Sequel keeps same format and following

Mass Effect 2 starts with a bang (quite literally) and never holds back throughout its more than 25 hour quest. While it isn’t perfect, its shortcomings are few, and it is not a game to miss.

At its core, Mass Effect 2 is a squad based shooting game with role-playing elements in the form of gaining new abilities and stronger attacks. There are numerous classes to pick. Some focus on using psychic abilities (called biotic attacks), others with guns and anywhere in between.

Depending on what class the player chooses, the way Shepard plays could be wildly different. The arsenal of biotic attacks in combination with guns is varied and most importantly, fun.

Commander Shepard is once again the main character, and the captain of the spacecraft called the Normandy in the far off future of 2185. He is tasked with recruiting a squad of the galaxy’s most deadly individuals to help take on a race of aliens known as the Collectors, who are abducting entire human colonies for their own insidious agenda.

The story is pretty straightforward; it’s obvious the Collectors are bad guys and Shepard needs to take them out. It is the characters Shepard meets along the way that add much needed weight to the story, and that is the real reason Mass Effect 2’s story feels so fantastic.

In between the missions, expect to have indepth conversations with each character on the Normandy. Learning of their past and what their feelings are in addition to where their true loyalties are becomes just as engrossing as the shooting sections.

The player begins to feel for each of the characters and really cares about them. This is only amplified by the consequences if the mission does not go exactly according to plan. Any (and all) of Shepard’s squad mates can die permanently in the final mission. It’s shocking how much the player cares when one of their favorite characters, that they have gotten to know for hours, gets taken out.

This being a sequel to the original Mass Effect, the story pretty much assumes the player is up to speed on what’s going on in the universe.

Even more important however, is how the decisions the player has made in the first game directly impact the sequel. The game scans the players Xbox 360’s hard drive for information on what they did or did not do. Characters that the player let live (or die) could come back to help or hinder them, and entirely different storylines could play out based on even the smallest choice.

Couple these decisions from the first game with the choices made throughout the second and expect to have a significantly different game play experience.

Shepard will travel to dozens of planets where the player can engage in story missions or side missions. The story missions are required to continue the game, while the side missions are there for those who want to earn a little extra money and experience to level up their squad.

Do not be fooled though, many of the side missions are some of the most interesting parts of the Mass Effect universe and helps make the plot just that much deeper.

This is accompanied by a rousing orchestral score worthy of any other space opera, the music is always appropriate as it kicks in and dies down at the right times. The weapons sound very satisfying, and their sound specifically is what helps give them that extra “kick.” The cast of characters is voiced extremely well by a wide array of voice actors.

The one gripe I have against Mass Effect 2 is a series of minor technical issues. Expect to see a graphic abnormality every couple of hours like the camera in a cut-scene being aimed the wrong way, or a character walking through someone else. These blemishes are noticeable but only because the rest of the game looks so good.

The world of Mass Effect 2 is believable, the gunplay is fun and satisfying and the characters the player meets seem almost hauntingly human, even if they’re aliens (go figure.)

It improves upon the original game in every way, but is also strong enough to stand on its own merits if the player has never experienced the first.

When Mass Effect 2’s climactic conclusion plays out and the credits roll, expect to be compelled to do it all over again. Seeing how things can change by making different choices and how that affects the overall outcome, demands a second play.

Jonathan Posch can be reached at 581-7942 or [email protected]