Review: Mass Effect 2

Bioware continues their epic space saga with the recent release of Mass Effect 2 for the XBox 360 and PC.

In Mass Effect 2 the player fills the shoes of Commander Shepard who returns to stop another threat to the galaxy.  A mysterious species of aliens known as The Collectors are kidnapping entire human colonies.  Gameplay is a hybrid of an action-RPG and a third-person shooter.  The player decides what class their Shepard will be, such as a Soldier class relying more on firepower and a Vanguard class relying more on biotic powers.  The player can then decide which of these skills to focus more on when allocating skill points gained from completing objectives and eleminating enemies.

All the new characters have missions that will help Shepard gain their loyalty by completing.

One of the best parts of the game is how much the combat system has changed since the first game.  Some of the combat in the last game felt a bit clunky and unpolished, especially the cover system which was integral to surviving most firefights.  The cover system in the new game is leaps and bounds above what it was in the previous title.  It is still necessary to survive, but does not seem like a hindarence.  Some of the elements last time around, such as the over heating of guns, was just annoying and took away from the overall fun of the game.  This has been replaced by simply using a typical shooter’s ammo system where the ammo is dropped by defeated enemies.

The story and presentation of the game is another amazing quality.  Graphically the game looks incredible, especially the facial features and emotions shown on the main characters.  This is apparent on the alien faces who show the same amount of emotion the human characters do while still having the same effect on the player.  The musical score adds a lot to how much the player gets drawn into the game, starting from the very beginning when players are introduced to all the changes the galaxy has gone through since the release of the first game.  This reviewer found himself completely enthralled with the universe from the very beginning, even though it had been two years since he played the first game.

There are only a couple negative aspects to the game, and even those are minor.  The first is the fact that Mass Effect has such an engaging and large universe that most new players to the series will not get the full story from starting with Mass Effect 2.  While some of the major events of the first game are recapped the story of the last game is not fully fleshed out.  This reviewer recommends new players finish the first game before moving on to the second.  The only other negative part of the game is how tedious scanning planets for materials and elements can be.  The average planet takes about five minutes to scan and collect all that is needed which may not seem very long, but this adds up as there are quite a few planets the player can scan.  This is unfortunate as the materials the player gains from scanning the planets is necessary to upgrade the weapons, armor, and ship.  The last two directly effect how events unfold in the last sections of the game.

The Illusive Man is Shepard's contact, giving him missions and tips on how to complete them.

Overall, Mass Effect 2 is an incredible game action-RPG, third-person shooter hybrid.  Players will almost instantly get drawn into the story of both the entire universe and the stories of the individual characters.  While some parts of the game get a bit tedious and it may not be great for new players of the series, these are both minor faults at worst.  For anyone looking for a great game that will entertain for a while, this is a great choice.


  1. @Meist: What part of WRPGs don’t you like? Is it the overall “western” (less spiky hair and zippers, more bald space marines) style, or the decision/morality system that usually accompanies WPRGs, or something else entirely? Personally, I think a lot of the Bioware stuff is freaking fantastic, but it’s really not a 1-to-1 comparison with, say, a Final Fantasy or similar JRPG. I mean obviously if you don’t like them, they’re just not your type of game, but I’m just curious what you don’t like about them :D.

  2. 1- too many the bald marines. well 90% of western games are about that (gow,halo .moh, slipnter cell, bbbc2, cod, metro 2033, brink, fallout, mass effect, ghost reacon,alien vs predator and the list goes on and on) and im tired of it :(
    2- the cliched story and the morality system ruins the story too.
    3- the graphics. wrpgs look bad, too many browns and lowres textures everywhere and the art direction is quite poor.
    i dont know why, western gaming companies have way more money than japanese gaming companies.
    i would like to play a good wrpg some day, something similar to that dragon age cgi trailer, not the actual game.

  3. @meist – not to pick on you but JRPGs have very similar problems. replace bald space marine with spiky-haired androgynous teenager, replace brown graphics with lots of belts and hair gel, and replace cliched story with… well, cliched story and you have everything that’s wrong with JRPGs. I used to think WRPGs suck too (I grew up on Lunar 2) but as I got more games under my belt I figured there both equally good/bad, whether or not one likes or the other depends on which flaws that person is most able to tolerate.

    all that being said, I have to agree with you, I’ve yet to play a western RPG and then feel compelled to keep playing.

  4. I’m going to address Meist’s complaints about WRPGs line by line:
    1. Only two of the twelve games you listed could be considered an RPG, and neither of those is a TRUE RPG.
    2. I’m assuming you’re talking specifically about ME2 here as you mention the morality system. If you call this story cliched, one could argue that every sci-fi movie/television show/game is cliched. And what exactly do you find cliched about it in the first place? As far as the morality system goes, Bioware has always been about making your own choices. It is not like this was thrown into the game at the last second. The story was built around these choices, which actually effect the plot of the game. One could actually have his or her character die at the end of the game if the wrong choices are made.
    3. ME2 is one of the most realistic looking games I have ever played. I really think people these days are looking more for a REALISTIC looking game instead of a JRPG where realistic graphics are replaced by shiny ones.

  5. I got ME2 over the weekend and I’m about 10 hours in. So far, I’m in complete agreement with Bup on pretty much every point in the review. My one complaint is sometimes it seems like Bioware overcompensated for their previous talking-head conversations. Now, the characters move around while talking, which is great, but it seems to go to an almost unnatural level where they never stand still. It’s like every character in the game has a case of the jimmy legs, or they’re all playing a massive round of that game from Who’s Line is it Anyway where, at all times, they need to have one person sitting, one standing, and one crouching. Great game so far, though, can’t wait to see where it goes for the end.

    @Meist: It sounds like WRPGs just might not be for you, which is fine. I mean admitedly, when you’re adding in grand, Bioware-style choices that the character can make, the overall plot is going to be less streamlined just by nature of the fact that every decision creates at least 2 more directions the plot can go, and they all need to be fully written, scripted, acted, and animated etc. (granted, that’s a bit of an oversimplification, since divergent plots can merge back together later, but you get my point). It seems like a lot of WRPGs (Bioware’s games, Fallout/Oblivion, Fable, etc.) are hanging their hats on the whole “dynamic world” aspect, while JRPGs have traditionally been in very static, well defined, fleshed out worlds. Both methods have their pros and cons, and I enjoy both, but if you don’t like the dynamic worlds, there are plenty of good games with static worlds (and no space marines) to keep you playing for a while, I bet :D.