with a bang, immediately putting Commander Shepherd in rather significant peril and setting him to work with Cerberus, an organization of questionable morality that made a brief appearance in ME1. Shepherd often has reason to doubt Cerberus's trustworthiness and stated goals, but has little choice since they're the only ones who seem to be fighting the latest threat to humanity. The conflict between Shepherd and Cerberus's leader, the Illusive Man, is a plot thread that runs through the entire game, and you're given quite a bit of control over how trusting or defiant you want to be. After settling in aboard your ship, you're given a kick in the pants to begin recruiting a new team.

The storytelling in Mass Effect 2 can be divided into three discrete groups of quests — primary plot missions, squadmate missions, and side missions. When you go to recruit a member of your team, you'll do a mission that frees them from whatever they're currently involved with. Later on, each team member will pester you once to solve another problem of theirs, at which point they'll become loyal to you. In fact, after helping a few of them, you'll start anticipating when the next crewmate will come nag you for help. Fortunately, their missions are varied and interesting, and provide good background for the supporting cast. These stories are often quite personal, and in typical BioWare style, aren't afraid of setting up some complex moral dilemmas, which you can choose to solve in several different ways. Shepherd and his team deal with a broad spectrum of emotions, from compassion and regret to contempt and vengeance.

The side missions are minor plot lines you run into while exploring or doing more important things. Some are trivial, like finding a lost item or slapping somebody around; others have more depth, tasking you with determining guilt or innocence, making an arrangement with local criminals, or stumbling across characters you met in the first game. The main story itself follows up on events in ME1, and the scale is just as epic. The Paragon/Renegade system is back, but different. If you respond to an NPC in a typical "good guy" way, you'll gain Paragon points. If you're a jerk to them, you'll gain Renegade points. As you accrue enough of these points, dialog options open up that can allow you to persuade NPCs more strongly, either by appealing to their better nature or intimidating them. You no longer have to spend talent points on it.

Another nice change is the inclusion of quick-time events during cinematic scenes. Normally, I deplore QTEs, but BioWare did it right. At a potential turning point in the story, you'll get a flashing icon on your screen which will allow you to do something particularly good or particularly evil. The decision you're making isn't spelled out for you, but it's often obvious from the situation; for example, if a character you don't trust is inching toward a weapon and the red Renegade icon pops up, clicking it will make Shepherd end the conversation with a bullet. Similarly, the Paragon icon might pop up to give you the chance to stop a friend from doing something they'll regret. There's plenty of time to react to these, and no button mashing involved; it's just a simple way to move the story in the direction you prefer.

Of course, the success of the story rests on the characters, and the strength of the characters comes from voice acting, animation, and dialogue. The writing is very consistent; all of the major characters have distinct personalities and histories, and the different ways in which Shepherd can react to situations all come across as authentic. Some of your lines sound corny, but those are usually the ones that are supposed to sound corny. Far more often, you or your squadmates will sound like action heroes. The voice acting in Mass Effect 2 is excellent. BioWare has proven throughout the years that they take their dialogue seriously and do it well. What struck me was that the actors all sounded more confident in their readings, either through their own familiarity with the games or because BioWare got enough experience with the first game to provide clearer direction. Or both. In addition to the big name talent doing the main characters, there are also a surprising number of familiar voices doing smaller roles (was.. was that Worf?!).

What surprised me most was the quality of the animations. First of all, scenes are framed like you'd expect in a movie, and as any film buff will tell you, good framing makes a huge difference in how a story is viewed. Second, the characters are always doing something, even the ones that aren't talking; leaning against a desk, folding their arms, wincing or shaking their head. They aren't just static props. Third, the body movement and facial animations are quite good. Several times during the game, a character will react to something with only a facial expression, and not necessarily a simple one like shock. I think it's cool that video game characters look more like people than textured stick figures.

Gameplay

Combat in Mass Effect 2 is as simple or as complicated as you'd like to make it. Several of the old game mechanics have been cleaned up. You run around with a shield and a health bar, both of which quickly regenerate if you stop firing and stop getting shot for several seconds. This makes for very little downtime during fights. As you level you get talent points to spend on special abilities. Shepherd and each of your shipmates has a different set of skills — knockbacks, ammo specialties, the ability to hack mech enemies (one character makes a Unix reference) — and you get to choose which ones to level up. You can hotkey special abilities for Shepherd and your squadmates, and you can revive your allies if they fall in battle using medi-gel. Mass Effect 2 uses a cover system, and it's one of the more responsive systems I've played. Hitting your cover button by a corner will make you turn your back to it, and you can peek around with your gun to fire. Similarly, you can crouch behind a low barrier and fire over it. It's an intuitive system, and it almost always does exactly what you expect.

Unlike the first game, you don't have an inventory; just a selection of weapons and abilities. You can still upgrade your weapons and armor, but it's handled differently. As you move through various maps, you'll come across data pads, laptops, and dead foes that you can scan for upgrade information. Once you're back aboard your ship, you can spend resources to research any of these bits of information, and they'll do things like make your machine guns more powerful, or give you extra shielding against certain weapon types. It's much less of a pain to deal with than ME1's inventory. You can also easily control your squadmates, telling them where to go and which abilities to use on whom. The AI is reasonably smart; it can win a lot of fights by itself on the lower difficulties levels. Speaking of which — if you're fairly experienced with other shooters, you'll probably want to bump the difficulty up to the second highest setting in order to make fights interesting. On the other hand, if the fights are just part of the story for you, leaving it on Normal or Casual will let you go through the game with ease.

Ammo (sorry, heat sinks) is plentiful in this game. You'll never be in danger of running out, but you go through it quickly enough that you can't just rely on one weapon all the time. The loadout is pretty standard for a shooter; pistol, shotgun, machine gun and sniper rifle (with variations on each), and also a variety of "heavy weapons," which are fun, but you can only carry one at a time. I didn't find myself using the shotgun too often, but the other guns were fine. One complaint I have about the combat was the layout of the maps. It's always quite obvious when you're about to get ambushed; you'll round a corner and there will be a bunch of low obstacles on the ground, the perfect height for crouching behind. Any time it looks like you're ready to run the 100m hurdles, aliens are about to start shooting at you. The pacing of the combat, on the other hand, was good — another area that showed a director's touch. Individual missions are generally short — 15-30 minutes, perhaps — and the cinematics are interspersed with the combat such that you aren't doing either long enough to get bored.

The UI is well-refined; anything in the environment you need to interact with will be outlined, and extraneous information is kept to a minimum. Your abilities gray out when they're cooling down, and the icons fill in to show you how long is left on the timer. The relevant health bars are always apparent — yours, your team's, and your target's. Your aiming reticle shrinks if you stand still and fire from cover and expands if you continue firing or move around, but either way it's quite easy to see where your bullets are going. You can pause combat to switch weapons, activate abilities or order your squadmates around.

Throughout your missions you'll find bank vaults, doors, and computers that need to be "hacked" or "bypassed." Doing so brings up a short mini-game where you either connect circuits by matching the symbols on them (a la Memory) or match code segments from a scrolling list of lookalikes. These mini-games are cute the first couple times, but they never get harder or more complicated, so they get repetitious. Similarly, the mineral-gathering system is best in small doses. You gather mineral resources by flying your ship to different planets, scanning them, and launching probes. The trouble is that the scanning is done manually. You hold down a button and pass a relatively small scanning area over the entire planet. When you see readings, you press another button to fire a probe, which automatically gathers whatever it finds. Depending on how methodical you are, it can take a few minutes per planet. It's probably not annoying enough to stop the completionists, but anyone who dislikes "grindy" activities will probably get bored quickly.

This brings us to one of the major changes between ME1 and ME2: there's no Mako. BioWare apparently decided that the first game's ground vehicle was not worth keeping, so they excised it completely. Apparently some sort of vehicle will be added in future DLC, but details are sparse. If the Mako was one of your favorite parts of ME1, you may want to wait until that DLC comes out. If you didn't play ME1, you won't notice the lack. You can still find things on unexplored planets — you'll detect an "anomaly" when scanning for minerals, and a shuttle will drop you off, on foot, at the anomaly's location. The space ports and mission maps generally aren't big enough that you'd feel the need to drive around them. Or, if they are, they're sectioned off such that you don't need to traverse the entire area at one time.

Odds and Ends

The graphics are fantastic — exactly what you'd expect from a brand new BioWare game, and quite a step up from ME1. The humans look like real humans — fans of the TV show Chuck will immediately recognize one of your female squadmates — and the high level of detail makes the aliens look like something that could actually exist. While you'll pass through your fair share of typical shooter corridors and warehouses, you'll also see some extremely large and impressive environments. On one mission, you find an enormous crashed spaceship that's precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff. As you navigate the shattered vessel to recover some data, it wobbles and teeters, threatening to go over the edge as debris falls all around you. The audio is quite good as well. I find myself wishing I'd grabbed the version of the game that came with the OST. The sound effects are helpful and unobtrusive. You can glean a lot of information about what your squadmates are doing during a fight by just listening for them.

Another neat feature worth mentioning is that if you have a saved game from ME1, you can important your Shepherd into ME2, preserving a number of actions you took in the first game that will now affect how ME2 plays. It's a cool injection of continuity, and they'll be doing the same thing for ME3 in the future. You have a surprising amount of control over the how ME2 ends, so keep this in mind.

The game does have its annoyances. There was one bug I encountered frequently enough to alter my gameplay — walking near corners where textures meet on the ground will occasionally send Shepherd floating straight up in the air, unable to get down. It forces a reload, which sucks, but fortunately between the quick-save and the auto-save, I never lost more than a minute or two. I played the game on my PC, and while the controls were generally excellent, little effort was made to support things like Tab or the mousewheel, which can make menu navigation a small inconvenience.

Conclusion

Mass Effect 2 is not without its flaws, but those flaws are minor and vastly outweighed by its strengths. The story is top-notch, and meticulously plotted and paced to be fun and interesting from the intense introduction to the foreboding yet flexible ending. It's great to see that BioWare was willing to take feedback to heart and make significant changes regardless of ME1's success. While the sequel doesn't seem as novel and innovative as the first game, it instead demonstrates a great deal of refinement and polish. I'll be looking forward to Mass Effect 3.

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331 comments

I actually kind of miss the old combat system (4, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983040)

A lot of people dissed the original combat system in ME1. But I liked it. ME2 has a more "Gears of War" feel to it, and they've stripped away or simplified a lot of the RPG elements that made the original so much fun. Granted inventory management and the Mako were kind of a pain in the ass in the original, but they needed to be fixed, not completely eliminated. On the upside, the incredibly detailed story and background material is still there (the Codex still goes into remarkable depth on alien races, tech, etc.). And a lot of the freedom and sense of exploration is still there (as in the original, once you get the Normandy). And the graphics have gotten a very nice upgrade (with no pop-in or weird glitches). All-in-all, it's enjoyable so far. Again, I do miss the old combat system. But then again, I'm not a huge shooter fan (I actually prefer the old turn-based RPG's like Knights of the Old Republic).

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (5, Interesting)

grumbel (592662) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983328)

The simplification in the combat is quite annoying, I especially missed more direct control of the teammates. In ME1 you could tell them to seek a defensive position or attack a specific enemy giving it a tactic shooter feel, in ME2 that is no longer the case. You are limited to telling them what power to use. You can also tell them where to go, but that never worked for me in ME2 as they always ended up running all over the place. They also removed the ability to duck to increase your accuracy, you are limited to auto-duck behind cover, grenades and health packs are also gone.

Add the lack of Mako and the much simplified level design on top of it and the combat ends up feeling quite monotone.

All that said, its still Mass Effect and still among the best games out there, but some of the changes feel a little bit like somebody just took the scissor to everything that got criticized in the first, instead of just improving it (elevators are gone, but now you have simplified flat levels and loading screens, not exactly an improvement).

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (0)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983382)

How can you write an in-depth review (like the above) and not mention these changes?

No grenades or health packs? Less control over your squad?

I almost regret preordering this. I hope the story makes the game worthwhile.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (4, Interesting)

flitty (981864) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983628)

Pressing Up on the D-pad tells your teammates to attack a certain enemy. You can still tell them where to take cover and what power to use.

Grenades are gone in favor of heavy weapons. This comes in the form of Grenade launchers, Rocket launchers, and other Weapons that I don't want to spoil. As someone who never used grenades in ME1, ME2's response of Heavy weapons is much better deployed and much friendlier to use.

Getting rid of health packs is something I cheer. There was nothing worse than getting to a point where you had no health packs, low health, and were stuck in an area where you couldn't get any more health packs, stuck on a hard battle. Now, instead of such a situation being impossible to pass, is now just hard, but you can do it.

Sniper rifles are also better handled in this game. While being more powerful and faster, the limited ammo keeps you from solely relying on them.

My only complaint about the changes to the RPG elements is the lack of "create your own character with your own choice of powers", I understand they do this for balance reasons, but it still could have been done. None of the base classes were exactly what I was looking for, but it's definately a minor complaint, nothing big.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984088)

Sniper rifles are not more powerful. Grab a midrange Sniper rifle in ME1 and equip with explosive rounds. a headshot on ANYONE will kill them instantly. One shot every 30 seconds was worth it.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (1)

bickle (101226) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984288)

I think the context was that they are more powerful than other weapons in the current game, not more powerful than the ME1 sniper rifles.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (1)

fatalwall (873645) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983888)

The above review seems overly bias to me. Seems more like a press release from the company then a review as its way too favorable.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30983926)

What difference does it make whether there are health packs in an RPG? You play it for the choices and consequences.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984074)

When you where under direct attack with your shields gone in ME1, you used a health pack and run for cover. In ME2 you have to die and retry from the last checkout, as your health is so little that you don't have any time to run for cover.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984054)

Or the annoying ship fuel. That was added simply to suck up the extra credits they give you in game.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30983974)

In ME1 you could tell them to seek a defensive position or attack a specific enemy giving it a tactic shooter feel, in ME2 that is no longer the case. You are limited to telling them what power to use. You can also tell them where to go, but that never worked for me in ME2 as they always ended up running all over the place.

I don't know about the console version, but on the PC you can still tell them where to go and who to attack. I think the default controls are Q and E.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984082)

THATS what it was!

I knew some intricate part of the movement and combat was missing but I couldn't put my finger on it. And I kept trying to figure out how to Duck - thinking they changed the control scheme.

To know that it is actually missing is a huge disappointment for me now. It makes me want to play the original more.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (4, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983336)

I highly prefered the combat system in ME1 as well. Every shooter has had the ammo management system, and a few sparingly had the heat management system. I much prefer heat over ammo managing, it means you time your shots or bursts, and doesn't leave you stranded should you miss the ammo crate after a boss.

And actually, I think that was also an integral part of the story for me in ME1. The idea that we had engineered Mass Effect technology to the point where we don't need ammo, we were capable of taking a particle of Air and propelling it at such a high speed it could rip through people. Or at least, thats what I had the impression of how the guns operated. And that the various addons you had (Heat, cold, poison, etc) were just affecting the air you were shooting.

And now they've adopted an ammo management system, which they could easily work into the story, though it DOES feel like a step backwards. I've only played say 30 minutes into the game, and I haven't picked it up again. Mostly its a time issue, I've been busy, but something about it doesn't feel the same as the original, so I don't feel the same pull to it like the original did. In the original, the storyline had me rushing home just so I could find out what happens next. This new one intrigues me despite some of its rather cliche elements, but I'm sure given enough time it will come around.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (2, Interesting)

svendsen (1029716) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983484)

Don't worry it will get much better. I am 25 hours in and so far all I have done is the side quests which have that "just one more mission" addiction. I find the character development and story line much better than ME1, and I thought ME1 was great in those categories. The space exploration part kind of takes me back to the Star Control 2 days.

My only pet peeve? Scanning the damn planets. Even with the upgrade it is a PITA.

Other than that I like the no inventory management system and instead focus on upgrading what you have. The selection of weapons I like in that it isn't over whelming. The anti material sniper rifle with full upgrades + Solider focus = lots of 1 head shot kills.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (4, Insightful)

PylonHead (61401) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983692)

Hah.. the planet scanning. It's almost like they said, "We're going to take all out all the boring, monotonous game mechanics for ME2... and then we'll add one back in!"

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983936)

I never really found the inventory management too difficult in Mass Effect 1 - You could carry a stupidly high amount of items on your character - your partners will own everything if you upgrade their armour ONCE - and you only have to worry about your own guns and armour afterwards, which is easy to compare once its in your inventory. Than anything else you pick up (Hey, no one uses pistols in my group!) you can just omni gel it.

The one thing I liked about the Pistol in Mass Effect 1 was that it had the real balance of all the weapons. Solid aim, slow to overheat, decent fire rate. You could take out many enemies if you were skilled enough to hit each shot, without worrying about overheating.

Now I have to reload, I feel like it breaks that smooth operation I had so perfectly mastered.

Then again, who wants to play a game they've mastered, right?

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983398)

there exists no game in the last 10 years I can think of that isn't turn based in one form or another. It's just a question of whether it's done in a subtle enough fashion for people to not realize it exists.

examples:
mmorpgs: you only attack/swing/etc so fast. Although turns go by fast, in that sense, there is a set actual "turn". Example: world of warcraft global cooldown, or any game that has cooldowns on abilities.

first person shooters: you can only fire so fast, delayed by having to reload. Higher damage weapons obviously get more clips, basically lengthening your "round", so to speak. Also, in mass effect 2, bio/tech cooldowns.

Adventure games with combat: again, you can only "Swing" so fast, thus things become timing. Look at say, any megaman game. You get your turn (and chances to fire), and they get their turn (where you must avoid them).

Strategy game: zerg/terran/protoss. Look at how long the build times are for everything, it's subtle, but it's turns all the same. Tower defense: each round.

Really, turn based picked up around dragon warrior/finaly fantasy 1 era, and very few games has failed to bring the turn based concept into a game.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983680)

How is Dance Dance Revolution turn-based?

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (3, Funny)

cheier (790875) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984252)

Go to an arcade where it is a popular game and you'll find out real soon.

Flaws in the original (1)

d34dluk3 (1659991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983474)

I'm really surprised to hear you say this. The original was good, but there were glaring flaws too. In 2, the graphics are much better and the flaws have been corrected.

Mass Effect:

- The Mako was incredibly annoying to drive until you figured it out. Once you did, the Mako sections were incredibly easy.
- Abilities were not balanced at all. Some in particular were wildly overpowered *cough Immunity cough*
- Classes were not balanced. The Soldier was pointless, as you could get a Vanguard or Infiltrator with the same weapons strength + cool abilities
- Checkpoints were incredibly far apart
- Levels were not focused. I always had the feeling of running around pointlessly until I finally got to the boss.

Mass Effect 2:

- No Mako! Yay!
- Gorgeous graphics
- Unified paragon/renegade with intimidate/charm - much more intuitive. The scars on Shephard's face changing with your paragon/renegade score is a brilliant touch.
- Balanced classes that provide completely different play experiences.
- I feel more emotionally connected to my squad. They did a nice job of fleshing out their characters.

Overall, Mass Effect was nice, but Mass Effect 2 is one of the best games I've ever played.

Re:Flaws in the original (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983570)

lots was improved, but new bugs introduced. I get that "you tried to walk up onto a crate that you can't normally walk on" shit constantly. Also, the game is a little *too* linear. It's very clear when you hit the point of "from here on these are the only things to do other than finish the game"

Maybe playthrough 2 will be different. I don't know.

Re:Flaws in the original (1)

d34dluk3 (1659991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983694)

I've only gotten the bug once, and I was able to use cover to teleport out of it.

I guess we have different perspectives on the story. ME1 frustrated me because I felt like the story wasn't moving along when I had to go back and do Noveria after Virmire. The story has to be linear at some point, you can't just design your own storyline. I like it when I know where I am on that storyline. It's still way more exploratory than COD or Halo.

I'm anticipating high replay value because of how different the classes are. I'm a Vanguard right now and it's very much charge and shotgun. I'm thinking Infiltrator next. Stealth/sniper will be a totally different playstyle.

Re:Flaws in the original (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984276)

I will say that I'm pissed they took out the elevators. Excerpt from the review I wrote up [livingwithanerd.com] for my website:

"...it's a good thing the new loading screens are so interesting and well done, because you are going to be staring at them a LOT; there are some truly epic load times in ME2 when played on the Xbox 360. I would just like to take this opportunity to say a sarcastic "thanks" to the idiots that complained about the long elevator rides. At least with the elevators we got back and forth banter between our team members...now we just get repeating wireframe schematics. GG for reducing side discussions, complainers. I appreciate it."

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30984206)

The biggest problem with Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Gears of War, Dead Space, etc. is the idiotic view from close behind your character. Whoever thought that the over the shoulder view was a good idea should be shot. The last thing I want when I play a game is for my player character's back to obscure a large percentage of the screen area. It also feels unbalanced because the character is pushed over to the side.

Here's a better idea. Make the camera either 1st person or 3rd person from directly behind with the camera pulled back more so that you can actually see the environment.

Re:I actually kind of miss the old combat system (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984308)

Agreed. The viewpoint in ME2 is WAY too close to Shepard...I don't mind the fixed nature of the camera, but it would be nice if the view was pulled back a bit so his shoulders didn't take up half my TV.

Will I be lost? (3, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983048)

I haven't played the first, and don't really intend to based on the reviews I've read. I'm thinking of getting this game though.

Has anyone who hasn't played the first picked up this game? Will I be lost? Does it explain things well enough for people who don't have all that training in the way the game works?

Re:Will I be lost? (3, Informative)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983096)

You won't be lost. The Codex will tell you everything you need to know on the background stuff. The rest is pretty self-explanatory (when someone shoots at you, shoot back).

Re:Will I be lost? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983128)

Kind of. Sort of like if you watch Star Wars for the first time - you will pick up on exactly whats happening, but once you watch the entire series, and then re-watch the original Star Wars, you know so much more about the characters and what leads up to each event.

I would -HIGHLY- recommend playing the first one first.

Re:Will I be lost? (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983142)

Gameplay-wise you shouldn't have a problem, specially if you've played any shooter with a cover system. Story-wise, however... I'm not that far into it but from what I've seen, while knowledge of the story of the first game isn't necessary, it does increase your enjoyment of it greatly.

Can't see why you wouldn't pick up ME1 but be interested in ME2 though, care to elaborate on that one?

Re:Will I be lost? (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983674)

I've already got a log of games I'm playing through (I'm currently going to through the Ratchet and Clank series, among others), and ~40 hours for a game that isn't quite my style is just a lot of time. I'm not sold on playing this either (it does look a little too third person shooter), but I'm currently interested.

Re:Will I be lost? (1)

PylonHead (61401) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983724)

Can't see why you wouldn't pick up ME1 but be interested in ME2 though, care to elaborate on that one?

Yeah, this is what got me. ME2 is very much a continuation of ME1. They are both excellent games.

If you weren't going to enjoy ME1, you're probably not going to enjoy ME2 either.

Re:Will I be lost? (1)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983186)

Most likely, yes. Like all Bioware games, Mass Effect is very story and character driven. There are a lot of returning characters and a lot of references to previous events from the first game. In addition, actions and decisions you make in the first game are carried over to the sequel (ie if you killed a character in Mass Effect, they won't be showing up in ME2 and vice versa). I would seriously recommend playing the first game. The sequel is a vast improvement over it, but it's still a decent game. You can find it for less than $20 now, and if you burn through the main plot line, without veering off on side quests, you can finish it in less than 15 hours (you'll also avoid most of the much hated Mako sections).

Re:Will I be lost? (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983264)

You'll be fine, but you'll be missing out on all the callbacks the game has to the first. Nearly every side quest in ME1 is worked into the game somehow, be it just an email from one of the persons involved, or even the basis of an entire mission in the game.

Re:Will I be lost? (1)

deadmongoose (1246538) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983320)

I just picked it up and haven't played the first one. I did download a lvl 60 save game so that I could start with all the perks of someone who did play the first one. I caught on right away, there were a few times I had to start a mission over because I was running in and trying to kill everything at once instead of ducking and shooting. Overall it is very easy to play and it is very enjoyable, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys action games with a good plot and gameplay.

Re:Will I be lost? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983386)

I would strongly recommend you to play the first Mass Effect first. You might not be totally lost in ME2, as most missions are rather self contained and most characters in your squad are completly new, but you will miss out a lot when it comes to reoccurring characters and all those little references to the first game and the game really is full of those.

That aside, Mass Effect 2 is simply more Mass Effect universe to play in and if you enjoy that, there is absolutely no reason to not enjoy the first one too.

Re:Will I be lost? (1)

brkello (642429) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983460)

To each their own, but I would recommend giving the first one a chance. It is actually quite well done.

Re:Will I be lost? (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983488)

Your enjoyment of this game will increase greatly if you play ME 1 first. it's kinda like watching Serenity without seeing Firefly first. While an enjoyable experience, some of the most emotionally engaging moments won't have the same resonance. There are too many callbacks in the second game that the context will be sorely lacking without plaing the first game. They explain the story fairly well, but the story, I would argue, isn't the most important part. It's the development and interaction with other characters that makes the story so good, and without knowing the characters from the first game, the story, while well realized and fleshed out, won't be nearly as good.

It's worth going through the first game, but if you have limited time, only focus on the missions in your Journal. Most of the planitary exploration gets tedious and can burn you out on the game. I'm planning on going through the game again (even though i'm still on my first playthrough) and i'll probably go through ME1 first with a new character, to start from the beginning.

Re:Will I be lost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30983610)

I haven't played the first, and don't really intend to based on the reviews I've read. I'm thinking of getting this game though.

Has anyone who hasn't played the first picked up this game? Will I be lost? Does it explain things well enough for people who don't have all that training in the way the game works?

You won't be lost (I've never played the original). ME2 is exactly the kind of sci-fi experience I've been craving and it delivers! I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Re:Will I be lost? (4, Informative)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983616)

I'd suggest watching something awful's "let's play" for mass effect 1 [somethingawful.com](they play through the entire game - ~30min video by video, with explanations of the what and the why, they speed up past boring parts, etc), and also to pick up a savegame [annakie.com] from mass effect 1 to go with it. Once you understand the first game, the savegame you select and it's rammifications, it'll make the second game more fun.

As a note: lets play for mass effect 1 costs you $0 to watch. So you're "picking up" the first game, in a sense. Also you can get mass effect 2 on PC via demonoid quite easily if you want to see if it's worth the buying. I'd say that it kinda is, except that you get shafted on having to buy DLC either way.

Re:Will I be lost? (1)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983934)

This is the most scaled back, hand-held *game* I can remember. It's basically an interactive movie. a monkey tied to a chair could *beat* the game without playing the first and never feel lost.

Re:Will I be lost? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984160)

Pick it up, It's $6.00 at most gamestops in the used bin and is well worth it to play before you drop $70.00 on this one (Plus the cost of DLC as it start emerging....)

Bioware = Blizzard of RPGs? (1)

AutumnLeaf (50333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983058)

Quite a year for Bioware. Dragon Age and now this. Interestingly, playing Dragon Age caused my wife re-purchased Baldur's Gate to play through it again.

Re:Bioware = Blizzard of RPGs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30983156)

Quite a year for Bioware. Dragon Age and now this.

Except that Dragon Age was 2009, and it is now 2010.

Re:Bioware = Blizzard of RPGs? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983252)

Except that Dragon Age was 2009, and it is now 2010.

      I know I'm splitting hairs, but technically "quite a year" can also refer to a 12 month period spanning 2 calendar years...

Sheer monotony of quests in Mass Effect 1 (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983066)

I hope they fixed the terrible monotony of all the side quests in Mass Effect 1. The voice acting in Mass Effect 1 was spot-on, and the story was intriguing. I will be playing this game, regardless of side quest monotony...

Re:Sheer monotony of quests in Mass Effect 1 (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983246)

Aren't side quests generally quite monotonous anyway? Mind you, if the reward doesn't outstrip the effort then it's not worth it.

Re:Sheer monotony of quests in Mass Effect 1 (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983258)

So far (I'm level 12 or 13) the side quests have been much more fun than they were in ME 1. I did one last night where I boarded a ship and had to fight mercs, it was a solid 20-30 minutes of good fighting.

I think the skill and combat system is a little dumbed down, I find it to be a better game that ME1 or Dragons Age.

I like the planet exploration in this better than the old drive the Mako around thing. I never got why they'd drop the Mako 10-20 minutes away from where you wanted to be.

Re:Sheer monotony of quests in Mass Effect 1 (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984018)

I never got why they used a tank at all in most of the missions. . . we're talking about a deep future, advanced technological civilization. So. . . why don't I have a flying vehicle instead of some kind of tank? It's a lot faster to fly over stupid mountains than to crawl over them.

Mass Effect, as a franchise, missed a truly awesome opportunity - they could have combined the first-person shooter elements of the game with a sort of flying shoot-em-up for exploring the planets. Why have an entire planet with one dinky little building and a dozen guards? Why not have lots of buildings, encampments, etc on a planet, air defenses, ground-based anti-air defenses.

I suppose what it comes down to is that it would take a lot more time and money to put a lot of stuff on every planet, but it's pretty cheap to just make a 3km X 3km patch of land on a planet, and put one building, one mineral deposit, and one crashed space probe, then give you a tank which moves slowly, so that you spend a lot of time on each planet, even though you are just exploring an area the size of *one small town* in the rural midwest.

Re:Sheer monotony of quests in Mass Effect 1 (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984164)

Well, they were limited by how much they could fit on a DVD (or two).

But yea, the Mako was a crappy way to explore, I think the new system is more "sci-fi", you scan the planet from orbit for metals and sometimes you find an anomaly and send an away team down.

We noticed last night that the audio of an anomaly's beacon got clearer the closer you go to it, neat stuff.

Re:Sheer monotony of quests in Mass Effect 1 (1)

RobDollar (1137885) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983290)

They got rid of the car that you drove around in ME1 for just that reason. The side quests are a lot more diverse and unique, and add to the whole immersion.

That said I did miss the mkv (if that's what the vehicle was called) as it made the scale of the game feel larger. In ME2 they have cut a few corners when it comes to large maps and higher res textures for some reason, but the game on the whole does feel better than the first.

Re:Sheer monotony of quests in Mass Effect 1 (1)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983326)

It has been fixed. In general the balance has been shifted so there are a lot fewer side quests and a lot more plot-relevant quests. Also, there's a lot less empty space. You can't land on a planet unless there's a mission for you there, which means that instead of wasting time creating a lot of repetitive environments you'll never see, a lot more effort has gone into making each mission and environment unique.

Re:Sheer monotony of quests in Mass Effect 1 (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983414)

Most of the voice acting in ME1 was good, but the Benezia sequence makes me cringe because it is so bad.

Re:Sheer monotony of quests in Mass Effect 1 (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983518)

They didn't fix it, they basically completly cut it out. There is no more Mako driving or planet exploration. There are also no longer recycled level architecture, every mission is unique.

This in turn makes ME2 a much more streamlined game, sometimes however it ends up being a little bit on the repetative side at times. As the Mako and open planet exploration did add some good amount of variety to the combat, even so it might not have been perfect. Now its basically all Gears of War. With the openness removed and tactic shooter elements cut down, all enemy encounters kind of feel the same.

Re:Sheer monotony of quests in Mass Effect 1 (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983764)

If by "openness" you mean "time spent driving vast expanses with nothing to see" then yes, it is more linear. If you can go somewhere, there is a reason for it. There is much less of wandering around, either driving between 2 points on a planet, or backtracking across the G*D* citadel for the 5th time to do a fetch quest.

There is so much Game here, i'm happy to throw out a little bit of open-world feel.

Your thoughts??? (5, Funny)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983182)

Read on for the rest of my thoughts.

you mean your inner monologue actually sounds like a press release / paid game review?

BioWare listened closely to player feedback, promising to revamp the parts of the game that needed improvement while developing the sequel. They didn't hesitate to refine the elements they wanted to keep and do away with the ones they didn't. The result is a familiar, but much more streamlined experience.

Re:Your thoughts??? (1)

AstrumPreliator (708436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984258)

This is the third person I've seen use the word "streamlined" to describe ME2. The mere fact that this game has limited ship fuel, limited probes, and manual planet scanning completely negates the description of "streamlined".

troll (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30983190)

OMG WTF. twitter and facebook links for each story? slashdot finally jumped the shark! lol, rofl.

F-ed up combat system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30983242)

I like the game right up to the point where they combined use, sprint and lock to cover in the SAME BUTTON.

I've gotten killed a LOT on insanity due to this, oh yeah and give me a crouch back.

Re:F-ed up combat system (1)

jbigboote (1544809) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983966)

I'm with you. I'll be sprinting and I want to stop near cover, and the game decides I want to be in cover, invariably on the wrong side. and then death quickly follows.

Re:F-ed up combat system (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984314)

Speaking about buttons, does the game actually have a jump button or did they somehow miss that? There where numerous situations in the game where you had to climb on a small ledge and the only way to do that was to go into cover on the ledge and then do the jump-over-cover action, which felt quite weird with no enemy around and just a small ledge to climb.

Good story? (1)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983282)

When you say the story is good, do you mean it's "good" in the way ME1 was, or that it actually is good, and not just a mashup of the most worn space epic clichés combined with wooden characters and a ridiculous idiot for a main protagonist? I'm not just being facetious here - I like Dragon age, even the writing manages to be quite tolerable, but the original Mass Effect was one of the few games I genuinely regretted paying money for. So is this more of the same old or did they do it better?

Re:Good story? (1)

Simulant (528590) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983472)

      Well, it's a cheesy, implausible space opera through & through but it's VERY well done.

I'm not much for RPGs but I might actually finish this one. It seems to have the right combination of action & cinematics. I played for 7 or 8 hours this weekend and I'm itching for more. The characters have as much if not more life in them than any other video game I've ever played.

Re:Good story? (2, Interesting)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984186)

It just goes to show that everyone has different taste -- I honestly can't think of a better story told in any video game than ME1. (Although there are a few that are on about the same level for me.)

Great game (2, Insightful)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983308)

I still haven't finished it (hey, I've put in 25 hours in the last six days!), but BioWare has improved literally everything that was broken in the first. I do miss some of the RPG elements during combat, but there are still a ton of fun RPG things to do while in the hub worlds or on your ship. If you've ever played a game in the Suikoden series, you have to play Mass Effect 2.

ME1 is one of my favorite games of all time, and it's incredible how much BioWare improved on it.

DRM? (0)

Kamots (321174) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983332)

I refused to buy or play the first one because of their DRM. Essentially it turned your purchase into a lease... of unknown duration.

I'd be interested in this one, however, despite the lengthy review, I didn't see any mention of DRM. Given that this is slashdot, I'm kind of surprised and dissapointed. Why bother hosting reviews here if they're not going to focus on the geeky side of things?

Re:DRM? (3, Informative)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983584)

That's because other than a simple DVD check, there is no DRM. EA actually learned their lesson, believe it or not.

Now the included 'free' DLC to inhibit used game sales is another story...

Re:DRM? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984246)

the free DLC given though is quite useless and all fluff the same gear with a different look. the Blackhole gun is pretty darn crap compared to the grenade launcher. Big mechs are killed far easier lobbing grenades at them than the damned free black hole gun.

and I'm not sure the free mercenary guy is worth it. Garrus is a better fighter in most combats.

Mass Effect less than perfect (2, Interesting)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983350)

Every side quest in the game uses the exact same map. The story for many of the side-quests is the same. A soldier or family member is missing. Go to location X, kill enemies, and find the dead body of the missing person.

Some of the voice acting (Benezia scene) is embarrassingly bad.

Exploring in the Mako is fun at times, but on some worlds the Mako struggles with really steep climbs which is just frustrating.

You are handed most of the companions very early on. They don't have great introductions. I feel like I barely know any of them even by the end of the game. In many ways, the story falls short of Bioware standards.

They created a universe that I find interesting. The story isn't bad, it just isn't great. I love the overall concept. Mass Effect is *ALMOST* a great game. I hope Mass Effect 2 improves on the first, which was a near miss.

For Microsoft fanboys only (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30983394)

Dear BioWare,

how about releasing your games for non-Microsoft platforms? Making Windows and Xbox 360 versions isn't giving us a choice.

Re:For Microsoft fanboys only (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984108)

Instead of complaining about "Microsoft fanboys", why don't you stop being a fanboy and purchase a system outside of your petty preferences?

I never understood the idea of artifically limiting yourself in the world of gaming. If you can only afford one console, that's fine...but if money isn't an issue, the only thing preventing you from playing Mass Effect 2 is yourself.

Re:For Microsoft fanboys only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30984298)

Only rich americans can afford to have more than one console.

Re:For Microsoft fanboys only (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984330)

As I noted, if money is a problem then it's fine.

The fact that the OP used the term "Microsoft Fanboy" in their post tells me that they are ignoring games on Microsoft platforms by choice, not by necessity. I could be wrong, but I doubt that I am.

Finished it... Good game, but horrid planet scan (3, Interesting)

SoTerrified (660807) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983420)

I finished the game on Sunday. It is a very different game than ME as far as game mechanics, but they kept what made ME great, the sense of controlling a riveting story. The story in ME2 is just as good.

My one flaw with the game is the obvious planet scanning time sink. For those of you not playing the game, when you come to a new planet, you need to scan it for usable minerals, minerals needed to progress in the game. The scanning consists of holding down your right mouse button, then slowly waving the mouse back and forth over a picture of a planet from orbit. You slowly move back and forth until a graph on the right side spikes. Then you click the left mouse button to extract the mineral you 'found', and then you do it again.

Even explaining that, I'm almost falling asleep. It was so jarring to find this obvious time waster in a game that was so tightly scripted and enjoyable. All I can think is they completed the game, and said "Hey, we need to add another 5-10 hours onto the gameplay." "Ok, so instead of just pushing a button that says 'Extract all usable minerals from planet", why don't we make them mouse over every square inch of the planet? That's gotta add 5-10 hours! IN FACT, even if it only adds 5 hours, it'll make the game seem much longer because it's so boring!"

And that's why this game is good and not great.

Re:Finished it... Good game, but horrid planet sca (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984272)

You do know you can cut planet scanning time in 1/2 by scanning at the edge. press left on both sticks and the scanning speed is doubled. simply rotate and slowly move up or down depending on where you started.

Planet Probing (1)

lorg (578246) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983424)

It is an ok game, I prefer Dragon Age tho. Mostly due to them little mini-games. The "hacking" and door opening pair matching once are fine cause they are done very quickly. But the resource gathering planet probing gets OLD really fast. Certainly after seeing what some of the things cost to buy/research (medic bay for 50k plat comes to mind). It's not WOW (or some other MMO) there is no need for insane time sinks like that. Also using space to skip and start the dialogue options might not have been the best usage of keys.

Warning (4, Informative)

hyfe (641811) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983438)

This game is essentially unplayable on a regular CRT TV. The text is really small, and the conversation choices aren't bounded in small coloured boxes. The colour-bleed of a regular TV will make it impossible to read. Other than that, it is a great game, but really didn't capture me like the first one did. The mining mini-game is essentially hell on a XBOX too. The last one worked great on XBOX, but this one really is best on the PC.

Re:Warning (0, Redundant)

d34dluk3 (1659991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983768)

I have to disagree about playing it on XBOX. It's gorgeous on XBOX, and the mining was actually fun for a little while. Even after than, it wasn't too bad. To be fair, I'm playing it on 50" 1080p, so you can see where you fall between the two extremes here.

Re:Warning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30984180)

That's not entirely true.

The game may be unplayable in a 14" SD TV with the composite cable, but in my 28" SD widescreen TV with a RGB cable the text is entirely readable.

Re:Warning (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984222)

CRT TV ... a regular TV

A "regular" TV? Where do you live, that a CRT is considered a "regular TV"? You can't even give CRTs away these days! HDTVs are the new "regular," and have been for a couple of years.

Next thing you know, some guy will be complaining that the game is unplayable on his reel projector because his phonograph keeps getting out of sync.

So what was the UNIX Reference (2)

MaroonMotor (967664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983452)

the ability to hack mech enemies (one character makes a Unix reference)

OK, I'll bite. What was the Unix reference?

Re:So what was the UNIX Reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30984024)

"Executing sudo command". You'll be hearing it frequently during a particular level

Re:So what was the UNIX Reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30984156)

While hacking into a computer terminal, one of the characters makes a reference to issuing a "sudo" command.

Ramirez does everything. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30983538)

STAR

Ammo (heat sinks) (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30983650)

I have two problems with the switch to ammo in this game:

1) They try to spin it like it's an advance in technology.

In both the manual and the game, they explain how the ammo heat sinks are based on advanced Geth technology and how the Alliance went through the trouble to retrofit every weapon with it. But it feels to me like moving backwards when the old weapons allowed unlimited shots.

2) Leaves me searching for ammo when I should be rushing forward.

I'll finish a battle, and one of my teammates will say, "Hurry! The bad guy is getting away." I fell like I should run after the bad guy, but I'm searching every square inch of the battlefield for ammo. Part of the problem is that I play a sniper (10 to 13 shots). In 90% of the battles, I use all my sniper rifle ammo.

Re:Ammo (heat sinks) (1)

lattyware (934246) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983864)

Well, I presume the idea is the weapons are all x times more powerful (just so happens everyone's armour is/shields are too) and so output so much heat it can't be handled by non-ejectable heatsinks. It's a little weak, but at least they tried to explain it.

"Trusting or Defiant"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30983742)

Commander Shepard is given NO choices of serious consequence. Being defiant or rolling over like a pet dog doesn't change anything about how the Illusive Man treats you, or what he does. None of your choices seriously alter the game world, they just change a bit of local color. I don't believe you can even fail to gain your party members' trust.

None of the choices in the game are choices.

This plus an exceedingly poor AI, an aggressively oversimplified combat system, and painfully shallow inventory, leaves you with only the writing. Which would be good enough to carry the game for me if I didn't get fatally stuck on geometry so often, or was able to DOUBLE CLICK MENU ITEMS instead of having to click "select" to select them.

My Review (5, Informative)

lattyware (934246) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983822)

(Just quickly, no major spoilers here. And no minor ones, hopefully.)

Mass Effect 2.

I'm going to answer the main question simply. Yes, You should buy it. It's an excellent game and you will get more hours of quality enjoyment out of it than most.

This review tends to focus on the negatives. Don't be fooled, it's a great game that will provide more enjoyment than most, and for a lot longer. I got 23 hours out of my first playthrough, and have already started on another. The replayability here is massive, and I'd expect most people would be able to put 100 hours into this game easily without loosing enjoyment. If I havn't pointed it out here specifically, you can presume it's excellent, otherwise I'd mention it. That's what I'm saying.

To put it into perspective, this is from one 23 hour run through of the game, as a soldier and going for the paragon (good) side. I've started another (around 2 hours in) as a renegade vanguard, and the experience is very different, and I'm still finding new stuff and hearing new, interesting dialogue.

Is it better than the original? Probably not, but it's not worse either. I'd say they kept it on the same level somehow, which isn't a bad thing - Mass Effect ranks up there as one of my favourite games of all time.

I'm going to go for the storyline first. You are playing as Sheperd again, this time fighting for Cerberus, a pro-human group, instead of the alliance.

It's a good plotline, that expands as you go on through the game. That said, it does feel a little weaker than the original. There seems to me to be less of the main plotline than in the original, which is dissapointing. That said, what is there is fun.

The team over at BioWare seem to have taken the issues people had with the original and focussed on them: the inventory, the mako, the way people tended to play with the same companions and weapons all the time. Unfortunately, they seem to have overcompensated.

The inventory system in the original was a little overcomplicated, and did have it's problems - especially the 150 item limit that forced you to turn items to omni-gel one at a time if you went over it. I would have settled for a little bit of simplification and a 'turn all to omni-gel' button. Instead they have pulled the entire system and give you a choice of weapons each time you leave the ship or come across a weapons locker. Nice idea, but the problem is that the choice of weapons is abysmal. You get around 2 of each type of weapon, and around 5 heavy weapons. It's also not a case of buying weapons much, but rather finding them as you progress through the game.

The mako in the original was a little annoying. The tasks often seemed dull and without much reward. The driving segments were not the best ever, but they were not horrible. Again, I think a little change, offering mako upgrades, reducing the amount you had to use it, etc... would have been fine. Instead they have completely removed the mako from the game. Replacing the mineral analysing bit with a boring planet scanning/probe dropping minigame, which really isn't an improvement. If anything, it's worse as the mako at least had good moments. The scanner is just dull.

The way people tended to keep the same weapons in use has been taken on with the ammo system. They have replaced the overheating mechanism (which I liked) from the original with a system of 'heat clips' (clips of heatsinks that take the heat from the weapon). At least it's well explained. Most people would say this was to try and create a more standard shooter experience (like the move to a crosshair over a reticule). This is probably true, but I'd say it's more to try and get people to vary which weapon they use more. Ammo (which is standard accross all weapons) is always in short supply, mainly due to the fact you can only carry very limited ammunition, with all of the armour upgrades that allow increased ammo capacity, it amounted to around 12 rounds for the sniper rifle, 30 for the shotgun, 20 for the pistol, and around 100 for the battle rifle (or 400 for the assult rifle).

Considering the number of enemies you come up against, you run out of ammo very fast, and generally have to deplete two weapons of ammo for a fight before you can push forward to scrounge up from the enemies you have killed. Maybe this matters less for a non-solider class, but it was annoying. What makes less sense is you use the same ammo for all of your guns, and yet when you pick it up, it gets automatically allocated to one, and you can't use it in any of the others. It'd make more sense to have a general stockpile, but as I say, I think the entire system was designed to encourage using different weapons (or powers) more, hence the reason in doing it this way.

Is it good? It's... different. I personally preffered having the overheating mechanism and choosing to use weapons based on what I wanted. That said, this definitely adds difficulty and creates more of a feeling of urgency when you are fighting. It's definitely a sinking feeling when you fire off your last shotgun round while still surrounded by husks and realise you have no ammo left. I definitely did use my sniper rifle, shotgun, and pistol more than I did in ME1.

The other major change is the control scheme. Those used to ME1 will find buttons have moved all over the place. I don't think it makes too much of a difference to be quite honest, and you get used to it quick enough. Annoyingly, the one control they didn't change was splitting up skip text and make choice. This means skipping through text often leads to making choices by accident.

They have also changed up the ranking/experience system. Again this has been dumbed down to suit the slightly less RPG styled game that ME2 is. There are less options and less ranks. It feels a lot less important than it did too. The main one that hit me was the removal of charm/intimidate, which have been cut out. Instead of paragon/renegade points unlocking charm/intimidate, which you then have to buy, they have cut out the middleman, and now paragon points unlock paragon dialogue options. This works well enough. The introduction of the paragon/renegade action options during conversations is also fun and well implemented, with the ability to perform actions with a well timed click during a conversation where it is appropriate. This has been well implemented with a left click for renegade, right click for paragon, meaning you shouldn't accidently perform the wrong action by thinking that it's the other one and doing it (they don't come in pairs).

The gameplay is good overall, but the universe feels shrunk, and the gameplay feels less open. The areas of the citadel you can access have been shrunk down massively, and the areas in general feel less open. There seems to be slightly less to do. I found less side-missions than I did in the original. This said, I have only run through it once at a good pace, so I may have missed plenty (and I definitely intend to replay). The main storyline (no spoilers) follows you running around and picking up teammates. While in the original, this happened very quickly at the beginning (unless you waited a long time before picking up Liara). In the sequel, this is the majority of the game, and you spend your time running around finding your team.

This is where it comes to the part that I liked least in ME2. The 'loyalty' scheme. You pick up each memeber of your team, who isn't particularly loyal. You then have to do a mission that they want to make them loyal. This seems really forced and repetative. For example, some of your teammates that come back from the first game are not loyal to you, to me, that was weird. They constantly talk about you with reverence and respect, as in the first game, willing to follow you to death and all, and yet they are not loyal? It's weird. What's more annoying is the fact that it's one mission for each person. There is no mixture of chatting and help, not just some small things and big things. One mission exactly each. It definitely doesn't feel natural. A system where loyalty was built by talking to them, doing missions with them, and helping them out would have been better, rather than doing one mission each to help them out. This feels really forced when it gets into the pattern of pick them up, one mission later they want to speak to you and have some problem you need to help with, then you earn their loyalty.
A system where you have to slowly build up loyalty over time - and could loose it - would have been far more immersive and interesting, and felt less like jumping through hoops. The worst part was the missions all felt like cookie cutter, go into here, shoot people, come out. Even the missions that had potential as interesting ones inevitably came out like that for one reason or another. The most interesting one broke this patten and saw you following someone from above, tracking them and waiting for an assasin to come from them. It was refreshing and interesting, and it's a shame there wasn't more of that kind of thing.

The game seems pretty stable, I didn't have any crashes, and the only bug I encountered was getting stuck on corners occasionally (fortunately use the quicksave key [F5], a lot so didn't loose any progress to it).

Now, you might be looking at this game with a negative viewpoint by now, and I apologise for that, as I really didn't mean to show it that way. It's simply easier to point out the wrong things, because everything else in this game is nigh-on perfect. It's incredibly fun, with a load of content, engaging storyline and gameplay, good graphics, and with huge amounts of playtime and replay value.

The games best strength is in it's dialogue. There is so much stuff that made me laugh out loud. To give some examples of my favourites, without spoilers:

Joker and EDI's conversations.
A human trying to explain to some aliens what a bachelor party is in a bar.
The game salesman on the citadel.
Things that the scientist salarian (Mordin) says and does. There is one particular part where he does something extremely out of character. You'll know when you get it. It's hilarious. At another point, if you follow a certain sub-plot, he offers you some interesting advice that had me in fits of laughter.

In fact, there are a number of jabs at DRM that BioWare have put in that will bring a smile to any PC gamer's lips.

My favourite conversation has to be the one other thing they have pulled from the game, the elevators. No longer do you sit in them - I actually liked them quite a lot (except the length of time they took (particularly the one in the normandy)). If you bring Garrus and Tali out into the citadel and walk up some stairs, Garrus reminices about old times in elevators, with some hilarious conversation.
The news you used to hear in them has been replaced by terminals you can hit up to listen while you walk around - these are scattered around popular worlds.

The game has some moments where they do change up the gameplay and offer something really different from normal, and it works well, I'd have loved to see more of this, as what is there is great.

There are a lot of links back to the old game - mainly in conversation, but also in events. Choice you made do take effect in large ways in places, and it's definitely best experienced by playing both games.

Overall, Mass Effect 2 is an excellent game, definitely worth playing, and replaying. The storyline is very good. It's got intrigue, and the way it plays out works. It does suffer from being in the middle - it begins where ME1 left off, and ends where ME3 will begin, so it doesn't feel as... important as the first one did. That said, it's still an epic storyline that you'll want to know all about.

Just to make my opinion on the game clear: I have focussed on negative points a lot in this review, simply because it'd be impossible to list everything good. It's a great game, although I do think it's had too much RPG stripped out of it. Some people might prefer it, but I think they have overreacted to some problems and gone too far with the 'fixes', and would have preferred to see more RPG elements kept onboard.

Re:My Review (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984318)

one glaring problem. Combat is predictable. so predictable that you can fire a shot and watch the guy pop up and get killed as you start the combat sequence. bosses act the same, they typically ignore your team mates and zero in on you.

A few other points... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30983928)

A very good summary, but I'd like to add a few points.

I've just started Mass Effect 2 and am already enjoying it immensely. The story has
grabbed me, which is key to my game-playing, and the action is just about right. (At
least so far.)

- You can save the game at nearly any point. I mention this because as a casual gamer
the recent trend to checkpoint style saving is a real pain. When I need to stop playing,
I need to stop *now* - not wait another 10 minutes for the next checkpoint. Checkpoint
saving has stopped me playing Assassins Creed II, Batman Arkham Asylum, Gears of War,
Fear 2, ...

- I sometimes become "stuck" on cover. It's quite easy to take cover, but sometimes you
can't just walk-off and it's frustrating, especially when you're shot shortly afterward.

- The mini-games are fun at the moment, but I can see how they'd become boring. And as
you *can* save at any point the mini-games are largely pointless. You'll succeed eventually.

- And finally, there's the addition of the Personal Assistant. You no longer need to ask
each of your team whether they want to talk to you each you're on the Normandy or
continuously check your mail as she just lets you know. All of which saves a lot of wasted
time.

Just my tuppence worth.

Rent - Don't buy (0)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30983996)

If you're on the fence, don't buy this game. Rent (360), or borrow (PC). You should get about 20 hours of it. But the replay value is small.

There is no depth to the combat system, the characters skills and abilities.

It's a glorious interactive movie. The ending (last few missions, a couple of hours worth) perhaps the best ending of a game ever. Some parts are annoying. The ammo system is horrible. Very few equipment upgrades. Scanning for resources is incredibly tedious and repetitive.

Worth playing for the theatrics of it all. But not a real "game" at heart. Also, I wonder how the reviews for this thing are all 9+'s. It's one of the highest rated games ever. Which leaves me suspicious (EA is behind it after all) because the faults in the gameplay are enough that *some* professional reviewers couldn't have loved it as much as they claimed.

Re:Rent - Don't buy (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984200)

When you play the side missions you can easily get 35h out of it, which is freakishly long for a shooter or even an interactive movie game and 10h longer then the first Mass Effect was.

I agree that the combat got a little to much simplified, but its not really a game breaker, its still a ton of fun to play.

Even so I prefered the original Mass Effect, in my book Mass Effect 2 is still a 10/10. It is not a perfect game in every aspect, but it comes a hell of a lot closer then everything else, there just isn't anything else around that mixes story with fun gameplay the way Mass Effect does.

Of course, it would have been nice ... (0, Offtopic)

Keyslapper (852034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984032)

if they had followed through on their promises to continue Mac support ...

A great many folks begged, pleaded, and even volunteered any and all input or support needed to help Bioware follow through with their promise to provide a universal executable for Neverwinter Nights. Bioware waffled for years on this promise before they finally admitted they weren't going to do it. By then a lot of folks (myself included) had bought several of the premium modules in good faith. There are still several I haven't bought, and now I won't be buying them. Too bad. It's the one game I always wanted to come back to when I get an itch for gaming.

Sorry, needless griping, and off topic to boot, but there we are.

I hope there are lots of long elevator rides! (1)

mattegger (265484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984178)

that really made ME1 for me.

JK of course. cripes they were boring, although the voiceover stuff played were interesting.

Fare thee well, Mako!

Warning - believe system specs. (1)

Bl4d3 (697638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30984194)

I can report that the dual core minimum spec is for real.

The game can't be played on a single core machine, tried with my old FX-57 @ 3 GHz - it was a no go.
It couldn't even play the first video after creating a new game. Found a fix, which just replaces the video files with empty ones, but I still only get 1 - 2 fps ingame.

To me it seems a bit odd that just adding another core would give me playable frame rates, but I can't test since I don't have a FX-60.
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