Games like Mass Effect 2 are all about one thing – escapism. Sure, other games take a shot at it. Thing is, there aren’t any other games quite like Mass Effect 2. Nothing else comes close because in the game, you are important, deadly and downright legendary. You are humanity’s last best hope, battling against seemingly impossible odds. You are Commander Shepard.
I came to playing ME2 reluctantly, some might say, even cynically. I remembered very little of the original Mass Effect, asides from average shooting and long waits in elevators. This attitude would change completely. Attack, explosion, fire, chaos and death. Then...look up and silent space and the world hanging there, above your head, as your ship is torn asunder. It’s moving, living, breathing art. And the player is part of it.
On cut scenes alone; which contain some of the strongest writing yet offered by BioWare, not to mention the story arc, the characters, the themes, the worlds, the locations, the factions and the violence. One could get away with lumping all of these shots into a film and firing it out at the cinema. It would be a huge success, for sure. The work really is that good; you feel like you are part of an epic film.
But that is getting away from the actual game. ME2 achieves its escapism primarily in three ways – fighting, talking and the impact these actions have on the plot. Fighting is heavily cover based, with this style being augmented with special technical abilities, ammo upgrades and basic squad tactics. The controls flow so effortlessly that combat is an absolute pleasure; gripping, exciting and with loads of room for learning. And in hardcore and insanity modes, the enemy are implacable, intelligent and very tough, transforming even the simplest room clearance into a very tricky fire fight.
Talking comes next as ME2 is crammed with dialogue, both from main characters and Shepard. Normally, games that try this chatting deluge fall on their ass. Not many gamers want entire scripts reeling across the screen for hours and hours. However, the dialogue in ME2 adds so much to the experience; with subtle exchanges, plans, emotions and ideas streaming out of the game in an absorbing and compelling way. So how does fighting and talking impact on the game?
It’s back to the blue is good, red is bad system. Basically, act like a born again Jesus on nicest guy in the universe day and you gain blue points, becoming a Paragon in the process, which adds conversation options that are good guy orientated. Act like the terminator with the attitude of a Hell’s Angel with a hangover and you get red, becoming a Renegade, granting access to some conversation options that are evil bastard orientated.
Sex and relationships also feature heavily in the game. The ladies (and even some of the guys) of every race across the universe are into Shepard in a big way. This emotional feature is well balanced and actually has a really warm and touching feel to it; it’s not rude or crude for the sake of it. The player really will care about individual characters. I know I did. Once you have sorted out your love life, conscripted the full fighting team and upgraded your ship, you can get on with the final mission. And what is the final mission?
To save humanity! I don’t want to get into the particular details of the story line for two reasons; a) I want you to see it, feel it and experience everything for yourself without much spoiler and b) it would take many thousands of words to go into. Suffice to say, after Shepard has been rebuilt by the shady Cerberus network, aliens – Reavers and the Collectors – are plotting to literally exterminate humanity. All that stands in their way is Shepard and his band of ultimate badasses. I won’t speak much of it, as to save it for you. Trust me, in all my 18 years of gaming, I have never seen or played such a compelling section of a game
I can’t describe the sensation with words. It’s one of the only games that drags you into the scene; so much so that the outcome actually matters to the player. It’s one of those gaming moments you won’t forget. Very rare, indeed. And once it was all over...I wanted more. Now! So much so that I downloaded some of the recently completed downloadable content. I paid for all of this with my own hard earned cash, downloaded it and started the game up, eager and ready to continue on with the awesomeness. And here is what I was met with; an error message.
That’s right...BioWare and EA have put out downloadable content that is buggy as hell. The error message read: Unable to authorise the listed DLC. Please log into Cerberus Network with the account used to purchase the DLC. It’s a known issue, and one that has caught a lot of gamers out. Forums are full of angry messages about the errors. We asked to interview anyone from BioWare or EA about the issues. Nobody responded to our request.
There are other niggles to consider with ME2, asides from the DLC muck up. The weapons are mind numbingly predictable and safe; pistol, machine gun, shotgun, rocket launcher, grenade launcher and sniper rifle. Never played with them before, eh? There are several variants of these weapons to find and upgrade but the selection is inherently lazy.
Considering the other technology on offer, such as shields and bio implanted powers, where are all the ion cannons, phased plasma rifles and rail guns? You are offered the use of some captured alien weaponry but I found myself never using them as they were largely inferior to the human weaponry. Other tiny smears on the shine of greatness include; mandatory mineral mining on planets (boring beyond belief.) to gain the resources to equip the Normandy 2 for her final battle. Also, there are some clipping issues, as well as the rare but really annoying floating paralyse.
So, in the end, what have I got to say? Mass Effect 2 is really, really great. Honestly, it’s one of the best games I have ever played. There isn’t another game quite like it. But the huge issue with DLC (some might say scam)threatens to lets the entire game down. So please, buy ME2, play the game and taste one of the finest gaming experiences there is to be had in the galaxy. Become Shepard and change the way you look at games forever. Just don’t go looking for more anytime soon. Not at least until Mass Effect 3 comes out anyway.