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March 15, 2010 | by  | in Games |
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Mass Effect 2

Games

Since the advent of computer gaming, developers have tried to emulate the experience of going to a film. Never was this more obvious than the early 90s, when the next big thing was thought to be the use of live actors in interactive video sequences. It wasn’t. 

A few years and several million dollars later, the industry wised up, resulting in the modern ‘multiple choice’ role-playing game that we’re more familiar with today. Companies like Black Isle pioneered this format with games such as Fallout and Arcanum, immersing the player by giving them a world which responded to their choice of actions—for better or for worse. 

Mass Effect 2 is in many ways an evolution of these forms. After the events of the first game, your character Shepherd is (SPOILER ALERT) killed in combat with an unknown alien craft and resurrected by Cerberus, a secret organisation with a pro-human agenda. Colonists across the galaxy are disappearing by the thousands, and Shepherd is tasked with discovering the nature of the threat. Over the course of the game you encounter, and in some cases recruit, members of your old team as you attempt to unravel the mystery of the Collectors. 

The beauty of both Mass Effect and its sequel has always been the unique way it deals with unique character development. Shepherd is a hero—your mission is to save the galaxy. Instead of choosing to be a ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’ character, you take either ‘Paragon’ or ‘Renegade’ conversation paths, which affect your character’s relevant scores. For example, you have the option of verbally zinging a reporter or simply knocking her out. This might seem more linear than a game where you could run around gunning down every civilian in sight, but ultimately provides a tighter gameplay experience, and better emotional payoff for your actions. 

None of this will be news to anyone who’s played the first game, but thankfully Mass Effect 2 is a great improvement on its predecessor. For a game based around squad-based combat, Mass Effect’s combat system was pretty seriously flawed. Weapons felt and looked like super-soakers, and although there was a cover system, there was little point in using it in the expansive planetside environments. Mass Effect 2 fixes this with the addition of exhaustible ammunition and location damage, making gunfights much more desperate and visceral.  

The exploration aspect of the game has also been overhauled. The critically despised Mako driving sequences have been replaced with an orbital scanning minigame where you gather resources by launching probes at the planet’s surface. This can get tedious, but is only really necessary if you’re determined to research every upgrade available for your team. Side quests work much better when you don’t need to drive across half the map to get there. 

Mass Effect 2
is a landmark in cinematic gaming. Visually, it’s incredible. The ‘texture popping’ that plagued the the first game has been eliminated—it’s a lot easier to believe you’re a heroic starship commander when it you don’t look like a bar of soap for half the conversation. The game rewards the player for exploration not just with more resources, but with different experiences. There are very few games that I can say I’ve explored in just to meet new characters and try new conversation, or to retry an entire mission simply to be a badass. Whether you’re a Luke Skywalker or Jack Bauer fan, Mass Effect 2 allows you to play to your fantasy. 

PROS: Visually stunning, engrossing characters, massive backstory. Every major flaw of the first game has been addressed.

CONS: New hacking and scanning elements are a great improvement on quick-time sequences, but still feel much the same after 20 hours of play.

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About the Author ()

Lewis has been playing videogames since his family's PC Direct "workstation" in early 1996. He spends his spare time reading political blogs, working and welcoming complaints and suggestions.

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