Sunday, February 14, 2010

Xbox 360 - Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 by EA Games / Bioware

Mass Effect 2 is the sequel to Mass Effect (Gamezelot gave Mass Effect 5/10). Mass Effect 2 picks up where Mass Effect leaves off, story wise. But, the story this time around is questionable at best. Who writes these game stories anyway? I think they need to hire some better writers.


Mass Effect 2 picks up almost immediately where Mass Effect leaves off. Sheperd is commanding the Normandy. However, just about the time all seems great, a large ship cuts the Normandy in half causing the pieces to crash into a planet. We come to find out that the large ship with that huge beam cannon that rips open the Normandy like a can opener is operated by the Collectors. Now starts the Mass Effect 2 story.

So, instead of Sheperd getting to a rescue pod like everyone else, he goes down with the ship and perishes. Or, so we think. Cerberus manages to obtain Sheperd's remains and manages to rebuild him into a whole human again. That's where your character, Sheperd, wakes up. So, here begins the story again. This time, however, because Cerberus brings back Sheperd, he takes allegiance to Cerberus (sort of) and the fact that Cerberus builds him the Normandy 2. Cerberus even manages to get Joker and the doctor back, but not the rest of your 'party'.

Of course, the whole point is that that Illusive man wants Sheperd to take out the collectors. Why exactly Sheperd was reassembled, we're not sure yet.

Importing Character from ME

This was a pointless exercise. The only thing this does is bring in your character's likeness. It doesn't bring the experience or anything else. It's all a cosmetic thing without any substance, so why bother?


Basically, there are three main game play zones. Combat, free roaming and mining. Combat zones get you through the objectives. Free roaming (most on the ship) lets you manage your crew, objectives and research. You can also free roam the Milky Way to find your next objective locations. By using probes, you mine the surface of planets to obtain elements. Elements are used in research upgrades. Upgrades give your armor and weapons better abilities.

While some of the new aspects work, some don't. The developers improved parts of the game, but overall it really is no better than Mass Effect for play value. For story line, it's far worse.


Well, what's to be said. You can outfit your character with armor, for what it's worth. The reality is, of course, that it's all for show. Also, the only armor that's upgradeable is the armor that comes with the game. Any imported armor from the downloadable content (DLC) area is locked. By locked, I mean you can't do anything to alter this armor. It is what it is, like it or not. You can't add upgrades or in any way strengthen DLC armor.


The controller is pretty standard. Movement on left stick, camera on right. Various buttons for action (firing, changing modes, etc). You'll pick it up pretty fast because it's fairly standard.

Controlling Sheperd, on the other hand, can be rather tedious. There are lots of bugs in the control system. For example, there are times where Sheperd will move in random haphazard ways even when you're holding the stick firm in a given position. Next, when you're in a cover position or when entering a cover position, I've had several times when he'll enter cover and then immediately jump over the cover into a clear position to the enemy. Frustrating!

Death Halo

Mass Effect is another in this growing series of games that prefers the death halo to putting an actual health bar on the screen. No No NO!. No death halos! Whoever dreamed up with this idea needs to be slapped and slapped hard! Get RID of the death halo. The reason it doesn't work is that 1) it covers the entire screen so you can't see what you're doing, 2) the controller becomes less responsive so you cannot move out of the way of fire (let alone see what's even firing at you) and 3) it's just plain annoying. The first two points are enough to prove that this idea is stupid and doesn't work.


This is one in a handful of recent games were the camera has, yet again, become an issue. When you're able to shoot at a distance, this mode works great. However, when you have enemies that get right up next to you, the camera fails horribly. First, the enemies that like close contact get so close to you they're touching you. So, there's no way to position the camera so you can even see them. Second, because they are so close, you can't even use a gun. You have to use a melee tactic. The trouble is, the zombie creatures (that love to do this) get right on top of you and congregate. When these enemies do this, you cannot even move. The zombies get right in your way and prevent character movement even when they aren't hitting you.

Between the poor camera system AND these stupid close contact enemies, this game completely fails with the camera. At least let me move the camera to a more distant position so I can see what's going on around me. For this combined problem alone, the game loses 1.5 points from the overall score right off the top. Camera problems should have long been resolved in games at this point. Going back to having camera problems means the designers were not thinking properly about the game design.


The missions are way too short and very repetitive. Different characters, same results. Move your character from point A to point B and do something at the end. Between points A and B, you fight a lot of enemies from behind cover. It's all mindless shooting and nothing really to think about. No puzzles, no thought provoking ideas, nothing. Just a lot of shooting. I was very disappointed with this part of the game. At least add some puzzle levels to the game. At least make the gamer use some kind of thought process more than pulling the trigger. Alas, it didn't happen. For an RPG style game, it's really pretty one-tracked.

Cinematics and scene skipping

With some cinematics, you can skip them. With others, you can't. There is no rhyme or reason why some are skippable and others aren't. On top of this fact, once you're in certain parts of the opening of a mission, you cannot pause or start the level over. You must wait through perhaps 5 or more minutes before you can get to a point where you can either save or start over. These points where the game is locked out of the save/load screen is very frustrating. It's especially frustrating when the game has automatically loaded an autosave and you want to actually load a different saved game. Yet another 1 point is immediately knocked off for this problem.


Save early and save often (when you actually can). There are times where the save screen is not available (see above)... and it's usually about the time when you want to save. Also, if there is even one enemy present on the playfield, you cannot save your game. I've had several glitches that have prevented me from saving my game because the game thought there was an enemy on the play field.


Yet another problem is with the loading after Sheperd dies. There is A for resume and X for load. If you press A for resume, it is random what game it will load... meaning, it could load the 'Restart Mission' version or it could load your last save. Because of this roll-of-the-dice loading technique, you may end up having to load the game twice. Loading the game twice (once as a mistake, once intentional) can sometimes take as long as 5 minutes. Again, another 1 point right off the top (so far, that's 3.5 points right off of the score).


The game could have been loads better and was slightly better than Mass Effect. They tried, I'll give them that. But, EA must have held Bioware back. This may be the last Mass Effect game I buy unless I know that they've put much more effort into the next game. The gameplay leaves a lot to be desired, it's very repetitive. Worse, though, are the glitchy bugs that make Sheperd uncontrollable at critical times. Even worse, in many cases the game intentionally drops enemies right behind you. I mean, immediately right behind you. So, you're forced to run away for cover. Totally unacceptable considering the camera problems. If, as a developer, you're going to play these combat games, than at least provide the gamer with a HUD scanner to see where your enemies actually are.

Oh, and considering the time era that this is supposed to be set in, it's absolutely ludicrous that Sheperd's suit doesn't contain a HUD scanner.

  • Sound: 8.5/10
  • Graphics: 9/10 (very good, not perfect)
  • Gameplay: 7/10 (fair)
  • Story: 7/10
  • Bugginess: 5/10 (lots of glitching)
  • Controls: 5/10 (could be lots better)
  • Bang-to-buck: 2/10
  • Play Value: $10 (rent or buy)
  • Overall: 6/10 (slightly better than Mass Effect in limited ways)

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