Mass Effect made a massive impression on the Action-RPG genre back in 2007. Bioware's new cash cow was a cross between making moral choices and decisions similar to Knights of the Old Republic and the shooting action found in Resident Evil 5.
Mass Effect 2 retains everything that made its predecessor great while adding new elements and trimming off the events that made the first Mass Effect slow in certain areas.
Mass Effect 2 picks up where the first left off. Commander Shepard defeated Saren and continues his search for the Geth and the Reapers. The Normandy, Shepard's ship, is attacked by an unknown battle cruiser and most of the crew escape...except for Shepard. That's right; within the first couple of minutes Commander Shepard is dead. But not for long though. Cerberus, the organization who did human experiments from the first game, finds Shepard's body and bring him back from the dead.
That's all the plot I'm going to give you!
From here, you can customize your character by making Shepard either a male or female, choosing between the six combat classes, selecting your character name and customizing the facial features.
Now let's get down to the details. Mass Effect 2 plays much faster than it's predecessor. Rarely when you play you will have massive slowdown from fighting enemies or even moving around a big city.
Character interactions are much more fulfilling this time around. For certain conversations, you may see a small red renegade icon or a blue paragon icon on the bottom of the screen. Pressing the right or left trigger will net you extra points in relation to the paragon or renegade icons and an interesting scene occurs. For example, pressing right trigger when Shepard talks to a news reporter will have him punch that reporter in the face. Not only it makes you pay attention to the dialouges more this time around, but it makes you want to engage into more of the dialouges to see what happens when the correct button is pressed at the right time. However, the icon only appears for a few seconds and you need to press the corresponding button when given the right prompt.
The firefights have changed all for the better. No longer do you have to wait for your gun to cool down after it overheats just like in the first Mass Effect. Now, every gun carries a clip and when it's out of ammo, you just reload the gun. This makes firefights more streamlined and you don't feel as if you are trapped in a corner where a few seconds can mean your survival or game over.
Speaking of firearms, did I mention that all weapons can be upgraded? By mining or finding certain materials, you can beef up your weapon stats from increasing the clip size by 50% to dealing extra damage to robotic enemies. This makes the game more innovative because you have the freedom to make a permanent upgrade to your weapons instead of equipping a weapon attribute modifier from the first Mass Effect.
A big change for Mass Effect 2 is the overhaul of the inventory system. Before you head out into a mission or if you are in the Normandy SR-2, you have an inventory for your weapons and you select them before heading out to your mission. So, if you wanted to equip that special SMG during battle, forget it. If it isn't equipped then you can't use it. Bioware also made the change to have the main character stick to their specialized weapon type. Gone are the days when you can use an Assault Rifle and you weren't trained to use it in the first place. So, think carefully about which class you want to become and which type of firearms are up your alley.
Scanning planets for materials is much easier now. This means you no longer have to go on a random planet and finding materials. Now, you can just scan a planet, launch a probe and that probe will mine the materials for you. These materials (Iridium & Element Zero for example) will allow you to upgrade your character's weapons, abilities, modify squad bonuses and increase the Normandy's capabilities (better guns, shielding, etc.). Therefore, get used to scanning planets to make everyone on your team harder, better, faster and stronger. Now, you can actually move the ship to different areas of the universe...at the cost of fuel. So, don't go too far to the point where you can't get back to your original destination.
The voice acting has improved greatly. Martin Sheen, for example, provides the voice of the Illusive Man in Mass Effect 2. Top notch celebrities lend their voices in the game and their personalities match their video game alter egos as well. Hence, this makes for better storytelling and gets the gamer involved more and more as the plot thickens.
There is one important point I must add: experience for leveling up your character can only be obtained by completing a mission. I see this as a negative because I want the instant gratification of gaining a level. Although you can gain exp. points by doing some dialouge options in the game, the bulk of your points will be from completing missions in the game. No longer will you have a level up screen DURING a mission in Mass Effect 2. Not sure why Bioware did this but oh well.
For those players who wish to import their character from Mass Effect 1, there is a importing utility in the game. You can import your character's status from the first class and doing so nets you certain bonuses. For example, I imported a level 50 Infiltrator and I got 5000 units of the upgrading materials, 130,000 credits, extra paragon and renegade points and I started off at level 3 in Mass Effect 2. However, when you do this, you can not change your sex or your name. But, you can change your characters appearance and their class. Anything that you have done in Mass Effect 1 certainly makes it's way in the sequel. Saving the rachni queen, letting the council live or having a relationship with one of the older squad members will have an unique effect in the game. Some interactions can't take place unless you have done something specific in the previous game.
Old characters and new characters meet up together in Mass Effect 2. I will not spoil anything but you eventually meet up with you old crew from the first Mass Effect and some of them may actually join your crew. HYPED!
Overall, I am highly satisfied with Mass Effect 2. It brings a lot of welcomed changes to the series and so far, it is shaping up to be a contender for Game of the Year. Over 2 million copies of Mass Effect 2 were sold in its first week. If you were on the fence about getting ME2, GET IT!
Great story with crazy plot twists. Side missions and mining planets will keep you occupied for hours. Blazing firefights, combined with RPG elements, makes this title unique and stands out above the competition. Excellent voice acting for the characters makes the game come to life. New and unique ways to upgrade your ship and squad makes you set the pace.
Can't select inventoried weapons mid-battle. Experience points are mainly earned after completing missions.
Platforms: XBOX 360 & PC MSRP: $59.99 for the regular edition, $69.99 for the Collector's Edition Rating: Mature Learning Curve: 30 minutes Estimated Time for Completion: 40+ hours Release Date: January 26th, 2010. Replay Value: High