Mass Effect 2: review

Last year Bioware gave us in Dragon Age, what some consider to be one of the best western RPGs of the decade, if not of all time. Dragon Age went back to Bioware’s roots to give us an old-school RPG, combining excellent presentation with a deep and involving system for progression. But if Dragon Age is Bioware revisiting its past, then Mass Effect 2 is Bioware in a more forward thinking mode. In a move that will probably annoy die-hard RPG fans, Mass Effect 2 has stripped bare the systems of the first game. In doing so they’ve given us a streamlined action-centric experience that continues Commander Shepard’s battle against the forces that not only threaten humanity, but all organic life within the known universe.

The game kicks off in explosive fashion as we rejoin Shephard as he and his crew face an uncertain future in the wake of events from the previous game. The central premise sees Shepard joining up with a somewhat unlikely set of new allies, as a new threat begins to descend upon an unsuspecting and largely ignorant galaxy. The majority of the game sees you gathering allies, containing faces both familiar and new as you attempt to counter this threat. These new allies are both a blessing and a curse. Some are exceptionally well written and genuinely interesting; you’ll head down to speak to them between missions, delving further into their back stories and undergoing missions to allow them to better focus on saving the galaxy. Others you’ll speak to only out of a sense of completion. Characters such as the male lead Jacob are bland stereotypes, underwritten and lacking personality.

Bioware narrowly lost out on the Power Rangers license when creating Mass Effect (this is a lie)

Mass Effect 2 is the Power Rangers game we all dreamed of here at CG

The conversation system you’ll use to converse with your crew and indeed NPCs across the vastness of space are improved from the original Mass Effect, allowing you to take Paragon or Renegade actions mid-conversation throughout the game. Paragon options tend to be peaceful or morally justifiable actions, often seeing Shepard saving lives, or refusing to take the easier underhand option. The Renegade choices, as you might imagine, are the opposite and see our hero kicking people through plate glass windows with a cruel quip, or simply beating a confession out of a criminal. However, sadly when it comes to your crew-mates we can’t help but feel there is a certain dynamism lacking. Why is it that nearly all meaningful conversation with them comes between missions when roaming the Normandy? It would be far more interesting if these conversations were interspersed with the action and allowed their personalities to emerge as and when you faced the threats that define your adventure.

The combat in Mass Effect 2 is hugely improved on the original, There are initially a few obstacles to overcome, such as a fiddly cover system and the unfortunate issue of getting stuck on crates occasionally. But get past those flaws and you’ll find yourself forced to mix gun-play with tech and biotic abilities to create the fast-paced tactical Sci-Fi action we dreamed of when playing the original Mass Effect. Some of the set pieces do a brilliant job of creating a sense of urgency and importance, that serve only to heighten the action and truly engage you with Shepard and his team. The missions that accompany the main thrust of the story are almost flawlessly exciting and you feel as though you are being propelled through a blockbuster action film. The various powers each class possesses give the player a wholly satisfying feeling of empowerment and progression. Attacks such as the Biotic Shockwave will have you cackling with glee as you send pesky enemies flying off ledges into oblivion. Powers can be combined for greater effect and you’ll need to utilise an array of characters with different abilities to overcome the various foes you encounter. Perhaps the downside of the combat is the reduction in choice players of Mass Effect will encounter. The original game threw new weapons, armours, grenades and weapon mods at you with abandon, but this has been significantly toned down this time around. Instead you’ll find yourself finding perhaps three variations of each type of basic weapon at most. In addition to the five basic weapons categories on offer you’ll encounter a number of heavy weapons for when you absolutely positively have to kill every last alien in the room.

The spectacularly suicidal Charge ability in full effect

The reduction in loot isn’t the only example of Bioware streamlining the RPG systems however. Bioware has done away with weapon specializations, and conversational ability now ties in directly with the actions you perform throughout the game. So if you want to get the best renegade conversation choices, all you need to do now is act like a massive tool, bullying and shooting your way through the universe. This works well, allowing you instead to invest your points in the more interesting and explosive powers as you gain in rank. The other way to upgrade and improve your character, crew and ship is by collecting resources and spending them at a research terminal. The resource collection replaces the dull and over-long Mako sections of acquiring minerals from the first game. Instead of landing in your improbably impenetrable land vehicle, you’ll find yourself scanning planets from the comfort of your ship, sending probes down to collect large spikes of resources. It sounds like another case of streamlining the less effective systems from Mass Effect, but in this case the task can become overly tedious. You’ll spend a great deal of time travelling from planet to planet, slowly watching the resources drip in, as you desperately try to rake in enough Element Zero for the next Biotic Damage upgrade.

Mass Effect 2 Is a science fiction blockbuster of a game almost from start to finish, with action sure to set your pulse pounding and character interaction that often transcends anything we’ve seen previously, especially in terms of interactivity. Despite everything that’s right with the game, there are still a few issues we hope to see perfected for the third and final game of the trilogy.


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Written by Michael J

Michael is a self proclaimed PC gaming fanatic and is equally at home with all genres, bar platformers and puzzle games. Except Bejeweled, he's awesome at that. Seriously, he is totally like second on his Facebook Bejeweled leaderboard. And they said he'd never amount to anything...


  1. I also gamed the PC version. I only had 5 game ending glitches throughout my 32 hour escapade, and luckily, I had saved just moments before each encounter.

    Got-damn this game ran smmmmmoooth (aside from a glitch every 6 hours).

  2. Oni-Samurai /

    I wish this would come out for the PS3, I’d definitely buy it. It’s not like Microsoft has an exclusive deal or something.

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