Mass Effect 2 Review
Three little words had me worried over Mass Effect 2, the sequel to the extremely popular 2007 Xbox 360 RPG. Those words? Dragon. Age. Origins. BioWare's last major release (only a few short months ago) was an unmitigated disaster, with below average presentation and slow, severely boring and needlessly complicated combat. After suffering through that game, I couldn't help but wonder if the acclaimed developer had lost touch with what earned them those acclimations in the first place. As it turns out, Dragon Age: Origins was a fluke, and Mass Effect 2 could be BioWare's best game to date.
Did you play the original Mass Effect? If not, you may want to go back and do so. I mention this first because Mass Effect 2 is aimed squarely at those who are already acquainted with Commander Shepard and crew. The game constantly makes references to the events of the first, and some of the bigger reveals and revelations will be totally lost on those don't have the background knowledge firmly in place. And don't expect a catch-up session; Mass Effect 2 is gloriously free of any recaps to ease in the uninitiated. You also have the option of importing your save file from Mass Effect, which gives you a leg up on establishing Shepard's choices and mannerisms. All of your choices from part one carry over, and they directly affect how the second game plays out. It's actually pretty awesome, and makes Mass Effect 2 feel more like a natural continuation of Shepard's story rather than a sequel. You could certainly enjoy the game without having played number one, but don't expect to be as blown away by the story as fans of the first will be.
And what a story it is. The game picks up after the events of the first game and sees the Normandy (Shepard & crew's hi-tech starship) attacked and destroyed. Without giving anything away, the plot skips ahead two years and jumps right into the action with Shepard escaping an experimental medical unit under fire from security robots. Before long, he gets entangled with Cerberus, a suspected pro-human terrorist organization, and is given the task of figuring out the Collectors, a fringe group that is capturing far-flung human colonies and disappearing without a trace. Underlying plots revolve around what happened to the old crew in Shepard's absence and how the galaxy has been affected by the Sovereign, the Geth and Saren's attack. If you've ever played a BioWare game before, you know that the story will have innumerable twists and turns, culminating with a single, explosive finale. I've given you a quick summary of the game's first few hours, but I would feel extremely guilty giving away too much more.
As epic and memorable as the story may be, the real high point of Mass Effect 2 is the solid, always entertaining gameplay. Both the faults I found with the first game – the Mako tank, which drove like a shopping cart with a wheel missing and the inconsistent shooting – have been corrected. The Mako is out altogether and the combat has been tweaked to a degree that almost makes Mass Effect 2 as much a shooter as it is an RPG. The equipment and upgrading systems have been simplified; making outfitting your team something anyone can do easily, without years of knowledge about typical RPG numbers-based systems.