Sunday, 9 May 2010

Mass Effect 2

 With the original Mass Effect being my favourite 360 game, Bioware had a lot to live up to when creating its sequel. The original was epic, a galaxy-wide adventure that created a truly astonishing and masterfully-crafted array of characters, worlds and species - all brought together in a fantastic blend of RPG and third person squad shooter.
    Sure, it had its faults but that is where the sequel comes in - it totally revamps and revitalises the entire system, streamlining the inventory by giving you full access to your weapons without restricting your inventory space and introducing a new ammo system that genuinely makes the player think strategically before entering a potential battle zone.
    The combat system has also been refined, with a tighter control system and some advanced AI (though it sometimes gets itself into trouble) it becomes a tense affair as you are flanked by opponents of varying specie and armour type, some even having ‘kinetic barriers’ that need to be taken down with biotic powers - these are easier to use too, with the improved power system that allows you to slow the action to a crawl and line up your teams’ powers on specific targets, bringing a far more tactical nature to the combat this time around.
    The story itself is the main draw however, continuing Sheperd’s battle against the Reapers and starting with one of the most explosive introduction sequences you are likely to see for a long time. Anyone could be forgiven for being disappointed with the less epic nature of Sheperd’s second outing, but this is down to it being a more personal story that is more about bringing out the characters in the new squad and really cementing them as some of the greatest and most realistic characters ever to come from a game - and really forcing the player to make some extremely tough decisions as the game progresses.
     The excellent dialogue wheel from the first game makes a return here, with a new ‘interrupt’ system that becomes available at certain points in the game, allowing the player to make a quick decision (both good (Paragon) and bad (Renegade) options are available) that can have serious repercussions on the story, or simply make a bad situation worse. The voice acting is even better than the original too, with stars such as Martin Sheen, Keith David, Tricia Helfer and Seth Green bringing that extra quality to an already fantastic script.
    The visuals have been given a huge makeover as Sheperd and his team are stunningly realised with superb textures, animation, lip-syncing and one of the most gorgeous lighting systems seen in gaming today.
    There are problems, such as the dull (but strangely addictive) planet scanning element, the AI sometimes being a bit silly and getting itself killed, and some harsh difficulty spikes, but these become minor inconveniences as they are snowed under by the many good points.
    From the explosive opening, through the myriad twists and turns in a script that puts most movies to shame (not to mention one terrifying and heart-wrenching scene that really must be seen), all the way to the mind blowing conclusion, Mass Effect 2 will be a game remembered fondly for years to come and, quite possibly, be crowned game of the year.


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