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EA Games
January 26, 2010

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect

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 Written by Alex Roth  on February 26, 2010

Review: It's super effective

BioWare's Mass Effect 2 is a game born with a silver spoon in its mouth. Sequel to the sci-fi blockbuster from 2007, it has inherited the original's stellar production value; the graphics are crisp, the dialogue is sharp, and it's a joy to play. Those who played the first Mass Effect will recognize familiar faces from the get go, and have the option of importing their save file from the original, so all those weighty decisions can carry over. But ME 2 is not just a chip off the old block; it improves on the original substantially.

A firefight in ME2 plays more like Gears of War than the original Mass Effect. These battles are frequent and an absolute ball. You may find yourself reloading a save just to do a great fight one more time. Combat in ME2 has the intensity of a shooter with the extreme customization of an RPG. When you pick your class, you've made a decision that will affect your role in every battle you and your teammates fight. Choose the Soldier class and you'll be the point man for your squad. If you choose the Biotic, the mage class, the game will play like a traditional RPG, with you nuking the enemy while your thick-skinned teammates keep the heat off you. If you want to do a bit of both, there are several versatile ?hybrid? classes. With such varied classes ME2 can feel like a very different game on your second or even third play through.

Replay value is another of Mass Effect 2's winning charms. The player is constantly asked to choose between benevolent and imperialistic behavior, and decisions always have consequences. Playing the game a second time and making drastically different choices can make for a very fresh experience. Also, choosing between the two alignment options, Paragon and Renegade, isn't simply picking good or evil. There is a lot of moral ambiguity in the game's events, and all options usually have merit, though Paragon is generally easier to empathize with. However, players who flip between the two and do not build sizeable faction with either alignment two may find themselves locked out of certain dialogue options late in the game.

Dialogue is one of ME2's greatest achievements, benefiting from the cast's fine voice work. Martin Sheen's gravelly whisper gives the Illusive Man a smoldering presence, and Seth Green makes for good comic relief as the ship's helmsman, Joker, but it's not the celebrity voices that do the heavy lifting. Your day-to-day encounters with your shipmates, as motley a crew as ever was assembled, are brought to life by fine voice acting all around. The dialogue is pretty well written too. It's not always brilliant or original, but it's consistently natural and well delivered, no matter what corner of the universe you find yourself in.

Traversing the universe of Mass Effect 2 is a big part of the game, and it's as simple as point and click. Those who were hoping for space battles in Mass Effect 2 will still be waiting for Mass Effect 3; controlling your ship is basically just choosing which mission to undertake. However, this feature does help to break up the linearity of the game, allowing you to assemble your team and engage the enemy in whatever order you like. However, there is some disappointment to be had in the scope of the individual planets. Each planet features only one city or battleground to visit, and consequently the galaxy feels like it could all be one country, not an entire universe.

The only other aspect of ME2 that feels undeveloped is the arsenal of weapons. Though every class has several weapon types available to them, the player will quickly find one weapon that will become their standard. Playing through the game as a soldier, only three different assault rifles came through my character's hands. This was far too few for such a long game. The heavy weapons, not present in the original Mass Effect, are a fun addition, but their ammo is so scarce you rarely get the pleasure of unleashing them.

Beyond its impressive production value, the true success of BioWare's Mass Effect 2 is how it blends the most entertaining elements of so many other great games. In story and structure it is very much the like the 2007 original; it's a story driven game; and story is advanced through conversations with teammates and other NPCs. The player can choose to act heroically or like an outlaw and will be treated accordingly. Short of that and the familiar faces, the similarities end, mainly because of the combat. This new Mass Effect has a combat system that blows the original out of the water.

Bottom Line
Mass Effect 2 combines RPG and shooter elements more successfully than games like Borderlands, or even Modern Warfare 2. It plays like nothing you've ever experienced, and should be on everyone's must play list.

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