Mass Effect 2 on Xbox 360

May 21, 2013
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Mass Effect 2 is a grand improvement over its predecessor. It took everything bad that was in Mass Effect and made it better in every way. So before I start, I’m just going to say that you should buy this game. Now since it’s pretty old (released in 2010) there is no reason to miss out on a game that has been called one of the best games ever made. Here is why.

You again play as Commander Shepard, who is surprisingly given the task to save the world again. This time, s/he has to figure out why human colonies are disappearing with the help of a rogue organization named “Cerberus.” Cerberus has a “complicated” past to say the least and Shepard will have to help them despite their “ends justify the means” attitude. That’s as much as I’m going to talk about the story because a great part of the game is seeing the narrative play out. Needless to say you will be talking and shooting a lot. The actions you made in Mass Effect 1 also affect how you play Mass Effect 2. You might have saved someone’s life in the first game and in the second they will approach you and tell you how much you helped them. Or if you romanced someone in ME1 you can choose to continue the romance or break it up. This feature adds so much to the game and makes it a personal experience. There is much less emphasis on the story this time around. Mass Effect 2 is more focused on the characters in your crew, but more on that later.

The gameplay is something that BioWare doesn’t pay much attention to. This is a narrative driven game after all. But, comparing the gameplay from Mass Effect 1 to 2 blows Mass Effect 1 out of the water. You now have to reload your guns instead of the overheating mechanic that was in ME1. Cover is less sticky and you have to press a button to go under it. Inventory management is almost completely stripped. Now you can only pick your (and your squads) different guns before each mission. There is almost no armor to speak of and the upgrades are used as powers like Biotics or Tech abilities in the radial menu. The guns have more kick to them and the powers have more oomph. When you raise someone 10 ft. in the air, you feel like you’re doing it.

The mechanics are also improved. You no longer have to drive around the Mako to get minerals. Now you probe planets for their minerals which then can be used to buy upgrades for you guns or Normandy. Your squad mates are smarter. They no longer shoot at walls and run in front of enemy lines. Enemies have become less predictable and try to flank you. In short, these stripped down elements make the game better. They make the experience less tedious and focus more on action and interactions with the characters.

The presentation in this game is, for lack of a better word, a fantastic improvement from the last game. It looks gorgeous. I said that the style was great in Mass Effect 1 but it looks terrible compared to this game. The developers truly used tool they could trying to make this game look as clean and crisp as they possibly could. Every planet you visit has a distinct style. One maybe a megatropolis filled high rise buildings that make the “Burj Khalifa” look about as tall as a fork in comparison. Another planet may be a lush forest filled with various wild and plant life. And another could be a planet that is in its ice age, with the sky so clear, you can see the Milky Way and all its stars twinkle. The presentation truly is a thing of beauty.

But now comes the most important part of a game like this. The narrative. The story is barebones Sci-Fi. But it isn’t bad in any sense of the word. The reason is because the world these alien races inhabit is so fleshed out that it feels fresh. And it is. Never before has there been a game where I wanted to read about these sentient species’ biology, religion, and everything in between.

Despite all this though, the story isn’t even the part it focuses on. Mass Effect 2 focuses on the people on your crew. You get to know them unlike you did in Mass Effect 1. Instead of just speaking to them after each story mission, you can do loyalty missions for them. These loyalty missions are the best parts of the game. You get to see what these characters are going through. They might have a façade of complete control, but underneath they are tormented from their past. You meet many interesting characters. Samara, an Asari justicar whose code she follows is very strict, and some crew members from past games like Garrus. The loyalty missions help flesh out your squad mates. By the end, you really will like (or hate) the people in your crew. These missions transform these characters. They aren’t just characters anymore.

So it’s safe to say that I kind of enjoyed this game. Sometimes the probing minigame can be repetitive, and the lip movements are sometimes poor, these small inconveniencies do not damage this game at all. This shows how you can have an experience from playing a video game. No game has made me feel that personal towards these characters. I cannot say more good things about this game. I just want YOU to buy it right now. Trust me, it’s good.

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