Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tech: Mass Effect 2

Despite its popularity, the original "Mass Effect" had a whole host of annoying quirks that reflected both the novelty of its particular brand of shooter-RPG hybridization and the relative immaturity of Unreal Engine 3. Everyone knew a sequel was coming, though, so has BioWare finally worked out all the kinks in its epic space saga?

In "Mass Effect 2," Commander Shepard is tasked with a suicide mission against a mysterious new enemy, the Collectors. They're abducting entire human colonies, and it's up to Shepard and whatever team he (or she) can assemble to stop them. In other words, you're saving the galaxy...again.

ME2's story might not seem very fresh, but the rest of the game has undergone drastic changes. The horrid inventory system of ME1 is gone, which means no more sifting through interminable menus in order to equip your specially-modified shotgun. The much-maligned Mako rover driving sequences have been excised, too.

Yet it's not just the annoying stuff that's been cut. Many of the changes seem calculated to make ME2 feel more like a conventional, "Gears of War"-type third-person shooter. Weapons don't overheat; instead, they use "thermal clips" (so you have to reload during firefights and you can run out of "ammo"). Shepard also carries a heavy weapon (grenade launcher, missile launcher, etc.), meaning you can lay waste to enemies like you're playing "Doom II."

Character powers have also been simplified. Power cooldowns are no longer power-specific; whenever you use a power, you are unable to use any powers for a short time. This means battles rely more on your trigger finger and reflexes than on your ability to combo different powers together.

In terms of story, ME2 offers the most to returning "Mass Effect" players, since they can import their old characters directly into the game. Events and characters from the first game will be reflected in ME2; characters that you killed in ME1, for instance, will be absent. The thrill of taking my old character back for another spin around the cosmos ultimately outweighed most of BioWare's questionable design decisions.

Rating: 88/100


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