Mass Effect 2: Official Review
by Gauss


Basic Information:
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: EA
North American Release Date: 1/18/2011
European Release Date: 1/21/2011
Trophies: Yes


Overview
Mass Effect 2 is a continuation of the Mass Effect universe, and the first game in the series on the PS3. Following Shepard's first bout saving the Galaxy from the Reapers, the Normany SR1 is ambushed by the Collectors and Shepard is declared KIA. Two years later he awakes in a Cerberus facility with two new allies, a new Normandy, and the stark reality of what has happened in the intervening two years... The Collectors are kidnapping entire human colonies. The Reapers are suspected to be behind it, but Shepard needs to figure out their end game and stop it before it is too late.

Gameplay
Mass Effect 2 is a shooter-RPG hybrid. In combat it follows the modern third person shooter formula of getting behind cover, the popping out and shooting enemies. Shepard comes with a specified set of weapons depending on his class, and those weapons have certain clip sizes, damages, and fire rates as expected.


Combat is just fun.

That is where the shooter elements stop, once the character progression system is hit it really starts coming into its own as an RPG. Each class in the game has a specified number of powers and each level provides a set of points to distribute into powers as the player sees fit. In addition to this, team mates provide additional powers (one of which can be equipped at a time), providing an almost limitless combination of attributes and powers for the player to play as they wish. Everything from being able to command the very fabric of space and energy as a Biotic or hacking into any tech or AI as an Engineer to being a sheer monster on the battlefield as a Soldier or being able to cloak and snipe from afar as an Infiltrator... With anything in-between.

Mass Effect 2 is, without a doubt, the benchmark by which all modern Action-RPGs should be judged.

Singleplayer
Mass Effect 2's single player experience is the type of experience where it seems time gets lost. The type of game that will have most people saying "just one more hour."

It follows on directly from Mass Effect 1 and has Shepard dead in the opening cutscene. After the opening credits Shepard finds himself/herself on a Cerberus vessel under attack, after the opening missions Shepard is told about the Collectors and given Miranda, Jacob, and a stack of Dossiers. From this point on the game becomes a mission of recruiting team-mates for a confrontation with the Collectors, and it is the perfect character story, yup... Perfect. Each character has an ocean of depth and dimension found through recruitment, conversation, and loyalty and by the end of the story (hopefully) Shepard will have every one of them ready to die to stop the Collectors.

The story features plenty of optional romance varying depending on whether you choose to play a male or female. The interests are varied as well from the spiritual Thane (female only) to the crazy Jack (male only) to Miranda and her perfect ass (male only). Although the lines can get kind of corny, the characters are well rounded that the romance and the connection is very believable. This is the first game where Bioware really nailed the "love scenes" without coming across as awkward or forced.


Grunt: One of the reasons to play this game.

There is alot of comedy and reality to the characters as well. Mordin performing Gilbert and Sullivan to the ever entertaining Grunt. Yes, thats right, Grunt. Arguably one of the best characters to ever grace an RPG he has this semi-dark sense of humor mixed with enthusiasm regarding violence that brings out the primal nature expected out of the character. When a game can have you laughing at a Salarian singing about science shortly after a Krogan exclaims "I finally get it! I hate Turians!" as if he just pieced together the meaning of life... Its a game that truly grasps its characters. But there is alot of good drama to be had in the story as well through each characters Loyalty mission more is unlocked about them and their past.

It truly needs to be experienced as the missions really bring out the time and effort Bioware has put into making each character seem real. Something that is wholly important with a character piece...

Characters aren't everything the experience has to offer as the main story has the Collectors and their fair share of secrets that will eventually end in a final confrontation in the Galaxy's core in an effort to save not only humanity, but all life in the Milky Way. The PS3 version also includes all the side content from the original, featuring two extra characters (Zaeed and Kasumi) and some extra side-missions, but the shining jewel is the Lair of the Shadow Broker. A "B" plot within Mass Effect 2 that has an old face returning, Liara T'Soni, as Shepard helps her complete her personal mission to kill the Shadow Broker, a seemingly omniscient information dealer who has kidnapped her friend.

There is plenty of story to be had here and just as much side-content in a Galaxy full of interest and fun... Its almost funny that as FPSs slowly become shorter and shorter as multi-player becomes a greater focus. Bioware comes along and delivers a Sci-fi epic that does Single-player so perfectly and provides 50+ hours of content that begs to be played again and again.

Technical
Mass Effect 2 is a technical achievement in the gaming world to be reckoned with, while occasionally facial animations can be a bit in-organic (some of which can be done on purpose)... This is really nitpicking at what is at large an incredibly detailed, beautiful, and varied game. ME2 really makes you feel like you are exploring the Galaxy as you go from planet to planet, port to port. There is an abundance of locales, all of which have their own unique flair, and an abundance of different missions to go along with them.


Alot of thought was put into designing the Mass Effect 2 Galaxy.

Everything else is the quality we have all come to expect out of Bioware, the controls are a standard third-person-shooter layout and very responsive. The audio is well done and sets the tone of the story phenomenally. The frame-rate is free of any dips, although some have said the PS3 version is a little brighter than the 360 version... I did not find this to be an issue at all.

Trophies
Mass Effect 2 is a relatively easy Platinum for the veteran trophy hunter. While some trophies can be tricky, the vast majority are very straight forward and have little in the way of grinding. No One Left Behind and Insanity are the only true challenges in the list, and while Insanity can be difficult it should prove a very familiar difficulty to those who have played Uncharted or Uncharted 2, although slightly less difficult.

Closing Thoughts
Mass Effect 2 is quite possibly the perfect Sci-fi game. It has a great mix of RPG and Shooter with a compelling story full of interesting characters and an abundance of content. Many people are saying the PS3 version is the best version of what was the best game to come out in 2010, and if you ask me they are right. While not head-and-shoulders, the fact that all the DLC is included free with this game means another 5-8 hours of game content.

If you own a PS3 (or 360 or PC), do yourself a favor and play this game. It is well worth getting lost in multiple times.

Gameplay: 10/10
Mass Effect 2 is the benchmark by which all other Action RPGs should be judged. The gameplay is a perfect blend of Third Person Shooter and RPG.

Singleplayer: 10/10
This is where Mass Effect 2 truly shines, its the perfect character piece with 50+ hours of content worth exploring to boot. Plus, it has Grunt... Isn't that enough?

Technical: 10/10
Although some facial expressions can come across a bit weird, there are ultimately not worth dinging what is otherwise a flawless presentation on BioWare's part. The Milky Way feels alive and vibrant in this Space Odyssey.

Overall: 10/10
Mass Effect 2 is the best Action-RPG on the market right now, and the PS3 version is well worth the purchase.