First published on 2 Feb 2010. Updated on 20 Sep 2010.
The first of the Most Anticipated Games of 2009 That Got Their
Release Pushed Back Until 2010 arrives, and makes an early argument for this
being the greatest year for games ever.
Set two years after the first title, Mass Effect 2 sees you return as decorated military hero
Commander Sheppard and – non-spoiler alert – are killed about two minutes into
the game. Don't worry though: you're resurrected by Cerberus, a shadowy
pro-human organisation who are fighting against invaders that threaten all life
in the galaxy. And that's one of the things that raises Mass Effect 2 above the general RPG herd:
there's a massive level of political intrigue between Cerberus and the Galactic
Council, not to mention other species who see Cerberus as a borderline fascist
organisation. This time around Sheppard's not just worried about the external
threat, but also has to consider how far can he trust the people around him –
not to mention how to convince all comers that he's trying to help. And every decision counts.
Not much needed fixing from the original game, although
there are a few welcome tweaks. The conversation trees are still wonderfully
easy to navigate (which is good, since you'll be doing a LOT of talking); the
voice acting's exceptionally good; and the artwork is stunningly good (except for
the occasionally creepily uncanny-valley-esque eyes of the characters). The first-person-shooter combat system is massively improved, though with
much improved AI (so good, in fact, that you can
quite often sit back and rely on your team to take out enemies – although
where's the fun in that?). And if you don't feel like going on story
missions there's an entire galaxy to explore, upgrades to buy/build, and a hell
of a lot of very talkative folks out there with whom to discuss events of the day. The
only minus is the frustratingly long load times, but in any case you'll want to set aside a weekend or two before getting on board the starship Normandy again.