Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What I think of Mass Effect 2

I've just finished Mass Effect 2. HOLY FREAKING SHIT IT'S AWESOME! I'm not sure how else to put that. As I mentioned earlier the game won best RPG and best game on Xbox 360 at the VGA game of the year awards. So I suppose it is an apt statement.

Ok so for those who don't know anything about Mass Effect (to which you must be incredibly boring, poor or illiterate and so anti-social you can't have a friend read out the text to you and for that I feel sorry for you) it is the classic underdog story of man vs the world only change the world to the galaxy. Yes Mass Effect is a sci-fi game but don't let that put you off. Technically Fallout 3 is a sci-fi game and that's really good (see what I thought of Fallout 3 here) so give Mass Effect the same chance. It is a bit more on the Star Trek end and not the Mad Max end of sci-fi like Fallout 3 is.

The character you play can either be the default John Shepard who is an ex-street kid turned war hero (I went with this choice because that is the character the developers Bioware had in mind when writing the story so I figure I get a fuller experience) or a character of your choice. Character customization is really full on. It is as complex as the one in Fallout 3 but with an easier interface and is clearer to see what you're doing. None of this dark screen crap. Once you have selected what gender you are and what you look like the next thing to do is choose your personality and history. Depending on what personality and career history you have will affect how people interact with you throughout the game. There is a third option for those who did all this in Mass Effect 1. You can import your save file from the first game into the second, This not only brings over your custom character, any major choices you made in Mass Effect 1 are also carried over to Mass Effect 2. Without ruining the first game this determines who does and does not appear in Mass Effect 2 and how the story plays out based on those choices. Bioware is in the processes of making Mass Effect 3 and like with Mass Effect 1 any choices you make in Mass Effect 2 will effect the outcome of Mass Effect 3. Right here this is what sets Mass Effect 2 apart from any other RPG out there. Bioware have really taken their time with this game.

The graphics are a significant improvement on the first game. Its a lot cleaner and crisper and the characters are more real. The environments are lifelike but at the same time they are not. IT seems that everyone in the galaxy has the same architectural style. The only major difference being the doors. Which lets the game down a little bit. In Lord of the Rings you knew that a building was elven or goblin just by looking at it. In Mass Effect 2 the only way to know is to ask people in game or just take an educated guess based on who lives there. You really get the sense you are playing a film especially because there is so much dialogue as well. Usually in games the backdrops are really great and character movement is good but what lets them down is character expression. Usually this isn't a problem because about five seconds later you blow their head off in some spectacular fashion. But because Mass Effect 2 (ok you know what saying Mass Effect 2 all the time is hurting my fingers so from now on I'm going to call it ME2) is so dependent on dialogue you need to try and understand a characters motivations in why they are saying something and it is not always made clear just based on how they have said it. Facial expressions can give away a characters intentions in game the same as if you were talking with someone in real life.

I'm kind of on the fence about the gameplay. I think this is because there are two aspects to it. You spend a majority of the game talking to people and this part works really well. It's simple and lets you focus on what is being said. On occasion there are quicktime events that allow to either perform good or evil deeds. These more or less end up determining if you kill someone or not. The combat like the first game is ok but a bit repetitive. Then again I suppose this is the way with all shooters so I can't complain too much. If you are not familiar with squad based combat you will struggle with this game. The combat is relies on it heavily. However you can decide in the options menu if you want your squad members to use their Biotic and tech (equivalent to magic) powers automatically or only at your command. This allows the player to focus on saving their own skin and not have to worry about others. In ME1 ammo was not an issue and it was explained away very well. All you had to worry about gun wise was keeping your gun from overheating. In ME2 they haven't included ammo (at least that's what it says) but removable heat sinks. Total bollocks! Its ammo, the game says it is more efficient on the battlefield. Bollocks! Ok fine you don't want to call it ammo then don't call it ammo everywhere else in the game except the manual! Don't piss on me and tell me it's rain Bioware! While it does bring it in line with other shooters out there because you can't carry much ammo and what you do have you chew through so bloody fast it just results in you switching guns until you can find more. In these situations melee is supposed to be your saving grace but even with melee damage upgraded to the max everything in the game still packs a harder punch then you do so whats the point. In summary the social element is great but the combat annoys me.

The sound is sort of the same as ME1 which is fantastic. The music is exactly the same but it is so good you don't care. Voice acting is great and people like Seth Green, Carrie-Anne Moss and Martin Sheen lend their voices to the characters. What really interested me is because everyone in the game speaks English how do you tell one alien from another without looking at them? the only solution is to give them different accents and ways of talking. This is done really well and you can be sitting in some dingy bar somewhere having a quiet drink (which you can do) and overhear a conversation and know that it is a Human and an Asari talking.

I love ME2 and I'm really looking forward to Mass Effect 3 which is expected to be released either in the middle to end of this year. Seriously worth buying if you were a fan of ME1. As quoted to me by the guy at the shop where I bought it "Mass Effect 2 shits all over Mass Effect 1!" While it does come on two disks there is very little switching so there is little need to get off the couch and more time can be spent playing an awesome game.

9 out of 10

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