Mass Effect 2 – Review

Last Edited – March 19, 2010 by Randall Crock
Filed under: Gaming, Review

Finally, I get to review a (relatively) new game! As I mentioned in my review of Mass Effect, I got it because I needed something to play, and it was relatively cheap. I also mentioned that I really liked Mass Effect, and several friends recommended that I get Mass Effect 2 since major improvements had been made. I must say, I did like Mass Effect 2 better than the first overall, and that there were many improvements, but like any game it isn’t perfect.

The Mass Effect 2 Splash Screen

As I said, I liked Mass Effect 2, and joins Assassin’s Creed II and Half-Life 2 in my top 3 games. The graphics are stunning, the story intricate and immersive, and the gameplay solid and fun. I will start with the graphics upgrade. The first game looked alright for a 2007 game designed for the console market. I wasn’t super impressed, but they certainly weren’t detrimental to the game. When I first started ME2, I was astounded by how much more realistic everything was. All of the textures had been increased in resolution, everything was bump and normal mapped, and reflections and shadows were abound. My fairly high-end rig was struggling to get 40 FPS in areas with lots of shadows until I turned off dynamic shadows which increased the framerate to 60 (but no higher for some reason even though VSync was off) without really dropping the quality.

A comparison of the graphics and squad
screens for Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2
Click to enlarge

For me as a really technical person, the graphics really add something to the game, whether they are super realistic or cartoony, so long as whatever you are using works well, and it works fantastically for ME2. Places like the tech lab and armory felt real, even if they vomit bloom into your face. That is one thing I don’t understand about many games. Why must everything be surrounded in bloom? You made all these awesome models and textures just cover them with flat white light so we can’t see them? I understand your quest for realism, and there is some bloom in the real world, but not that much.

Anyway, on to the story. Picking up where Mass Effect left off, you take on the role of _______ Shepard, continuing the fight against the giant evil. Some events occur, which I won’t describe due to spoilers, but it ends up being two years after the events of the first game, and you are now working for a radical pro-Human group. You are now tracking down missing human colonies which have been disappearing at an alarming rate, and no one seems to be doing anything about it. This leads to the largest part of the game which is assembling your team of 10-11 (one character is part of some DLC) and gaining their loyalty. You don’t need to get their loyalty, but it really helps during the final battle.

All of the loyalty missions involve some personal history for the individual, from revenge to criminal defense, and you must carefully navigate the situation to gain the team member’s trust. This can be quite difficult, and I thought I had messed up on one, but got the loyalty anyway and was very confused as to how. Some people have said it is really hard to gain everyone’s loyalty, but if you are careful in your decision making, and are heavily leaned toward Paragon or Renegade, it isn’t very difficult, but you can mess up if you don’t start early.

The squad info screen from Mass Effect 2. Click to enlarge

Finally, to the gameplay. ME2 continues the third person action view of the first game, and makes many improvements to the system as a whole. There is now no longer the micromanagement of your weapons and ammo, nor is leveling as challenging to make decisions as to where points go. As you can see in the comparison above, the number of skills has been reduced drastically, and is easier to understand what each skill does. The leveling system has also changed, with experience only really being given when a mission is completed, but with more regular missions to do. While this reduction in complexity makes the game more accessible, I liked the old system to a certain extent. I did like the skills division, but not as much the weapon management. An achievements system has been added, and is liked to your gamerscore for the Xbox version, but it is only an in-game system for the PC.

Again, I thought ME2 was a fantastic game overall, and it is well within my top 3 games. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first game, as well as an intro for people into the RPG space.

Look for a review of Assassin’s Creed II soon! I finished it the same week as ME2, but want to take some more time to write the review.

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