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Mass Effect 2


A year later, but still amazing
The fact that Playstation 3 gamers had to wait on the release of 2010ís stellar Mass Effect 2 until the start of 2011 is really quite the crime. The game dazzled audiences on the Xbox 360 and the PC last year which only created tremendous buzz for the upcoming release of Mass Effect 3 on track for release during Q4 2011. Fortunately, PS3 owners have been rewarded a bit by waiting as the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 comes complete with the popular downloadable content that revived the game mid to late last year. On the downside, Playstation 3 owners never had a chance to play the original Mass Effect on their console. From a story perspective, this is quite the downer as multiple characters from the first game reappear in Mass Effect 2. Understanding their motivations in the first game sheds light on their dispositions in the second game. Bioware did include a downloadable graphic novel to catch up on the events of Mass Effect and itís completely interactive. Just like the original game, you make decisions that will ultimately affect your character in ME2.

mass effect 2 shepard normandy suit

For those unfamiliar with the original or the narrative at large, you play as Commander John Shepard (if you play as a male). Shepard rose in the ranks of the N7 special forces program and was assigned to the Normandy ship. (spoilers ahead) After the events of ME1, Shepard sacrifices himself to save the pilot of the Normandy and dies in the process. Fortunately, a shady organization called Cerberus helps Shepard get back on his feet and heís off to protect the galaxy from a new threat under the direction of someone called The Illusive Man. (end spoilers) Like the first game, you are presented with a vast amount of choices during the game, typically good, evil and ambivalent responses. The Illusive Man is always out for his best interest, often much of which doesnít align with Shepardís goals if heís an overly benevolent or violent soul.

The threat in Mass Effect 2 come in the form of The Collectors and Shepard is tasked with building up a new team to take them on. Just like the first game, each character has their own set of problems and Shepard is often tasked with helping them out before they will join. They also have excellent back stories if you gain their trust and learn enough about their past. These will lead to extra side missions that open up in the universe as you play through the game. My personal favorites were Mordin Solus, a Salarian geneticist that answers all your questions with logic, Jack, a psychotic biotic that has a troubled past and Grunt, a genetically engineered Krogan solider that needs some help being accepted by his people. Frankly, you will be amazed about how in depth some of these character relationships go and how pairing up different characters on your team will open up new conversation options.

mass effect 2 garrus mean

In addition, all of your choices in the game will affect the outcome as well as the galaxies view of Commander Shepard. The game called your good and evil choices Paragon and Renegade. Actions are occasionally timed as well and require a quick button press to snag the right choice. As mentioned earlier, you also have a grayed out option thatís neither nice nor mean, but resolves the situation. All of these decisions effect how your teammates view you as a leader as well. Jack, for instance, respects Renegade choices and choosing those with her on your squad leads to the possibility of a romantic interlude. As the game builds to a climax, you also have to choose members of your squad to complete certain tasks during the final missions. If you didnít help them with their back story or give them proper equipment, thereís a high risk of losing the character as well as losing the ability to utilize them in Mass Effect 3. Thinking about all the possible choices will really make your head spin. It also allows you to experience an entirely different set of choices on a subsequent playthrough.

Of course, this is an action RPG opposed to a traditional RPG. Much like the Fallout series, you will be controlling Shepard in the third person complete with a vast array of weaponry and armor. Itís basically a cover based squad shooter with varied options for directing the squad during combat. You can assign members of the squad to specific targets, excellent help for focusing on a single boss target. Beyond the weapons load-out, you have technical powers in the form of Biotics to destroy mechs and manipulate the environment to your advantage. You really need to focus on picking the right set of teammates for each missions as well as choosing the most effect weapons during battle. Some enemies are more vulnerable to energy weapons while others can be taken down with a trusty shotgun. Sending teammates around the battlefield is very simple via the directional pad as well as assigning them to cover spots.

mass effect 2 shepard shooting geth

Shepard and all of his teammates have the ability to level up during the game, thus you need to concentrate on opening up new skills for them periodically. The leveling system certainly isnít as robust as most RPGs, but its fine for the action RPG genre. Itís pretty easy to level up all the characters with a bit of planet exploration. While Shepard has plenty of main story missions delivered to him by the Illusive Man, there are a plethora of side missions to attack. You can also wander around the galaxy to mine planets for minerals that can be exchanged for upgrades to the Normandy and other improvements. Itís definitely the least exciting portion of the game, but spending time upgrading the Normandy has a direct impact on future events (hint, hint).

As mentioned earlier, the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 also comes with the two recent expansion packs. Overload marks a new planet on your map thatís being slowly taken over by a rogue artificial intelligence and requires Shepard to make some difficult decisions on whatís going on there. Itís the shorter of the two packs, but the 75 minute mission has some tight action sequences and a great story. Lair of the Shadow Broker (click to see the full review) is a somewhat more story driven narrative and wraps up some excellent loose ends in relation of a specific character. Thereís also Kasumi: Stolen Memory, likely the weakest expansion pack in the game. Itís only about an hour long and doesnít have a really appealing story. But in the end, all packs offer more entertainment value for your gaming bucks. In addition to the main game, Playstation 3 Trophy collectors can also rack up 56 more for their collection. The tasks are all related to recruiting characters, leveling, and basically completing the game. Itís a fairly easy set to complete if you love the Mass Effect series.

mass effect 2 alien party

Graphics

This wouldnít be a Bioware game without buggy performance and the PS3 is no exception. I will say that the game seems more polished on the Playstation 3 than the other platforms, but they had a year to work on that. There are still plenty of framerate problems, many of which appear during the DLC packs. There are also rogue bugs in the game that will force restarts from time to time, so save frequently. One positive note for the future of Mass Effect 3 on the PS3 is that this game is running a hybrid of that visual engine. One can only hope that the PS3 version will be released with the other versions of the game.

Audio

The voice acting in Mass Effect 2 is absolutely brilliant and is comparable to the voices in the Fallout series, both in volume and quality. People like Martin Sheen (The West Wing), Yvonne Strahovski (NBCís Chuck), Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Angel), Seth Green (Robot Chicken, Family Guy), Keith David (NBCís The Cape), Michael Dorn (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Carrie Anne Moss (The Matrix) and many others bring life and humanity to many of the characters in the game. In addition, the musical score is phenomenal and was created by the same composer from the original game, Jack Wall. Sound effects take a back seat to the other audio work, but certainly depict the futuristic space environment.

Conclusion

If you havenít played the original Mass Effect or Mass Effect 2, you would be foolish not to pick this up immediately. Itís an absolutely enthralling game that will easily last you 40 hours on a complete run-through if you are an explorer. Itís also worth playing again to see all the options that are created by giving the opposite answers during all the conversations. If you have love for the action RPG genre or simple value amazingly strong narratives, you canít go wrong with Mass Effect 2 on the Playstation 3. Itís well worth the full retail price if you havenít played through the game yet. Highly Recommended!



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