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Review: Mass Effect 2

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: Xbox 360
Release: January 26, 2010
MSRP: $59.99

The first Mass Effect is arguably one of the best games on the 360. Mass Effect 2 kicks it into overdrive and takes the series to new heights.

Minor Spoilers Ahead!

The game takes place two years after Mass Effect 1. Shepard returns for another round after an extremely unfortunate setback. He’s indebted to Cerberus, the human focused group that many consider a terrorist organization. The head of Cerberus is the Illusive Man. He kinda reminded me of the Smoking Man from X-Files. The reason he needs Shepard is because human colonies are disappearing without a trace. Just as humans are finally gaining some damn respect in the galaxy, a new threat emerges that could wipe their existence off the galactic map. In typical fashion the Citadel Council refuses to help, so Shepard is left teaming with Cerberus to save humanity and the galaxy.

The Saga Continues

One of the coolest features of Mass Effect 2 is the ability to import your save file and created Shepard from Mass Effect 1 and use him or her to save the galaxy again. While playing Mass Effect 1 isn’t needed to understand the sequel, it certainly adds another layer of depth. I recommend you do play it if you haven’t. Not only is it a great game, but it’ll make Mass Effect 2 so much more enjoyable.

You’ll also get bonuses depending on your Shepard’s level, and even begin the sequel a few levels higher. Certain story decisions and characters from the original have ramifications on Mass Effect 2 as well.

Most of your old crew has moved on since Shepard’s extended absence. Only a few return to aid Shepard and Cerberus.

Some decisions from the first game carry over to Mass Effect 2. For example, if you decided to save the Council or not, and what crew member you chose to save.  Depending on who you kept alive, they’ll return in a minor role. I kept Wrex alive in Mass Effect 1. He’s involved with the development of one of the new crew members. Even a few minor characters show up, and the way you treated them affects how they react to you this time around.

One I helped in Mass Effect 1 was traveling the galaxy pretending he’s the replacement for Commander Shepard. The guy was my biggest fan. He even wore the Shepard armor he bought at the equivalent of a Toys R’ Us.

Unfortunately, he’s over his head being a galactic bad ass. Shepard has to do some cleaning up. Of course, being the nice guy that he is, Shepard gives his impostor all the credit.

There aren’t many games (if any) that have this connection feature. There’s been games that directly connected to each other, but not where your choices impact the sequel. With Mass Effect 2 we’re seeing the evolution of storytelling in games. It’s a true trilogy. Your actions in Mass Effect 1 could have a profound impact on some element of Mass Effect 3.

Graphically, Mass Effect 2 is definitely one of the most impressive titles on the 360. The characters all have sharp designs and vibrant colors. Their interactions are fluid. The artwork and designs of the characters is stunning.

Fight for the Lost

Combat in Mass Effect 2 is in more in the shooter vein, but the RPG elements are definitely still there. There aren’t as many leveling up choices as ME1. Still, you get skill points every time you level up that’s applied to attacks and ammo abilities. You have a rechargeable health bar instead of using med-kits to recover. Med-kits are now used to revive allies.

The classes are the same as Mass Effect 1. You can play as a Solider, Adapt, Engineer, Sentinel, Vanguard, or Infiltrator. I took the soldier route and was not disappointed. For most of the game my party consisted of Shepard, Jack, and Thane. We sure did kick a lot of ass.

There are 19 different weapons in the game. Each weapon has its strength so you’ll be using your entire arsenal. In Mass Effect 1, I mostly stuck to the assault rifle. Mass Effect 2 forces you to mix up your choices. I’d say each gun packed a punch. Instead of waiting for your weapon to cool down like in ME1,you collect ammo enemies drop.

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