Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fallout: New Vegas - Dead Money Review

The first DLC for Fallout New Vegas, Dead Money, is out now for Xbox 360 (and I assume it will be out on PC and PS3 eventually), costing you 800ms points and for once, more than just a quick sit-down to go through and complete it. In Dead Money, you are lured by a radio signal and captured, forced into cooperating with 3 other individuals to pull off a heist at the Sierra Madre casino. Sounds easy enough, but the only problem is, there's an explosive collar around your neck ready to pop your head into bloody bits if you so much as think about disobeying your given heist plans. Sounds fun, eh? Like most of the DLC from Fallout 3, this one has its pros and cons, but it was honestly a lot better than I thought it would be this time around. And hey, it actually wasn't buggy either. Breakdown time!

The Awesomesauce:

This one's a game-changer, so to speak. You have to conduct yourself in this DLC differently than you would in the Mohave desert, because you go in stripped of your weapons, food, stimpacks, the works. This provides challenge. I appreciated that Dead Money wasn't just a walk-in-the-park add-on that most could easily breeze through in a single sitting. I no longer felt invincible, storming through the area with my high-powered weapons and armor - I was weak again - and that was a good thing. The new environment added an element of creepiness, and you actually had to pay more attention to what you're doing. There's traps everywhere, and you need to scavenge what you can to stay alive. There's a few new weapons and equips you can find and keep after you've completed the content, adding a little variety. You get your choice (well, it's not a choice, really, since you're forced to work with them or your head will explode) of 3 new companions to help you break into the Sierra Madre casino, and each of your newfound "friends" are pretty damned interesting. Should you think about running away, you die. If your companion dies, you die - you're all linked by your explosive collars to keep you in check for the story... and it's awesome. When you're finally in the casino, you can gamble and get some chips to help you buy much-needed supplies as well. The environment is cruel, and it feels that way when playing Dead Money. Overall, it was just a lot of fun - more fun than I expected to get out of the first batch of downloadable content for New Vegas.

The Buzzkills:

If Dead Money gets anything wrong, it's in the way the environment and enemies grow stale over time. You spend a lot of time in the Villa area before actually getting into the Sierra Madre casino for the rest of the DLC, and the layout is somewhat like a very same-looking maze. I usually like to explore new areas, but when it all started to look the same, I got kind of worried. I found myself taking wrong turns or going to places I shouldn't be yet just because of the way it was laid out. I had a sigh of relief when I finally got into the casino and the layout changed for the better. As also mentioned, the enemies grow old too. Aside from the occasional hologram that you just avoid (kind of like a walking security camera), all you really fight throughout the entirety of the content are these "Ghost" villagers. There are a few minor variations between them, such as one attacks you unarmed while another throws spears at you, but for the most part, they don't change and it feels like they're just there to have something to fight. I would've liked to kill more than one enemy. Finally, the only thing I can think of that actually bothered me beyond the 2 points previously mentioned was the lack of music. There was none. This is just a personal preference, however, since I prefer the music to whatever ambient noises are in the background.

You'll see lots of these guys... because they're pretty much all you fight
Final Thoughts:  For a DLC, this is pretty good, and I gotta hand it a deserved 4/5, if I were to give it a numerical rating according to my opinion. If you've liked everything that Fallout has thrown at you, and you're still hungry for more, you could definitely do worse. Pick this up when you get the chance. It's challenging but not overwhelmingly so, changes the pace a bit, and actually takes a bit of time to complete. If you're an achievement whore like me, you'll get some extra points while going through an interesting break-away from the main story of New Vegas. And I don't think you'll leave disappointed - it even has its own slideshow ending, similar to that of the story ending, before throwing you back in the Mohave. Just don't attempt this DLC until you're at least level 20, or the "ghost" villagers will very clearly define prison rape for you.

PS. Try to find all the little clues hinting at another upcoming DLC
/* Save often on this one, or you'll regret having to retrace your steps a lot */

Sunday, December 12, 2010

VGA 2010 Thoughts (and ME3)

Let's get right down to it...
All the clues and little teases that Bioware was dropping for us were all for Mass Effect 3. Now don't get me wrong - I'm extremely excited about this, but I'm a little disappointed because everyone already knew ME3 was coming. Why tease with little clues about London, and the atomic mass of iron and all that shit? It was building up for potentially something different, but lo-and-behold, it was really just what everyone wanted.  That said, the official teaser trailer was awesome and got me amped to hop back into the role of Shepard. In the trailer, the Reapers have decimated (I always liked that word) London, and once again, Shepard has to step up. Look for yourself:

SO, now that you've cleaned yourself up after watching that trailer, there are another few key things to note about the 2010 VGAs. I'm kind of disappointed there wasn't an official Spike webstream of the event, as there was the past few years, so any live stream got shut down within minutes. :(

I cannot tell you how excited I am that Bethesda is working on Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Hopefully they use a different game engine though, because the one they've been working on is getting kind of dated. It's good for environment, but not so good for character models. A lot of their games look similar, so I'm hoping they break that mold with Skyrim. And hey, if they don't, it's still gonna be ES5. Awesome! I can't wait til next holiday.  (UPDATE: Skyrim will in-fact be using a new game engine, confirmed by Bethesda)

I'm so thrilled that for once, Halo didn't win all the damn awards. Maybe people have realized that it's not the godsend of an amazing game that everyone thinks it is. Or maybe the fact that it only won "Best Multiplayer" says something. I'm happy that Bioware won "Studio of the Year", Limbo won "Best Indie", ME2 won "Best RPG", and most of all... I'm happy that Red Dead Redemption won "Game of the Year". It deserved it for its amazing story, characters, and just damn good environments and gameplay. If you want to see who all won what awards, go HERE.

/* I'm going to go stash money for next year's game releases... I'll need it */

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Change of addy

To anyone that actually bothers to read this,

I'm changing the URL for this blog a bit. Instead of "qismidnight.blogspot...."  it will now be "theqspot.blogspot.com".

It's just easier this way, and goes better with the actual title.

- Q

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spike VGAs & Bioware Fanboyism

The video game awards are this Saturday, and while I've never really watched them (because I don't have Spike TV), I'll be paying attention to this current one.

Why? One word... Bioware.

They've been putting out some quality games that I've thoroughly enjoyed lately. Dragon Age and Mass Effect are now personal favorites in my game library. Bioware has been dropping hints about a big announcement they're making at the VGAs. A lot of people think it's gonna be Mass Effect 3, but there's no confirmation of any of the clues. Here's what they are:

- The coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth at the Vostok Station in Antarctica
- The atomic mass of iron
- British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)
- "The Singles" album from The Clash
- A picture of a fish (red herring)

There's also this picture.. which doesn't look like anyone from Mass Effect that I can think of.

What does it all mean?!?! Vostok is a system in the Mass Effect universe, but what does the rest of it have to do with anything Bioware could be making? I don't want to wait til Saturday

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Things That Make Q Rage #4

Literal Bible Creationists

Rarely do I observe statements that truly make me question human gullibility and the future of society. Upon reading Pharygula (a science blog from PZ Myers), I've been seeing a lot of posts about Ken Ham, who is with the AiG (Answers in Genesis) in building a giant creationist Ark park in Kentucky, with $37 million in tax incentive help from the state government. It's pretty much going to be a government invested theme park for people that literally believe every word in Genesis to be completely, undoubtedly true.

This isn't the only thing that frightens me...
It's all the people that are with Ken Ham 100%... The people that make me rage so hard, that I can't take anything these people *ever* say seriously, ever again. I was looking up who Mr. Ham is, what he talks about, who supports him, and all the comments he receives. Below is a list of just a few of the incredibly stupid comments lacking any logic, reason, or common sense whatsoever. SPOILER: You're gonna rage: 

"Evolutionists say Crocodiles have been around longer than Dinosaurs! And, they live today--with humans. So how can evolutionists mock at creationists for believing dinosaurs lived with humans--when according to them, Crocs lived before and with Dinosaurs--and live today!"

The description of the behemoth in Job 40 proves that dinosaurs existed at the same time as humans."

I'm trying to teach my two year old whenever he hears 'millions of years ago' he should say, 'No, that's a lie.'" 

"Creation - the only plausable explanation!"

Those were just a few I picked out in a matter of minutes. There's hundreds more. I've lost "faith" in the world  I live in today... seriously.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Things That Make Q Rage #3


Now, don't get me too wrong - I'm not a total grinch. I just loathe X-mas music (and no, I don't care whether you say "Christmas" or "X-mas"). I dread it every year -  you know, when Thanksgiving is around the corner and all the stores start playing that terrible, intolerable crap for music. It's the same songs every year done over and over again, just by different artists who want to make their own X-mas album. NO, I don't want to hear Jingle Bells by 4 different artists! And it's even worse by the fact that no matter where you go, there it is... it's played in every store, every radio station - you name it, it's probably there... It's probably even in prisons and the worst slums of the world, too. I don't care that it's "tradition" to sing or play the same damn songs over and over - that doesn't excuse the fact that they're annoying as hell and repeated by every country artist on the face of the earth.  I know that they'll never go away, so I have to tolerate it. This is why I might be slightly irritable if you see me in public with no escape from that damned music.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Things That Make Q Rage #1 & 2

This one's a 2-fer:

1) Driving up to Ohio (or anywhere, really) - there's a 3 lane highway. All 3 lanes are taken up by semi-trucks, all travelling the same speed. A wall of impassible slow-moving objects has occurred and I can't do a damned thing about it.

2) Having my GPS and Craig's Zune & coat stolen from the car, in practically the buckle of the bible-belt, Springfield, MO.  Gee, I can see that "thou shalt not steal" isn't really of any moral importance or value to such a community. Maybe I was being punished for being an atheist and attending an atheist/skeptics convention that weekend...

I'm gonna start posting things like these more often, just to let some steam out. Because the worst kind of society is that which keeps all its rage bottled up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kinect is Watching Me

Like most people who play the 360, I would probably be labeled as a "core" gamer. There's not a lot of "casual" games that typically appeal to me, and I usually stick to playing either EA Skate, various RPGs or 3rd person shooters for the most part... but despite all that, I was actually excited for the Kinect. It's certainly an interesting piece of tech and it will most definitely get utilized over time by various developers, whether 3rd party or Indie (because M$ has spent so much money on this, it won't let the Kinect fail). All that said... I'm very glad I bought it. I've had so much fun (more than I thought I would have) just doing the simplest things. Even some of the "proof of concept" games like Adventures were fun. I spent from 10:30am when I picked the Kinect up from my local Gamestop until around 9pm at night playing. Damn, it was a workout, too. I haven't been that sore from head-to-toe since I swam across the Atlantic ocean in the middle of winter to save a baby from the evil den of fire-breathing dragons. I have the feeling I'm gonna lose some weight with the Kinect. I only own Adventures and Sports, with the latter being the better of the two games and definitely loads of fun, but there's no way for me to predict how games that come out in the next 6-12 months will turn out. I'm looking forward to it though, especially Child of Eden. If you're skeptical about the Kinect, at least give it a shot before shit-talking on it. Just make sure you have the space allocated to actually play it.

In Other News...
Fallout: New Vegas is buggy but still just as fun, if not more fun than Fallout 3. It's still worth your time if you like that sort of game, and it's certainly immersive. The environment is different, the "local" culture is different, and there just feels like there's more to do. I'm enjoying it thoroughly, but there's not much I can say more than "if you liked 3, you'll like Vegas". If you're an achievement-whore like me, you'll need to play through it more than once if you want to nab all the achievo's. I'm not even done with my first playthrough of it because I find myself wandering off to new locations like "OOH What's that over there?!"

Oh Tabitha... calm down

Fable 3 is also kind of buggy. It's nothing game-breaking though, so if you liked Fable or Fable 2, definitely give this a try. No more menus give the game a cleaner, more flowing feel, and the magic system got a considerable overhaul. You'll still get a kick out of wasting your time with random villagers, whether you're farting in their faces, dancing with them, having sex with them, or killing them to lower your morality. The story is something new because instead of "saving the world" from some grand evil, you're the driving power behind a revolution. Plenty of quests to keep you involved... though I keep going back to Bowerstone to fart on that one villager guy that I hate. The achievements are fairly straightforward except for the ridiculous one to collect 50 legendary weapons that you have to trade people online for. There are also more than my liking of collectible achievements, but I'll deal. Like New Vegas, I haven't actually finished the game yet, but I'm glad I bought it. I haven't really been disappointed by a Fable game before.

Your weapons level up to gain new abilities or upgrades

/* Q can somehow never make a character that looks like him in a game */

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gaming Season 2010

Almost too many...
For once in 2010, there are so many games out now or will be coming out soon that I don't have enough time to actually give them all a fair amount of play at once. It's frustrating not being able to play a newly acquired stack of games, but at the same time, it's glorious. I've spent so much money but it's damn-well gonna last me awhile. And these aren't just games to breeze through either. My to-do list includes:

  • Borderlands GOTY Edition
  • Fallout: New Vegas
  • Fable III
  • Kinect as of Nov. 4th. (tinkering with what it can do and so on)
In all honesty, with the exception of the Kinect (which I can mess with casually while drinking), none of the above are quick games. I'll be spending LOTS of hours playing them. There's even more games to add to that list coming out after January. Gaming season really has hit - and it's freakin awesome!

Do and Don't
DO play the game Enslaved. It was most certainly worth your time. Great story and possibly the best voice acting that a game has had in a LONG time. My only issue was that it was too easy - the platforming setup held your hand most of the way. If you're a stickler for good stories but don't care so much about technicalities, give Enslaved: Odyssey to the West a run. Please.

DON'T even bother looking at Quantum Theory. It's an incomprehensible, garbled mess of a third person shooter. It tries so hard to be a Gears clone but it comes nowhere close. The story and characters are crappy and uninteresting. The controls and combat are so broken and clunky, I was struggling to even finish the game. There's a multiplayer, but it's non-existent. I waited 30 minutes in a lobby for a match and not a single living soul was online, even after trying to just search for quick matches. Such a shame, since half of the game's achievements are based on multiplayer. The other majority of achievements are all "beat the game on the hardest difficulty", which is bullshit because even Normal mode was difficult, though it might be due in-part to the games clunky-as-shit controls. 170 points for a Normal playthrough to the end for a terrible game not even worth a rent. I wouldn't give Quantum Theory to anyone - even as a joke.

/* Q hates to quit games in the middle of a playthrough, even if it's absolute garbage */

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More on the matter...

What great timing. I wrote my so-called review of Halo: Reach yesterday, and today Yahtzee reviews it himself in a much better (and more negative way) than I. Visual comedy.

And on a different topic, so much for anticipating Two Worlds II... looks like I'll be waiting til January.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Halo and Stuff

I was driving home from class today and on KMNR (college radio that I'm a part of) I heard a fellow DJ playing the textbook Halo theme on-air. This reminded me that I promised myself and maybe a few others who couldn't care less about my opinion that I'd write somewhat of a review of Halo: Reach, the newest title in the Halo series and last one ever handled by Bungie before their breakaway from Microsoft. So, yes... I played it. Brace for long discussion.

These guys have cooler armor than the fanboy fave Master Chief
A little bit of background first. Before playing Reach, I had only played the first 2 Halo games. I didn't touch 3 , ODST, or Halo: Wars. This was mainly because I felt like after a while they were just milking the Halo name for all that it was worth while fanboys proclaimed Halo to be the greatest game in existence ever. I didn't buy that shit and felt that Halo was only popular because it was the first semi-decent FPS on a console. PC shooters had it beat with titles like Unreal Tournament and Quake III Arena. Halo was beta-trash gameplay wise in my eyes. So I went into this playthrough of Halo: Reach not expecting much different. It was Halo with updated graphics and different characters. So let me start off on a good note...

Reach was, out of any Halo game I'd played, the best one. Was it absolutely jaw-dropping and balls-to-the-wall amazing? Nah. Was it fun to play through casually? Yeah, I'd say so. It *almost* made me do a double take and play through Halo 3 and ODST to see what I'd missed as far as the culture goes, but I didn't, and won't do so. Reach kind of gave me a little glimmer of hope for Bungie. They actually managed to make their last game good and go out with a bang - sortof.

I started this post off with a mention of the music - Halo's main theme - the one you've all played on Guitar Hero or Cock Band, or whatever. In my opinion, that's where Halo shines. It's music is catchy and elevating, and gets you into the game. Even the main title screen (although it was a different theme) was good. Music score +1. We need more games with music like Halo.  However, there were some parts in the game that music could have been utilized better, or more often, because I often found myself just trotting around as Noble 6 without even so much as background noise - filler music - nothing. It was either all on or dead quiet sometimes. I like background music, even if it's just ambient piano or something.

The gameplay mechanics haven't changed much for Halo. You run around, you jump ridiculously high, you unload at aliens, the works. I won't tell you how the cookie cutter FPS formula works. You can customize your armor, which is nice if you really want to make your Spartan look like a black wall of death with a gun, or a pansy with pink unicorn armor, but the armor you can unlock by earning credits through both single and online play don't really do anything for you other than change how you look. Why not? If I unlocked SuperBadassHelmetOfSex, I'd want it to automatically headbutt anyone who wasn't wearing said helmet's skulls into gewey mush. Or at least a shield upgrade... whatever. And why do I get to wear all this badass looking armor, while the supposed hero of the Halo series, Master Chief, has just relatively plain looking (in comparision) green armor?

The story was much more interesting than the other games I'd played, where instead of "Chief, go here, do this, save world", it was more of a team focus. Bungie tried to give you a team to communicate with and relate to, which is nice, but they don't really make me feel so attached, since you know how the game ends right when you start. Reach is a lost planet - Noble team loses. The simple fact of knowing you lost before it even begins is kind of cool. However, I think Bungie kind of broke the story, or at least bent their own rules by the end of the game, pretty much ruining the whole "Master Chief is the last surviving Spartan" thing that they'd been running with since the original game. No, you don't live (after-credits playable scene was cool), but they allude that someone else does. Someone not the chief. When I finished the campaign, I was glad I gave it a chance, but not completely awestruck. I wasn't disappointed - I had fun. And that's what games are for.

I have to bitch about the graphics. They don't seem to have come too far since the original Halo. The environments and everything in the distance looks nice, but for some reason the character models and anything in your immediate view still look dated and clay-ish. Also, I really could not stand the forced motion blur every time something in my field of view moved - at least give me the option to turn off motion blur rather than making me get used to it (which I did, but still... ).

Oh, the multiplayer? Yeah, I played a little bit of it in my brief rental of the game. It was Halo, complete with screaming 12-year-olds and teabagging and really only interested me when I was drunk. I liked the firefight mode though. I still don't understand why people think the multi-player on Halo is so orgasmically great compared to any other FPS.

I'm not gonna give this a score. But do I think it deserves the 9.5/10 or 10's that it's been getting overall? No, I don't think it's that close to perfection. But it was enough fun that I'll probably buy it when it's on the used rack for like $30 or somethin, since it was better than the other Halo titles... Take that as you will.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Atheist Pet Peeve (and upcoming reviews, too)

First off, I would like to state a simple pet peeve of mine that I just recently noticed I had. I don't mean to offend anyone by this, as I'm fairly tolerant of others' beliefs as long as they're not forced unto me, but this is just something I've realized. You may have heard this before, or you may be someone that does it...
When someone is telling a story or whatever, they start it by saying "As a christian, I ... (insert kind act or nice thing here)."
What does that even mean?! I find it annoying that you have to state your religious beliefs before talking about something nice or wonderful that you did, as if someone that *isn't* a christian wouldn't perform the same act of kindness. Are you insinuating that anyone who isn't christian don't have any good morals or willingness to be just a good person? Or are you saying that you did such a nice thing simply *because* (or to prove) you're a christian?
I wonder what kind of reaction I could produce if I went around saying "As an atheist, I saved this kitten from a tree," or "As an atheist, I mowed my neighbors lawn for free." Think about it.

On a lighter note, I intend on doing a few amateur video game reviews again. I've hated the Halo series (for various reasons) and thus have not played a Halo game since the first 2 games. This means I haven't touched Halo 3, ODST, or Wars. However, something in my brain wants to give Halo Reach a chance since it's the last (and supposedly "best") Halo game created by Bungie. Everyone (and not just the fanboys) claim that Bungie went out with a bang, and I plan on renting it, playing it, and giving it my honest opinion, attempting to put any previous bias aside. If you know me personally, please put your brain back in your skull - yes, I'll be playing Halo Reach.
Second, before Two Worlds 2 (I know, it's weird and redundant) releases, I want to give my 2-cents on the original Two Worlds. It's way late to do a normal review of a game that's been out for so long, so I wanted to do this in kind of a "Here's why I liked a game that most people hated" kind of way. When the second iteration comes out, I'll get around to comparisons and improvements. In the meantime, give this video a watch. Unskippables from the Escapist usually does a pretty good job at cracking jokes on shitty cutscenes from games.

Hooray productivity

Sunday, May 2, 2010

...Not Scary At All

Review: Nightmare on Elm Street (the 2010 Michael Bay remake)

Allow me to hop on the "screw the new Nightmare on Elm Street movie" bandwagon. I remember watching the original as a kid and I was actually frightened by it. Everyone always says you can't beat the original, and sometimes that mentality is proven wrong, but in this case it's the truth. Actually, it's pretty much the truth for a lot of horror movie remakes. Sure, they look nice with better special effects, but I swear the writers get worse as time moves on. To get things started on my very biased-towards-the-original review, I wanna say this... I wasn't scared, nor was I interested. I went to see this out of curiosity, knowing that I'd be disappointed.

I realize this is all gonna come out to be more complaint than praise, so I wanna at least say something good. I liked the "new" Freddy. His commentary was sick & funny (the original was like that too), and I think this form of the burnt-face look appeared more genuine. Also, I would like to thank Michael Bay for not including robots, explosions, or massive amount of military in this movie. Also, there is a Quentin in the movie, so uh, maybe that's the only character I felt like I could connect with whatsoever. Also, because it's newer, the visual effects & gore were more intense and certainly looked cool. The acting was decent (except for the teens' mothers - god it was like they said something first, then expressed their concern in a facial expression moments later - "Hi"... *frown*...). The actors/actresses they chose for the main group of teens experiencing the same nightmares were pretty good for what they were supposed to do and Freddy's acting was a fresh take. So... I'll draw the line there.

I think the movie assumes that we've all seen the original, or at least get the concept of what happens when you fall asleep in Freddy's world. Hell, even after the first scene (just 1 death in the movie), it seemed like all of the actors had magical mind meld powers and knew what would happen if they fell asleep from the get go. I swear that's the fastest I can ever remember hearing "If you die in your sleep you die in real life" in any Nightmare iteration. The story skips from character to character, assuming we already care about these people to begin with. It might have had some people hooked but I didn't feel the connection. And now lets start with the dreams... oh boy. This was literally 90% of the movie. I understand that the producers wanted it to seem like you don't really know if they were dreaming or actually awake, but the dream sequences were so layered and overused I got tired of it (oh look, another dream, within a dream inside of a dream). I swear it was like the dream person was also dreaming that they were dreaming. They really tried too hard on the dream sequences, but I guess that's what they were going for. The story change now places Freddy as merely a child molester (and the actors in the movie are portraying the all-grown-up children who forgot) instead of a murderer, but in an attempt to get to explaining that, they literally just start killing characters off from one deadly dream scene to the next before you ever start to feel a connection with the first 3 people that experience getting finger-clawed. By the end, it was too predictable and I didn't feel like anything interesting or new was going to happen.

If you want me to give it a sort of rating, like out of 5 stars or something, I'll give it a 3/5. It wasn't terrible, but it just fucked up something that should have been left alone. It mucked up more than it improved. I thought the point of a horror movie was to be scared by it?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mass Effect 2 - After-Game Review

Overall Opinion: Awesome
Mass Effect 2 is one of those games you have to play if you even remotely like RPGs OR shooters. If you haven't played the first one, shame on you. Now that that's out of the way, let me start off by saying this - ME 2 is fuckin awesome. It's well worth your time and money. Is it perfect? No, sadly not. But it heavily improves on the original in both story, concept, combat, and almost every other front, minus a few.

To me, this was the strong point of the entire game. Mass Effect 2 (or even the first one for that matter) spend a lot of time with character and story development, and more so in this installment. Every major choice you make in the first game, and this one have an impact on the outcome of ME2 and even on into the upcoming ME3. The story opens with a bang, and, trying to stay spoiler-free, closes with several jaw-dropping moments, although its ending isn't nearly as drawn out as the first (which I can look at both positively and negatively). If you really like getting into story, you will definitely enjoy guiding your Shepard through the story and through the personal relationships within. Speaking of relationships, the character cast, although very different from the first's, is extremely interesting. I think they spent a lot more time on character development and back-story this time around. Story gets an A+ in my book. Can't wait for #3 already.

In my opinion, graphics don't make the game - but they damn sure help. The environments in Mass Effect 2 look amazing, whether it's the lighting, the spacey views, the topography, you name it. The characters are pretty much the same as the first game, although smoothed out a little more. In my opinion, they don't look as robotic anymore. The "illusive man" you meet in-game however, I sometimes found either looking really realistic, or like a clay-man, I couldn't decide. Regardless... ME2 does not disappoint on the graphics front.

Though the soundtrack & score for this game is almost the same as the first, they made a few alterations. I was slightly disappointed that they didn't do something for the credits song like they did in the first game. Also, as a personal pet peeve, I hate it when the music stops and credits are still going.
As far as the in-game, non-music sound goes, it's spot on most of the time. The gunfire sounds crisp, the background noises and everything else sound pretty damn good. The voice acting is a lot more varied than the first game. Female Shepard has a better voice actor than male Shepard. Overall pretty damn good. I'm not complaining.

There are quite a few things I can praise here, and some other things not so much. Gameplay for the most part is pretty much the same - you take cover and you shoot things, using your team's powers whenever necessary. They made a few alterations like ammo powers and actually having to use clips and such, but I didn't find it to heavily change anything for better or worse. The combat is still good. The places you go now are much better laid-out than the first games. Remember exploring several planets with the Mako (your tank equivalent) and finding a dozen bases that all had the same interior? Yeah.. there really isn't much of that anymore, thankfully. All the complexes that I went in were not repeats of other bases and structures. It all felt unique. Speaking of exploring, this is where I kind of have a complaint. Yes, they took out the Mako explorations. Some people would call that a good thing, but I don't think it *improved* the game any for what they replaced it with. Instead of exploring planets with the Mako, you now just mostly scan them for minerals or anomalies. It's kind of cool at first but it gets old REALLY fast. By the time I hit end-game, I was bleeding Irridium and shitting Palladium, but was still heavily lacking in Element Zero and Platinum. The minerals felt imbalanced. I didn't need them all. Scanning planets becomes a chore and it started to make me feel like there was actually LESS to explore planet-wise, not to mention, no real motivation for me to explore after I got the minerals I needed. I actually think there was LESS free-quest content due to the way they changed the galaxy exploration and planet scanning. Can I have the Mako back please? Speaking of being shorted, what the HELL happened to the Citadel. The amount that we get to explore in certain areas & cities is extremely limited. For the most part, instead of entire complexes in the first game, you're stuck to exploring a total of 3-4 floors on the citadel this time. I can't help but feel that I actually spent MORE time on my first playthrough of ME1 than ME2. Don't let that stop you from playing through it though. I'm interested in seeing what my 2nd characters choices add up to as opposed to my first.

Final say:
If you have a chance, definitely buy this. It's well worth your time and money, despite its small amount of shortcomings. It's give and take, really. A lot of "real" reviews are singing its praises, and I certainly will not hesitate to jump on that bandwagon. Can't wait for the third.

9.5/10 for me. No game is perfect.