Computer Game Review: Mass Effect 2


Mass Effect 2

Warning: Possible Spoilers. Mass Effect 2. Universally praised. The best game yet on the Xbox 360? Read on and find out …

Considering all the effort that has obviously gone into the rest of the game, the overall story is really pretty bland, and consists of ye olde ancient race invading the galaxy and what-not. Despite reams of conversation and backstory, I never did work out the motivations of the Collectors and Geth and all the rest of the bad guys, and it didn’t really matter. The focus is really more on the different characters that make up your crew and their personal stories, which thankfully are relatively interesting.

Like many products designed for the largest market possible, I suppose there’s too much risk in doing something really different in the story department. It’s a shame, but hopefully it’s early days for the industry in this regard.
There is a much-touted emphasis on developing, shall we say, a more intimate relationship with one of your crew members. Sure, I got it on with Miranda in the engine room, which was strange because the conversation options made me feel kind of sleazy and wimpy at the same time to get there. Hold on, aren’t we all here to save the universe? I applaud the developers for trying to include some adult emotions in the game, though you do get the feeling they don’t get out much.

The lynchpin of the whole game is the conversation choice system, and where it puts you on a sliding scale from Renegade (selfish, bad-ass) to Paragon (sensitive nice guy hero). It’s this system which I actually think is the weakest part of the game. The game rewards you for consistency—to the point where emphasis on one type or the other opens up more conversation options (usually powerful ones). To me, this detracts from the realism. As I started playing I found myself wanting to make all kinds of choices—sometimes I wanted to ‘do the right thing’, other times I wanted to shoot the guy in the head for looking sideways at me. But after reading a bit about the game online I soon realised that this approach would get me nowhere, so I had to make a conscious decision to go Renegade or Paragon (afer much indecision I chose Paragon) and so instead of making choices as I went along, often found myself automatically selecting the obviously Paragon choice.

Err, life’s full of grey areas kids. I suppose it’s beyond our technology still, but I want a story that develops in response to my choices, not one that forces me to choose one of two options. Certainly there’s an illusion of freedom here, but it’s a shame to be penalised for not staying on a consistent path.

The gameplay in ME2 strikes a good balance between keeping the overall plot on track and giving you the freedom to explore. There was no rush to advance the storyline, and yet the occasional semi-mandatory mission kept me feeling that events were still proceeding without my involvement. You’ll even find yourself scanning planets for minerals so you can develop your technological options; it sounds boring (and sort of is), but occasionally it’s a nice relaxing change from killing things.

Most of the time you’ll be going on missions either to recruit members of your team, or personal missions on their behalf so you make them more loyal to you and make them more effective fighters. In general, missions usually come down to gunfights—running from cover to cover as you advance on the enemy’s position—but there’s plenty of variety and enough stories and situations to keep the game feeling fresh. The combat is excellent. I was more of a ‘stay in cover and pick off the enemy with my sniper gun’ kind of fighter, but you can develop whichever style suits you best.

I can’t summon up any criticism whatsoever of the graphics—they are uniformly stunning. The cut scenes, especially during the game’s climax, are beautifully shot and rendered; exciting, cinematic, and coupled with a pounding, memorable soundtrack, absolutely thrilling.

One of the unique things about ME 2 is your ability to customise the appearance of your character to an obsessive degree. It took me very little time to create a character that looked just like me, to the point where my girlfriend thought it was ‘weird’ everytime she walked through the room and saw me on the TV chatting to aliens (come to think of it, she thought the whole Miranda thing was a bit weird too). All games need now is a voice sampling synthesizer and the illusion will be complete!

One of the excellent things about ME 2 was the just-right level of difficulty. I threw the controller down in frustration a few times—but mercifully few times. I’m sure some of the combats would have been easier if I really took the time to explore the different power and team ability combinations, but even with my limited grasp of the options, I still managed to get through the game with very little frustration and just enough challenge. However a bit more information on how the various powers worked would have been helpful.

ME 2 is without doubt a stunning game and one of the best experiences I’ve had with the Xbox 360 so far. When I considered what to play next, I couldn’t think of anything I hadn’t played that was of the same caliber. I played for about 25 hours, but there are numerous other missions you can discover, and in fact the game was so good I’d even consider playing it again one day in ‘Renegade’ style. My only real criticism is that the Renegade/Paragon system forces you onto one of two paths, taking away the freedom to make choices ‘on the fly’. Otherwise, I’m really looking forward to the next installment in this series. Hopefully with my voice sampled this time!

Four and a half seductive conversation choices out of five.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Atlas Cerise
    May 05, 2010 @ 11:18:59

    The Geth and Collectors are referenced from the first game. Did you not play the first ME? Fun fact: ME2 lets you import your character and decisions from the first game, which affect the plot in ME2. ME3 is rumored to work in much the same way, which should be interesting since much of my crew was killed at the end. Jack, my favorite character by far, lived in my game, though. *Whew!*
    If you liked ME2, I’d recommend Fallout 3: GOTY Edition. Awesome RPG (more in depth than ME2, though perhaps less “pretty” in the graphics department. The game is, however, older than ME2). And Fallout: New Vegas hits this fall. I can’t wait!

  2. Universal Head
    May 06, 2010 @ 13:01:42

    Yeah, I know. I started ME but wasn’t really enjoying it – that was back when I seemed to have a shorter attention span for games, and the combat system seemed kind of clunky.
    I think Jack was the only character I lost, but it was strange, because she died without fanfare – just a quick shot of her lying on the ground – then there was a shot at the end with my hand on a coffin but no real mention of her. She was a good character but after I took Miranda’s side in an argument she didn’t like me anymore!
    I think I’l wait until the new Fallout before I go back there. Again, I lost interest in the latest Fallout – I got stuck in some subway system where everything was too strong for me and gave up.

  3. Atlas Cerise
    May 06, 2010 @ 13:16:34

    I wanted to side with Miranda because she’s Australian and hot (the accent is my kryptonite, what can I say?), but Jack was just so much cooler. I know the fight you are talking about, but I sided with Jack. I always play RPGs are a woman. I figure if I am going to stare at a character’s ass for hours and hours, it may as well be a hot chick instead of some dude. Unfortunately, playing as a woman in ME2 meant Jack would not sleep with me, despite being bisexual. That sucked, and I hope it can be changed in the third game if she is around. I also really liked Josiah Bartlet – I mean the Elusive Man, but he wouldn’t sleep with me either.
    I’m Commander Shepherd, and this is my favorite blog on the Citadel.

  4. Universal Head
    May 06, 2010 @ 13:30:07

    Hmm … playing as a woman who looked like me would have just added yet another layer of weirdness to the whole thing.
    I suspect the Elusive Man will be dead by the time the next game comes around… talk about your chain smoker!

  5. Atlas Cerise
    May 06, 2010 @ 13:33:49

    Alexis Shepherd looked nothing like me, she was way hotter :D.
    I don’t think the EM is a human at all. In fact, I don’t eve think he’s real. I bet he’s a hologram or a computer program still running from the Collectors or something like that.

  6. Sophie
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 13:08:56

    I played both MEs with a partner, and I have to say that made the conversation options much more fun, since we would discuss what to choose, and have to convince each other. We did enough side-missions to completely fill out the Paragon bar and then 30% of the Renegade one, so we had some liberty to do as we pleased. Mordin died in our game, and we couldn’t figure out for the life of us why.
    (Also, this is my first time at this site, and I absolutely love the game reference sheets! And I wouldn’t dare to call myself a designer, but when I see good work it warms my heart.)

  7. Universal Head
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 15:06:50

    Hi Sophie, thanks for visiting – and commenting! Happy to hear you like the reference sheets.