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.