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Posted on Feb 24, 2010 in Electronic Games

Mass Effect 2 – PC Game Review

By James Pikover

Mass Effect 2. PC game. Electronic Arts (EA). BioWare. $49.99

Classes can only be assigned at the start of a new game, so choosing the proper class for your character is important.

Passed Inspection: Strong third-person combat, replayability, lots of expected add-ons.

Failed Basic: Weak overall plot, repetitive gameplay,

Mass Effect 2 has been touted by its developers to be an extraordinary combat-filled experience, one that competes with the likes of today’s first-person shooters. The role-playing-game-turned-sandbox-shooter gives players the opportunity to experience the galaxy like its predecessor did but with all the benefits of a diverse, customizable combat system for gamers to enjoy.

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Mass Effect 2 is the tale of Commander Shepard, a customizable hero bent on saving the galaxy from calamity, with free reign to do as he/she pleases. Unlike the standard role playing game, Mass Effect 2 limits the RPG elements and focuses on allowing players to pursue their objectives in a personalized fashion, from dialog to weapons to deciding who lives and who dies.

The start of this adventure begins with the death of Shepard and a subsequent revival, which allows for players of the previous game to load their saved game into the newer title for added bonuses. Shepard is then given an appearance, which players can change, as well as a choice of one of six classes. Class only plays a role in combat; the soldier class is the fastest-paced, while each of the others is slower and slower.

What this means for combat is simple: gunplay takes place in real time, and the soldier class specializes in weapons and armor. Other classes, such as the Adept or Sentinel, require much more tactical and slower-paced combat because they lack the armor and weapons of the Soldier class. Thus, combat is customizable: fast paced for gamers who enjoy first-person or third-person shooters but almost turn-based for gamers who like classic RPG combat.

Classes can only be assigned at the start of a new game, however, so choosing the proper class for your character is important for enjoying the rest of the game. Unfortunately, there is little explanation on each class. Just note that the farther away you are from the Soldier class, the slower combat will be and the more you will rely on your teammates.

There are six weapon types in the game, though each class only has two assignable weapon types. Later, players will be given a choice for a third, and heavy weapons are also available later on. Unlike the original, Mass Effect 2 features a simple reload mechanic, so guns don’t overheat, but they do run out of bullets. Ammunition is liberally spread around the map after a combat situation, making sure even the worst situation won’t force players to scavenge much. As noted, there are only few weapons to choose from, though upgrades to increase their power are available for purchase or can be found around the galaxy.

In nearly every instance the player is given a choice of two accompanying characters. These teammates all have their own abilities, which include various powers and two weapon types. Because there are a total of ten characters—and the majority of the game involves finding them and persuading them to join you—properly choosing the right mixture of teammates is much easier than choosing a character class.

Mass Effect 2 features dozens of missions, predominantly focusing on finding these secondary characters and fighting the Collectors, an alien threat that must be stopped. Secondary characters all have an additional ability, which is gained when their “loyalty” mission is achieved. Most missions involve a lot of combat over various worlds and against a plethora of different species, groups and enemies.

While combat is the most improved and most significant aspect of Mass Effect 2, the game also features plenty of mini-games, dialog, and exploration. These are all secondary to the combat-oriented gameplay, though, and often they result in more combat. On the easier difficulty settings, combat can become dull over the course of 25 hours of gameplay, though it is a challenge on Insanity mode, the most difficult setting.

However, the overall narrative is lacking, with no singular threat or enemy until at least five hours into the game. The overall plot is far too simplistic: recruit friendly teammates, kill the Collectors. Dialog is interesting and the smaller stories and missions can be fruitful, though there’s little initiative to continue playing purely for the story’s sake. Mass Effect 2 has a high replay value, though this is mostly to complete the game with noble or cruel dialog selections.

Mass Effect 2 is a good game, one that is growing thanks to EA’s Cerberus Network (which allows for both free and paid-for downloadable content). Its combat focus gives it an advantage improved over similar titles, though the experience isn’t as thrilling or as visceral as the first- and third-person shooters it’s attempting to compete with. The lack of a captivating story and a lack of detail for combat variances keep it from being an excellent title.

Armchair General rating: 80%

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