Spoiler Inside SelectShow

Mass Effect 2 begins in 2183 a few months(?) after the events of Mass Effect. On a routine patrol to locate and destroy any remaining Geth forces, the Normandy is attacked by a ship of immense size and unknown origin. An evacuation order is given. Before Shepard (that’s you) can board the escape pod, Shepard is blown out of the ship. The explosion cuts the life support systems of Shepard’s combat suit and you die from asphyxiation and your body is lost.

Shepard’s body is retrieved by Cerberus, an extremist pro-human organization. Over the next two years, attempts are made to bring Shepard back to life via the Lazarus Project. Shepard awakens in 2185 aboard a Cerberus space station that is under attack. After you help rid the station of invading forces you are granted an audience with the head of Cerberus who goes by the title “The Illusive Man”. He gives the rundown of why they brought you back from the dead. Human colonies have been attacked, their colonists missing. The Illusive Man believes this is the work of the Reapers (the bad guys from Mass Effect), a race of sapient mechanoids that feed on the technology of other sapient galactic races whenever they reach a critical point.

You learn early on that the attack on your ship 2 years prior and the current attacks on colonists are by the same enemy. A insect-like race called the Collectors. If you agree to help stop the collectors (and why wouldn’t you, it’s the whole point of the game) you are given command of the Normandy SR-2, a ship modeled after your original ship with some legal and not so legal upgrades. With the Illusive Man’s guidance, Shepard recruits a team for what is assumed to be a suicide mission. Use the Omega-4 Mass Effect Relay to travel to the collector home world save the abducted colonists if possible and destroy the Collector threat at a minimum. What makes this a suicide mission is no non-collector ship has ever returned from collector space.

The Illusive Man provides Shepard with dossiers regarding potential recruits. Two of these recruits are familiar faces as they were part of your crew in Mass Effect.

As you recruit your team some forced story line missions will occur. The first takes you to a colony under collector attack. After you fight of the collector raid you will run into another former team mate. Here is just one of many places were the decisions you made in Mass Effect change the events of Mass Effect 2. You will either meet Kaidan Alenko or Ashley Williams depending on who you sacrificed on Virmire in the Mass Effect.

After finishing the recruitment of your team you are sent on a mission to collect a Reaper IFF Tag (Identify Friend/Foe) in order to access the Omega-4 Relay controls. Battling your way through Husks, you recover the IFF and salvages a friendly geth. Shepard may turn the geth over to Cerberus or activate it. If activated, the geth designates itself as Legion and joins the team.

Shepard departs with the recruited members on a shuttle towards their next mission as the Normandy prepares the IFF for testing. After the IFF is activated, the Collectors board the Normandy. Joker is forced to give control of the ship to its onboard A.I., named EDI – a potentially dangerous move. Gaining control of the ship, EDI pilots the Normandy away from the Collectors and rids the ship of all enemies, but the entire crew barring Joker is taken. Shepard’s hand is forced – Shepard can either complete secondary missions and sacrifice his/her crew, or go through the Omega-4 relay to rescue the Normandy crew.

After traveling through the relay, the game proceeds in different ways. It all depends on factors such as:

  1. Did you enter the relay right away or did you go finish side quests first?
  2. Did you upgrade any/all parts of the Normandy?
  3. Did you gain the loyalty of any/all team members?

Any combination of crew and team may survive the final mission. Yes that means you can win the game but die in the process. If that happens you will be unable to carryover save data to Mass Effect 3.

You fight your way to the core of the Collector space station and discovers the Collectors have been constructing a new Reaper, made from the genetic material of the abducted humans and fused with the advanced technology of the Reapers. EDI suggests this is how all Reapers reproduce. Shepard targets the weak points of the machine, which is in the early stages of construction, and it collapses.

The Illusive Man suggests the team keep the station intact to allow research on its technology; any garnered information would be valuable in the coming war against the Reapers. Shepard may destroy the station and make an enemy of the Illusive Man or use a radiation pulse to kill the remaining Collectors and allow Cerberus to take control of the station.

The surviving squad members escape to the Normandy. Just before the destruction of the station Harbinger releases control of the Collector General. Harbinger and the rest of the Reapers awaken from hibernation, and begin emerging from dark space and start their long journey towards the Milky Way, setting the stage for Mass Effect 3.[/spoiler]

New Features: Good and Bad

Your Squad:
Each recruit has a side mission that if completed not only changes the direction the universe will take in Mass Effect 3 but will gain you the loyalty of the team member. This unlocks special abilities for the team member and Shepard. It also affects how the final mission will play out. Have to read the Spoiler above to see how.

Combat:
The combat system has been upgraded in some areas. Damage is body part specific. Shooting legs slows the enemy down and causes them to fall. Head shots cause instant kills on unprotected enemies. The A.I. of the enemies has also gotten a boost. They fight more intelligently, adapting their positions to yours and using the cover of the area to good effect.

It has been downgraded in my opinion by introducing ammo clips. Technically they call them heat sinks but it gets the same annoyance across. In Mass Effect you had unlimited ammo but you gun would overheat if you fired for to long. So now you have ejectable heat sinks to keep you weapon cool but you can’t use the weapon if your out of heat sinks.

While you could take cover and shoot around barriers in the first game you now have the ability to jump over obstacles to get to cover faster or to simply charge the enemy. This also allows you to take an elevated position on some of the battle fields.

Mass Effect 2 also features regenerating health as its primary health mechanic, instead of the ability to heal with “medi-gel” as in the first game. However, “medi-gel” is still used to revive downed allies.

New to the series are heavy weapons (flame throwers, rocket launchers, and other big guns). While all the small arms use Universal Ammo these weapons have special ammo that has to be found in crates on the battle field. I only found 3 areas that needed the large arms. So feel free to waste your ammo when playing as you don’t need the heavy weapons that often.

Characters are now able to use any weapon their class is trained for at full effect. That’s right, no more investing in weapon skills. Armor skills have also been removed and there are no longer class restrictions on armor. Instead all weapon and armor upgrades are controlled through purchases of upgrades at stores. Shepard gets a few individual components that are applied piecemeal. Every upgrade enhances the entire crew immediately. This includes finding a single gun on the battle field and having the entire squad capable of using the new weapon.

This also means that leveling points are spent strictly on health and special ability upgrades. I preferred the Leveling and armor system from ME1 but it seems I am in the minority on that one.

The Story:
The story brings a lot of influence from James Bond and gangster movies where as Mass Effect was strictly a military mission. The missions from the Illusive Man have the James bond feel. You can imagine The Illusive Man as M. All the other missions delve into the slave trade and mafia systems of the galaxy. These have more of a gangster movie feel to them with Shepard acting as an Elliot Ness or the “generic rogue cop that brings down the bad guy.”

Exploration:

In Mass Effect when you land on a planet you get to travel around in a tank/troop transport and used a GPS map to find areas of interest. This has been replaced entirely by Orbital Surveying and automatic drops to the area of interest. All Vehicle exploration has been removed. I liked this part but I was in the minority her as well. Although maybe not. A new pilotable vehicle called the Hammerhead (a hover tank) will be released in a future DLC. When it becomes available I will link to my review of it Here.

The Orbital surveying was just annoying. But you need the minerals to upgrade your ship and weapons. I would be very happy if they cut this from the next game.

The size of all the areas has been reduced. The Citadel has been reduced to about 4 rooms in size and they still felt they needed to put quick travel stations in. Was it really that much of a pain to walk you character around the station?

Character Interactions:
The camera positioning for conversations with A.I. characters has also been improved; the previously static camera now moves around to provide a cinematic touch. Conversations (some) now have a context-sensitive interrupt system (i.e. quick time event). In addition to Renegade and Paragon dialogue options that have always been there, Shepard is able to interrupt the dialogue when prompted to do so with on-screen controls, again along Paragon or Renegade paths. This allowed me to save the life of a person about to be shot (Paragon) and also allowed me later to end a mercs dialogue by pushing him out a 50th floor window (Renegade).

Loading Screens:
A major gripe from the last game, slow moving elevators (used as loading screens), have been removed entirely. I didn’t mind them as I enjoyed to banter the characters engaged in during this time. All loading screens are now the generic loading screen you see in every game. They are ugly and break the immersion of the game.

Transferring save-files:

Decisions made by the player in the first game carry over to the second and have influences on his/her character in the sequel. This is true for the ME1 to 2 transition as well as the ME2 to 3 transition. In order for the saved file to be recognized in the player has to wait until the end of the credits so that an autosave file may be created with the completed game data.

Players who have not played the first Mass Effect start a new character in Mass Effect 2, and are brought up to speed on the story elements that have taken place thus far in the series.

When transferring a file from Mass Effect, players have the option to change their class to a different one. For example, if the player wanted to play as an Engineer instead of an Infiltrator, the player may change his/her character’s class while still importing the choices made during the first game. There is a story explanation as to how the character’s abilities have changed since the first game. In addition, transferred characters may also have their appearance changed, if the player so desires.

Mass Effect 2 save files may be transferred to the third installment in a similar manner, though there does exist an ending where Shepard dies. This ending will not be transferable. In this case, players must either choose to replay Mass Effect 2 for a better ending or begin with a new character in Mass Effect 3.

Players receive bonuses for importing save games; for example, importing a level 60 Shepard provides the player with 50 thousand credits, ten thousand units of each resource, bonus Paragon and Renegade points, and allows him/her to start Mass Effect 2 at level 5. If the imported character was “Rich” in Mass Effect, The player will receive an additional 100 thousand credits. Additionally, although the achievement, Long Service Medal, requires the player to beat the game twice, the player may get the achievement for completing the game once with an imported Shepard.

The decisions that made a change in story range form big ones like “Did the Council Survive?” to “The scientist that was hiding behind the desk on an insignificant mission. Did I shoot him for working with my enemy or let him go because he was a peon?”

SEX!!!:

Like the last game you start a romance with some of your crew. So who you can get busy with depends on what sex Shepard is and of course picking the right dialogue choices.

If your male you get a choice of 4 ladies.  If your female you only get a choice of 3 males and 1 lady.  Gotta love those blue chicks. 😛

Project $10/ Cerberus Network card

Project $10 is EA’s attempt to discourage used game sales. In ME2 it takes the form of a Cerberus Network card with a unique access code is included with all copies of Mass Effect 2. Since this code works only once, buyers of used copies have to purchase access to the Cerberus Network for $15. The Cerberus Network offers an in-game delivery mechanism for free Mass Effect 2 downloadable content, but paid content will not be purchased via the Cerberus Network.   None of the Free content is necessary so feel free to get a used copy.

Technical issues

There have been complaints that the games font-size has been formatted in such a way as to make in game text indecipherable on standard definition televisions.  I had this problem before I got my new TV.   Representatives from BioWare stated that the issue was “a design choice, not a bug” and not to “expect any decisions or a fix in the near future.”   After investigating the complaints further BioWare released a statement acknowledging that “on some standard definition TVs the smallest text in Mass Effect 2 can be difficult to read.”  BioWare’s final statement about the issue is that:

After investigating potential solutions, we have determined that while this issue does affect a small portion of SDTV owners, we are unable to resolve it for Mass Effect 2 through a title update. However, we have taken note of this issue and will take it into consideration as we plan future games in the Mass Effect franchise.

So if you have a Standard Def tv don’t get the game. You wont be able to read a damn thing. I also had the bug where in several areas the sound and dialogue goes out completely. The only way to know whats going on was to reload from a save point and turn subtitles on. Quite annoying.

Overall it’s a great game with some quirks and a few bugs. The ability to play as a male or female, and the importing of decisions make this a great game for re-playability. Definite Keep.

Graphics: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Story: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Gameplay: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Balance: ★★★★★★★★★★
Intangibles: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Overall: ★★★★★★★★★☆

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