2010 Reviews

Mass Effect 2

  • Review Date: 2014-04
  • Release Date: 2010-01
  • Developer: BioWare
  • Rating: 9.5

It's amazing what three years and a second franchise (Dragon Age: Origins) can do for a developer to polish the Mass Effect universe into an exception sequel. I was left underwhelmed with ME1, handling it only an 8/10. It's not perfect, there's always improvements to make, but not far from it. Which you'd hope for since this is easily the highest rated PC game of 2010. A 95% aggregate on MetaCritic, the next highest is Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood way back on 88%. Damn, what happened to gaming in 2010?

When it comes to game of the year picks, Mass Effect 2 was a common nominee alongside Red Dead Redemption and Halo Reach, neither of which were ported to PC, sadly. So this is it, likely to be my best gaming experience out of 2010 releases, but what an experience it is.

(spoiler alert in this paragraph)
What ME2 does so well is character-building. Most of the game is spent finding each ally, having them join the team and optionally (but should be mandatory because they're all enjoyable) doing additional missions to gain their loyalty. So ended up going into the final Suicide Mission with a real desire to see every member of my team make it through (which they didn't, somehow I lost Tali). ME2 makes you care more about the characters than in any other game I've played. However, the overall story can take a bit of a hit since more time is spent on finding allies than actually fighting the enemy. The ME1 story is a bit better, but they're both good. Travelling to the region of the Collectors and boarding their ship to take it down was very exciting and atmospheric.

As mentioned, combat is much better than before. A good variety of enemies although they usually just charge towards you. But the weapons are much more useful. The assault rifle (battle rifle in my case) was very effect for headshots. The handgun and sniper are actually usable. Only the shotgun has taken a dive - while it's very powerful the reload between every single fucking shot really grinds your patience, and it doesn't have the same accuracy as that in ME1. Which is perhaps a good thing, the ME1 shotgun was completely overpowered. What is a big disappointment in ME2 is the ammo management, and this easily takes a 0.5 off my score. While in the original gave basically unlimited ammo, ME2's is limited. VERY LIMITED! In most fights you'll usually run out of ammo with your main weapon of choice (battle rifle) and have to switch to something else, which may also run out of ammo unless you search during the battle. But ammo is actually quite hard to spot, being tiny little cylinders sometimes dropped by the enemy or laying around. Fortunately, a pickup replenishes all weapons not just one, so there's only one ammo type. BioWare claim ammo is unlimited but it's some heat thing that is needed to use the gun, but they're just overcomplicated it - it's just fucking ammo.

The other big issue is the RPG elements have been really dumbed down. There's no inventory. Yes, absolutely no inventory! So no longer will you spend hours browsing the messy GUI trying to figure out what weapons to use. That itself is good, but you lose the excitement gained from finding a fantastic new weapon to start using. Instead, you use the same weapons throughout the entire game, basically. Though there are some different heavy weapons, I didn't end up using any of them. You do still get lots of upgrades, but much like ME1 they don't actually feel like they have much of an effect.

You also still have powerups (this is mainly what you'll be upgrading) and as a Soldier I was able to make heavy use of bullet-time, but the other powerups seem to remain on all the time and are nothing more adding a bit fire or ice to your bullets. You're better off just making the headshot connect than fuck around with powerups.

The other issue in ME2 is the frequency of those painfully annoying minigames. While they're not difficult at all, they're bloody annoying. The mining for resources becomes a chore after a while, but has to be done or you won't be able to get many upgrades, which have to be found/purchased and then use resources to build it.

The difficulty of ME2 was an upgrade itself, being more of a challenge than the original. Especially in the early stages of the game. However a tough finale was a little bit lacking, if you're looking for an insanely difficult boss battle. ME1 was much tougher, and Dragon Age: Origins was a whole different ballgame. From the moment I entered the endgame (from Omega 4) I didn't really come close to dying on Normal. But that's fine with me, because reload times in ME2 are terrible.

But that's all the issues really - which could be considered pretty small, or at least livable. The graphics and design of ME2 is fantastic, there really is no other game that makes the sci-fi theme look so good and grand. But having said that, the engine isn't the best of 2010, there are plenty of games with more detail. You can tell when you go outdoors and look at some of the greenery, it doesn't quite compare to games like COD, Battlefield, Crysis. But ME2 makes up for that with stunning backdrops.

Bringing me to the DLC's, they're a decent set and worth playing through, which I'll talk about separately below, worst to best.

Firewalker Pack DLC
Oh dear, the dud of the bunch. A major problem in ME1 were the horrendous driving levels. Firewalker returns us to operating a spacecraft. It's long, but that's not a good thing in this case. The visuals are great though, being all outdoors. Definitely skippable.

Normandy Crash Site DLC
This is more for nostalgia than anything as you revisit the crashed Normandy ship (which happens at the start of the game). It's only 15 mins long and has no offence, only walking around collection 20 pickups. A bit poor.

Zaeed - The Price of Revenge DLC
Well, Zaeed is a complete wanker so I didn't care much for gaining his loyalty, but I went through with it anyway. Some good visuals and a decent length.

Mass Effect 2: Kasumi DLC
Kasumi quickly became my favourite character after Miranda, I love her invisibility attack, although she really doesn't do it enough. The actual mission was something a bit different, the first half feeling more like an adventure game before fighting ensues. A good DLC and worth it just to learn about Kasumi. However, it's over pretty quick, under an hour.

Arrival DLC
This is a must-play, if only for it's continuation of the main story. This time your mission is to rescue Dr Keston and prevent the Reapers invading early - the type of thing you'd do in an entire game, let alone a 1.5 hour DLC. The levels might not be as spectacular as Shadow Broker or Overlord, but it does contains lots of tight, frantic combat and this time you don't have your teammates.

Overlord DLC
This DLC is fantastic. Some great visuals, and going pound-for-pound perhaps better than the full game, visually, because everything in this pack looks good. It's also a good size clocking in at almost 2 hours. Definitely a DLC worth getting and almost feels worthy to have been part of the main storyline, although it was probably too much of an offshoot.

Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC
A good part of the main story, as you team up with Liara to (spoiler alert) hunt down a rogue Spectre on Illium and then make an assault on The Shadow Broker on his ship. If you read the book that took place after ME1, this will all make sense. The ship is the real highlight, as you battle on the exterior with lightning storms all around, before moving indoors. Two good boss battles - though the Shadow Broker isn't very tough, he looks fantastic.

Mass Effect 2

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