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Review: Mass Effect 2 - PC

by Steven Williamson on 1 March 2010, 12:31

Tags: Mass Effect 2, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), PC, RPG

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qawdg

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snootyjim takes time out to tell us his thoughts on the epic RPG...

The following review is from snootyjim, a regular contributor to our community here at HEXUS.gaming. His opinion is his own and not necessarily the views of the HEXUS team, although we did love Mass Effect 2 as well!

Version reviewed - PC
Reviewer - snootyjim

With the SSV Normandy destroyed in the introduction, Mass Effect 2 sees Commander Shepard rebuilt, realigned, and reassigned to yet again save humanity from destruction. And in much the same way, Mass Effect 2 keeps most of the character from its predecessor, but at the same time undergoes a lot of re-engineering. BioWare certainly listened to the complaints – no more barren planets to explore, no more ice-cream van Makos to manoeuvre, no more weapon hoarding… but how much of a difference did their changes make?

The style will be fairly familiar to those who’ve played Mass Effect, with little of the core gameplay changed. It does move farther from the RPG world, cutting the number of weapons and armour types, and thus eliminating the inventory system – but since the RPG elements of Mass Effect always played second fiddle to the FPS aspect, this doesn’t feel like a loss. Instead of spending half of your time checking whether Team Member 4 has Shotgun v7 or v6, you can instead concentrate on the game itself, and cut out most of the inane micro-management.



With this in mind though, you can’t help but scratch your head at the planet exploration feature. The once vast planets have now been reduced to galactic supermarkets – you pop into a system, have a look round, decide which planets have the minerals you need, and then pluck them out with a few ship-fired probes. The sparsely scattered mission locations are similarly limited, such as the intriguing commercial haven of Illium, population 85,000,000, which feels similar in size to Debenhams. Consequently, Mass Effect 2 loses the sense of its galactic setting and starts to come across more like a series of fish tanks, with the odd interesting item here and there between the expanse of blandness and solid walls, and absolutely nothing to link it all together.

Crucially though, the combat and tactics of the game have both improved. Combat is more testing and involved, with the tactics of your team’s abilities becoming crucial in winning each battle – the diverse range of enemies mean that your team’s specialists become essential as time goes on. Meanwhile, each member of the team has their own back-story, and personal missions stemming from them that they need to follow up, giving you much closer ties with your crew and a real sense of camaraderie. In addition to that, the new quick-time events, while frustrating in their ability to catch you completely off-guard munching during a cutscene, give you some utterly brilliant opportunities to cut off an enemy mid-conversation and kill half of his troops before they have time to react.

Ultimately, Mass Effect hasn’t renovated the series. It’s still the same old “Mother Teresa answer” vs. “Hitler answer” routine, and it still isn’t an RPG. And it hasn’t eradicated all of its predecessor’s faults. But it has certainly built a truly versatile story, developing from your choices in the first game, and assembling a team of captivating people whose personalities and livelihoods effortlessly intertwine with your own, leading to some gut-wrenching decisions along the way. All-in-all, a genuinely immersing experience that you won’t get anywhere else.

Room for improvement, but nonetheless a fantastic game

Score: 9.5

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HEXUS Forums :: 4 Comments

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I dunno, I am finding this game less than enthralling, with only rare glimpses of something actually interesting. If it weren't for the combined factors of having paid hard earned money for this game, and not having any other games to play this would have been consigned to the recycle bin ages ago.

Yes they have taken note of some of the complaints thrown at Mass Effect, but bizarrely rather than trying to work out a way to do these things better they have either chopped them from the game or simplified them to the point of pointlessness. Rather than having us driving around planets shooting things from our bouncy ice cream truck, we now wave our mouse of the planet firing off probes, effectively they have replaced watching paint dry in different colours with having you eyelids sown shut so you can't see the paint dry. Armour has pretty much gone from the game (no NPC gets any) and your armour can be bought piecemeal and then fitted to your suit with an otherwise pointless trip to your room (a load screen in and a load screen back).

Guns have been nurfed by rather than picking up endless different makes and marks, we now have 5 different weapon types and 2-4 weapons for each which can all be 'magically' upgraded using the resources painfully and tediously gathered from planets. The game also handles some gun choices for your NPCs, well they copied my character in pistol and SMG choices, but nothing else. Oh and they don't bother to give us any gun stats, so trying to decide which Assault Riffle and Sniper Rifle I want is a choice made purely on aesthetics (the pistol and smg choices are fairly obvious).

They do seem to have replaced the endless repeating the same caves/science lab quests with sparse non-repeating quests (but as I have only found half a dozen or so they may repeat), personally I would rather have a few more of these side quests as they are far more fun than planet scanning, as were the tedious Mako driving explorations.

I also am not sure about the 'improved combat and tactics' I find throwing my powers lets me deal with pretty much everything with 2 NPCs that I ignore who provide fire support, maybe later in the game I will need to actually think about strategies but we will see. Oh and having the space bar do everything in the game can be incredibly frustrating, when instead of running into cover I 'decide' to leap over it or open a nearby mini-game *ARGH*.

The plus points about this that it looks good, some of the character stories are interesting and actually thought provoking - Do you push the Quarians to genocide by encouraging them to attack the Geth, do you destroy your relationship with Tali by telling the truth? Do you tell Mordin to destroy the info genophage or not? All of these conversations tend to be well done and they really have tried to look beyond the normal Hitler/Teresa choices they often give. Occasionally (rarely) there are fights that are actually exciting but usually they are just no more than the FPS equivalent of button mashing.

I would think this game probably deserves a generous 6/10.
Having only played ME1 recently having missed it out originally and completing it just as ME2 was released I found the change of controls something of an issue to contend with initially and although they flowed once I got used to them, it took a while.

ME2 does have a number of small inconsistencies and finer points that could do with some polish to really help the game shine and a little more depth would make the game a lot more enthralling.

It has enough to interest me to play it through a second time through and dedicate myself to the renegade path instead of the paragon for a change and with the starting bonuses making it possible to actually max out the chars on the way through and knowing the plot means being able to skip some of the conversation drudgery.

That said having more dialogue options between all the different characters in the game would also be a welcome bonus.

Overall a good game that is captivating with fair challenges and simple but effective mini-games that help add depth and interest to the overall scheme of things and looking forward to an ME3!
cordas
I dunno, I am finding this game less than enthralling, with only rare glimpses of something actually interesting. If it weren't for the combined factors of having paid hard earned money for this game, and not having any other games to play this would have been consigned to the recycle bin ages ago.

Yes they have taken note of some of the complaints thrown at Mass Effect, but bizarrely rather than trying to work out a way to do these things better they have either chopped them from the game or simplified them to the point of pointlessness. Rather than having us driving around planets shooting things from our bouncy ice cream truck, we now wave our mouse of the planet firing off probes, effectively they have replaced watching paint dry in different colours with having you eyelids sown shut so you can't see the paint dry. Armour has pretty much gone from the game (no NPC gets any) and your armour can be bought piecemeal and then fitted to your suit with an otherwise pointless trip to your room (a load screen in and a load screen back).


Agree with you there - their "solution" of cutting everything was a fairly bizarre one. The mining with probes did bore me to tears, but thankfully there wasn't too much of it. I found it fairly easy to get ample supplies with which to get all the upgrades, especially since I bought quite a few of them from the various shops with credits. I don't think there's a problem with the armour though - I prefer this system to be honest. Collecting tonnes of armour, in Krogan and human varieties, for ME1 was far from entertaining.

Guns have been nurfed by rather than picking up endless different makes and marks, we now have 5 different weapon types and 2-4 weapons for each which can all be 'magically' upgraded using the resources painfully and tediously gathered from planets. The game also handles some gun choices for your NPCs, well they copied my character in pistol and SMG choices, but nothing else. Oh and they don't bother to give us any gun stats, so trying to decide which Assault Riffle and Sniper Rifle I want is a choice made purely on aesthetics (the pistol and smg choices are fairly obvious).


Hmm... fair point about the stats, I agree completely. Having said that, it is fairly clear which weapons are upgrades. The sniper rifle for example only comes in three varieties - stock, rapid fire upgrade, and slow fire upgrade. That made perfect sense to me.

They do seem to have replaced the endless repeating the same caves/science lab quests with sparse non-repeating quests (but as I have only found half a dozen or so they may repeat), personally I would rather have a few more of these side quests as they are far more fun than planet scanning, as were the tedious Mako driving explorations.


Agree with you there, they certainly needed more of them. I only came across one or two, because I couldn't be bothered wandering around the galaxy scanning every planet on the off chance there were a few husks to go slaughter, for the sake of 5,000 credits. Most of which I've already spent on fuel getting there.

I also am not sure about the 'improved combat and tactics' I find throwing my powers lets me deal with pretty much everything with 2 NPCs that I ignore who provide fire support, maybe later in the game I will need to actually think about strategies but we will see. Oh and having the space bar do everything in the game can be incredibly frustrating, when instead of running into cover I 'decide' to leap over it or open a nearby mini-game *ARGH*.


Depends what difficulty setting you have it on I guess. I was using all three squad members' powers virtually all of the time, mainly because I was an engineer and running and gunning with a low ammo heavy pistol and a pea shooter SMG wasn't a usable tactic. I found it fairly challenging, proper use of the powers from all three people was a necessity - can't say I had any problems with the space bar either, although the game desperately needed a jump button. Taking cover and then rolling over every single jumpp gets very tedious on a couple of levels.

The plus points about this that it looks good, some of the character stories are interesting and actually thought provoking - Do you push the Quarians to genocide by encouraging them to attack the Geth, do you destroy your relationship with Tali by telling the truth? Do you tell Mordin to destroy the info genophage or not? All of these conversations tend to be well done and they really have tried to look beyond the normal Hitler/Teresa choices they often give. Occasionally (rarely) there are fights that are actually exciting but usually they are just no more than the FPS equivalent of button mashing.


The character stories really made this game for me - if they hadn't have been in, I think I would've completed it and never thought about it again. As things stand though, it's the most memorable game I've played since GTA:SA - and that's why I gave it such a high score. Honestly, I would recommend ME2 (obviously with ME1 before it) above pretty much any other game I've played in the last few years.
My main gripe about the armour is having to go to my cabin to change/alter it, why does it require 2 'wait whilst the game loads' just to change my sodding armour? Also the poor screen layout, the box is generally big enough to display all the blurb, but 1 line to short to display the benefits of said armour.

I would say that sums up probably most of my frustration with the game right there... There is just to much of an annoyance factor to play the game anything more than an hour at a go at most.

Pretty much the same problem I had with the original, and something that have done nothing intelligent to fix. The pain in the back end of equipment management in 1 could have easily been sorted out by a more intelligent user interface, simply a single 'locker' that allowed you to view all characters without having to constantly dip in and out of menus and run from one access point to another. Add into that a highlight facility that shows the best bits of kit for each character and you would have had all the fun of finding 38 different types of pistol, with very little of the hassle of dealing with the drudge of sorting out characters inventory. I am also sick and tired of how often the game needs to pause to load, and how little there is too avoid this.

As for the NPC side story's some of them are very good, but others are just plain naff. I did Samara's last night (Omega dance club thing) and it was simply atrocious, the Drell (assassin) one was just as bad. Others are just boring... Grunts was pathetic, Miranda's had me wanting to shoot Miranda for being so bloody clueless.

I don't know if this game has suffered from a horrible case of consolitis with its tedious mini games (they are pretty dire, if it wasn't for the planet scan I would call them atrocious), endless loading, retarded menu system, tedious good/bad choices (for the most part), refusal to recognise a double click e.t.c. (I am gonna stop now before I decide never to play this pos again).