March 25, 2010
By J.D. Cook
Bioware’s Mass Effect 2 has torn through my life like a hurricane. It’s destroyed my time, exercise, and strained personal relationships, but it was definitely worth it. Unfortunately there were some minor flaws, and because I have encountered nothing but extremely positive reviews on the internet I think a fairer and truer review is due to the world so with that in mind I invite you to read the following.
As many video game fans know Mass Effect 2 is the sequel to the popular Mass Effect. In the game you control Commander Sheppard as he journeys through space attempting to stop an ancient race of machines known as the “reapers” from destroying and enslaving organic life. The game play is a hybrid between a role playing game and a 3rd person shooter. Now that that explanation is out of the way I’ll jump to the heart of my review.
Mass Effect 2 suffers from three major flaws that limit it from being as good as the original. The first is that space exploration is no longer fun at all. One of my favorite things in the original was exploring from planet to planet and driving over them with the terrestrial vehicle the Mako. Now I’ve heard from some that the Mako was hard to drive, but I think that is an easy enough thing to fix, and yet instead of doing that the Mako was completely erased from the game. Now instead of landing on certain planets and driving around doing exploration you are forced to use a tiny scanner to search cross the face of a planet looking for resources and side missions. Not only is it a pain to scan the planets, but in order to find anything on them you need to send down a probe. This requires you to continue to buy them so that you’ll have them on hand. Otherwise you may find something but have to journey back to buy probes at a space station.
The second major flaw I encountered in Mass Effect 2 was the storyline itself. This game is all about building a team to bring on a suicide mission to stop a group working for the Reapers known as the Collectors. Now I like this idea, but it is essentially a rehashing of the first game except the Collectors have replaced the Geth, a group of machines working for the reapers in the original game. Then there is an issue of repetitiveness. You must go on a mission to recruit a team member and then go on another mission to gain that member’s loyalty, and since you have a fairly big crew this gets kind of boring, and it doesn’t flow as well as the first in which it really felt like you were building a crew through story instead of being forced to recruit. Speaking of the first game it seems that places and characters from the original were virtually erased. It would have been cool to go back to some of the locations from the first game instead of visiting all new locales that didn’t impress me as much as I had hoped. Finally my biggest problem with Mass Effect two’s storyline is that at one point you and your entire military crew decide to leave your ship, the Normandy to go on a mission. This “mission” is never played out however as your ship is attacked while you are away. This leads to a fun sequence where you play as the ship’s pilot Joker, but it makes no sense that Commander Sheppard would take a shuttle with his entire military crew to nowhere and then come back. It’s essentially a part of the story you really have no control over as Sheppard and that bothers me since the first story is entirely driven by you.
The third flaw is one that has already been discussed in the news. You can barely read any text in the game on a standard definition T.V. I had to struggle through the entire game to read my responses and since the game has some much reading in it this is quite an annoying challenge to overcome. I’m sure this is no problem for the serious gamer who has a specific H.D.T.V. set up just for games, but for someone like me who rented the game because he loves the story it proves to be quite a problem.
Those three gripes out of the way I will say Mass Effect 2 has an amazing partner AI system in which your allies are a true blessing. Not to mention it has some really amazing stages. My favorite was a stage in which you enter a ship that was docked with a dead Reaper only to find the Reaper managed to corrupt and turn the crew into monsters. It rings of the best space horror films, not to mention Dead Space, which seemed to be a major influence on Mass Effect 2. The game also has some interesting missions, one has you pretending to be bait for murderer, and another has you following a politician. Overall this game is very good. I would say it is a solid B+ but it doesn’t quite measure up to the original. I hope the third game does.