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Mass Effect 2 - PC
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119 of 134 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 26, 2010
Now THIS is what I call immersion!

In the past, Bioware has shown a tendency to surpass itself whenever developing a sequel (remember how much better Baldur's Gate II was compared to I - and the original Baldur's Gate was already excellent). Well, compared to this second installment, the original Mass Effect now seems like a typical space-RPG/Shooter.

Having played the original game will not only help you better insert yourself into Commander Shepard's boots (you can actually import your original character form the first game - choices and all) - but also appreciate the improvements more.

The story is darker and (without spoiling it) the choices harder to live with. Combat has been streamlined, with tactical decisions (using cover, taking the high ground) now being more important, without the game loosing its shooter character though.

Both the visuals and the sounds are exquisite. Not only are the graphics really impressive (and I am running WinXP so that is DirecX-9 mind you) and the sounds dramatic but the voice acting and dialogue integration should be taught in game-design seminars.

In this second installment there is no actual inventory to speak of (more on this later), loading times are shorter and better concealed (remember those endless elevator rides? Now forget about them), and accessing your special abilities menu has been simplified.
In a true BIOWARE tradition, the available companions all come with their own special abilities and personal stories to explore.

The selection of armor and guns has been reduced. There are about 15-20 guns to choose from and very limited loot. The guns I do not mind. Personally, I'd rather have a small number of well designed and fun to use guns at my disposal than a myriad of guns that in the end make no real difference (ahem...BORDERLANDS?).
Having said that, I missed the thrill of looting and upgrading my equipment (not to mention having a real inventory). I mean, that is a great part of the fun in any cRPG! I am not holding my breath but maybe one of the upcoming DLCs could take care of that?
And if I am to open the improvements-request file, how about speeding up those minigames in the next patch?

Finally, you also get a personal apartment aboard Normandy (an excellent idea introduced in FALLOUT-3) which you can equip with various ornaments and personal items (from fish for your aquarium to a...space-hamster - I call mine Boo).

As for the DRM scheme used, the game does contain SecuROM but (similar to DRAGON AGE and FALLOUT-3) it only uses a disk-check. MASS EFFECT 2 neither requires any online activation nor does it limit the numbers of its installations. It is not the best solution possible but it is a compromise I can live with. If you still find this objectionable, you can now make an informed decision.

All in all, I found MASS EFFECT II to be a beautiful RolePlaying Movie of a game, an immersive cinematic-action shooter with limited loot and more story than equipment choices. In other words, MASS EFFECT 2 may not be a pure cRPG or a cRPS experience (Dragon Age: Origins and Fallout 3 still rule those segments) but nevertheless it is an experience well worth its admission price.

Go for the light-sensors Boo! Go for the light-sensors!!
(no, I am not explaining that...)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2010
SUMMARY
The long awaited sequel to the much lauded, though admittedly flawed, Mass Effect is finally here - and it's already consumed over 30 hours of my life. In short, Mass Effect 2 is the most refined and presented action RPG I have personally played. The narrative is perfectly paced, guiding the player through a well-realized world that isn't exactly an open ended sandbox, but certainly isn't restrictive or linear (you're free to complete the major missions/story points at your own pace while you pursue other content, and your decisions along the way will shape the story). The game play has been calibrated to remove almost all tedium associated with the RPG hybrid genre. Combat is real time and plays smooth as butter. The visuals, especially at 1080i or 1080p, are nothing short of spectacular. This is an incredible game, it might just end up being my favorite.

Aspects that I enjoyed are preceded by a (+), things I disliked a (-).

GAME PLAY
(+) Bioware (the developer) has taken many of the elements common to the "RPG hybrid" genre (which they themselves have greatly forwarded over the years) and stream lined and calibrated the experience to better suit the action-oriented focus of the Mass Effect series. Itemization and character customization have been made less bulky, and yet magically remain robust and even more rewarding. Just as in their past games, there are still various vocations you can pursue (soldier, engineer, etc) and many ancillary skills to learn and improve. Each vocation feels wholly unique (though many abilities share similar animations), and there are no wasted skill points or useless abilities.

(+) Combat is a blend of third person shooter (Gears of War) and tactical RPG (Dragon Age). Damage is area-sensitive (head shots hurt humanoids more than shooting them in the leg, etc), various damage types are strong against certain defenses, etc. It plays perfectly well and rewards the thinking player as well as the twitcher.

(+) It feels like Bioware took a step back and acknowledged many of the tropes common to the genre, particularly the variety that lead to tedium, and provided replacements that integrate flawlessly into the game world. These refinements vastly improve the quality of the gaming experience. For example: the process of sorting through incoming information and managing your crew. In past games you had to laboriously check your messages after each mission, run from NPC to NPC trying to figure out if they were ready to offer new dialog, etc, etc. In real life, if you were the captain of a starship, you'd have people around to help manage these tasks for you - right? Secretaries, yeoman, that sort of thing. Well, that's precisely what you get in Mass Effect 2: within your command center is a NPC that audibly informs you whenever something demands your attention. For example, you might be jogging past the helm on your way to the lab when she mentions to you "Captain, you have new messages". Or "Captain, Miranda would like to see you, she seemed upset". When engaged in conversation she will offer advice and relay information regarding the crew and the ship - just like a real yeoman would. And though she was created to fill a niche, she feels doesn't come off as artificial: she's a NPC like all of the others, with a history and personality to explore (as well as a relationship, if you choose).

There are many such refinements that make Mass Effect 2 such a joy to play. From combat to exploration, customization to character interaction, you can take every thing you hated about past games and throw them out the window. Well, almost - I'll get to that shortly.

(+) You're always an active participant, even during the conversation and cut scene sequences. Not only are they complex and responsive, but there are points in the action where you can intervene with either a "renegade" option (typically more forceful actions) or "paragon" decision (the more traditional good guy action or response). These prompts to intervene happen in real time, and they can be ignored if you so choose. This transforms the task of merely listening to dialogue and selecting responses, or watching a villain monologue, into an actual engaging experience for the player. It pulls you in and makes you feel like you're a part of the game world, instead of merely someone navigating through a series of predetermined choices like in previous games.

(+/-) Resource gathering. This will be a point of contention for many players. In your journeys through the universe, you will discover and/or learn about various technologies that you can research - such as weapon or armor upgrades, additions to your ship, new weapons and skills, etc. The currency for these research projects are elements - one of four, to be exact. You come across small amounts of these elements while you're conducting missions, but your main supply will come from scanning and probing planets. It works like this: while you're flying through space in your ship (The Normandy 2) you will enter various solar systems. You approach a planet, enter its orbit, engage scanners, and then move a radar over the surface of the planet with your mouse. A graph will alert you when a certain element is found, you launch a probe to obtain it, rinse and repeat.

Many people will find this boring and tedious. I -kind of- do. However, I enjoy the aspect of exploration and this itch is scratched here: each planet is accompanied by a brief explanation and history, such as its scientific properties, geographical anomalies, the history of the civilizations that have inhabited it or how it plays into the mythology of some alien race. Being a science and history buff, this is a lot of fun for me at times. In addition, many planets will have side missions you can find by scanning them - they range from simple exploration to search and destroy and rescue. They're all unique, and take between 10-30 minutes to complete. If you don't visit and scan the planets, you miss out on these side missions.

I gave it a mixed score because, well, it's the only repetitive task heaped upon the player during this otherwise perfectly stream lined game. But don't worry, it doesn't kill replayability: after you successfully finish the game, you'll be rewarded with 50k of each element each time you start a new game. The costs of research projects are also reduced. So even if you don't enjoy this aspect of the game, it is vastly alleviated during subsequent play throughs.

STORY, PRESENTATION, AND SETTING
(+) I mentioned that the pacing and narrative were exquisite. I'm going to go ahead and reemphasize that here. The story is so well told and presented that I could envision myself sitting back and watching someone else play it and still enjoy myself a great deal.

(+) The cast of characters are truly memorable and interesting. It ranges from prosaic space marines, to sensational bio-engineered clones, ninja-like alien assassins striving for spiritual peace, and more. The voice acting for each and every character is the best I've heard in a video game.

(+) The setting is kind of a mixed bag, though overall it's still amazing. Many locales are well realized exotically creative, and appeal to all of the players senses. There are plenty of planets and stations to explore and no two places look alike.

(-) But, on the other hand, many mission areas feel artificial - in regards to their layout. They look great, and you can tell that a great attention to detail was employed during their creation, but many things are just kind of "there". Such as obstacles and walls that facilitate combat but otherwise have no practical use. That kind of thing. And many are noticeably and artificially linear.

PERFORMANCE
(+) I have a middling system (three year old video card, one year old middle-grade CPU). However, I am running 64-bit Windows 7 and have 6 GB of RAM. I play at the highest settings - it's beautiful and flawless. Load times between zones range from 5 - 15 seconds. In one complete play through and now ten-or-so hours into my second, I've experienced no crashes or game breaking bugs. Every glitch is transient (doesn't force you to stop playing or reload).

In short, I firmly believe that Mass Effect 2 just might end up being the game of 2010, and the year just started.
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141 of 170 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2010
I tripped across the original Mass Effect at EA's download site recently, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Using basically the same engine and game mechanics as KOTOR I and II, it plays pretty much like the third installment of that franchise, minus the licensing fees. I downloaded the deluxe edition of Mass Effect II, ready to continue the saga of Commander Shepard.

The Good:
- You pick up where you left off in ME. You can import your character model, and the decisions he/she made, though no experience or skills transfer.

- The writing and voice acting are excellent.

- The universe of the original ME is still here, but expanded and enriched.

- Where you aim is where you hit.

- Graphics have been kicked up. Models are higher poly count, and textures are more detailed.

- You can customize your cabin now, as well as your clothing and armor color. It isn't essential to the plot, but it adds more personality to the game. Remember to feed the fish.

- Bypass and hacking mini-games are a little more contextual, and less forced than the "circular frogger" mini-game of ME.

The Bad:
- This is a different game engine than ME, and as others have said, many of the RPG elements have been stripped down. There are fewer skills, with fewer steps. Ammo types are now a skill, and after you've used one skill, you have to wait for the recharge time to use any other. So if you decide to switch ammo types in a fight, find a place to hide before you can use AI hack.

- Levels are smaller, and linear now. There is little or no 3rd person exploring. You will proceed from one "shoot house" (with liberally distributed cover, a few exploding barrels, and a few breakable boxes) to the next. Lather, rinse, repeat.

- Squad mate AI has taken a step back from ME. I've got to babysit my team mates in ME2, while in the original ME, they usually provided effective support without me having to micromanage their actions.

- Inventory is simplified, and abstract. Upgrades now affect everyone in the group, weapons choices are paired down (though you can still pick different weapons for each team mate), and figuring out the difference between different weapons is reduced to comparing text descriptions (or going to the wiki). I liked the stat comparison feature in ME better.

- Your squad gains back health during combat, as well as barriers (shields), so combat becomes a rate game. Do damage at a faster rate than you take it. ME's weapon mechanics were a refreshing change, forcing you to manage heat buildup with tactics and modifications, sadly lost with ME2's regression to ammo clip mechanics.

- Looting lockers/crates is largely gone, along with trying to find a set of MercVIII armor that fits a Quarian. I miss customizing weapons/armor/ammo/upgrades for each character.

- Combat is FPS standard now, with a few glitches. Cover is essential, but I've occasionally gotten "hung up" and unable to shoot from cover. Hopping over low barriers is possible, but only using the same key used for taking cover. So you have to take cover before you can hop over it. Combat is much more frantic in ME2, and getting lost in the button-mashing can be frustrating. Save often.

- The map function is largely absent now. Maybe this was to preserve the surprise of the next shoot house, but it makes figuring out where you're going (or remembering where you've been) a pain.

- Some of the remaining RPG elements are counter-intuitive, or just random. I'm playing as a Paragon (good guy), which apparently includes jacking people up to intimidate them, and trading my good name for shopping discounts. Who knew Japandering was virtuous? I'm still trying to figure out how I garnered the few Renegade (bad guy) points I've gotten. I think the writers designated some of these points with a dart board.

- Mining resources in ME2 is a mind-trap for anal-retentives like me. Without knowing how much of each resource I'll need to allow for researching upgrades, it's easy to get stuck in the mind-numbing rut of "must...scan...last...planet...for...Palladium." Give me back the keys to the Mako, please. At least I could shoot things with it.

Bottom line:
ME2 is still fun, but it atrophies a lot of the RPG stuff I found fun in ME, and pumps up the FPS stuff (with cookie-cutter FPS mechanics) I didn't think needed pumping up.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2010
I must first admit that I believe the first Mass Effect to the better game. But don't take that to mean that this is a bad game. Far from it, this is game in of itself is a masterpiece of game play and story telling. The combat is more enjoyable this time around with an overhaul to the cover system that both you and the enemy AI utilize. In addition you get the standard Bioware squad members who you recruit and can do missions for (if you want the mission to succeed this is imperative). These characters are for the most part wonderfully structured and along with the old and new faces you will meet along the way make for another great sci-fi adventure. Plus how can you not like Martin Sheen playing the Illusive Man?

While I do miss the old Citadel, the old upgrade system, and some former squad members these are small issues in the scheme of things. Did Bioware maybe take a safe approach to the sequel? Perhaps but lets not forget this is a buildup for what promises to be an epic finale in the trilogy. Finally a tip of the hat to EA for not including DRM in this title. 2K games opted to do continue using this ineffective and intrusive copy-protection method in Bioshock 2. I would encourage folks to buy this game to support publishers who don't use DRM as well as to support developers that make good games.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2011
Mass Effect hit the 360 and PC by storm , bringing to the table a fantastic Sci-Fi RPG that I personally found incredibly addictive. While the formula for Mass Effect 2 went through some changes, the game that came out of the oven might just be superior to the original (Depending on your view)

*** I own the STEAM version of Mass Effect 2 so I can not comment on the DRM included with a physical copy ***

GAMEPLAY
A majority of the changes between ME and ME2 happen here in the gameplay department. If you played the original ME then you pretty much played ME2. The game is an RPG w/ sci-fi and shooter elements to it. When you aren't landing on planets to explore for salvage, distress beacons, storyline missions, side missions etc you are engaging in RPG based dialogue segments.

Dialogue: If you ever played Neverwinter Nights or Elder Scrolls when in conversation you will be presented with dialogue options that will affect the outcome of your conversation. A simple slip of the tongue could end up giving you Paragon or Renegade rep (good or bad). More rep you have in one category the better the opportunity to pull off a special rep action. For example if you are pretty high in the Renegade rep, during dialogue you might be able to whip out your pistol and threaten the person for information (earns you MORE renegade rep) Through the dialogue the storyline will get deeper and you will learn secrets about your crew, even affecting the ending of the game.

While dialogue has remained the same from ME, the combat has gone under some major changes as well as character customization. GONE from ME is the ability to custom outfit your characters with gear. This has been replaced with a simple load-out screen and passive boosts to overall effectiveness in combat through the Tech Lab. Also gone is the advance leveling system. While the system is similar to ME, your crew has gone from upwards of 10-15 skills down to 4-6. These changes remove much of the RPG "loot/customization" element that ME had in it but makes ME2 a lot easier for the casual fan to pick up.

Combat: Combat had very little change. The only real MAJOR change to the combat system was the introduction of ammo clips. This replaces the "overheat" method from ME, and turns combat into more of a 3rd person Shooter w/ abilities. Depending on the class you pick in the beginning you will be able to unlock special abilities. These could be as simple as Cryo Ammo(bullets slow enemies) to abilities like WARP and OVERLOAD. The classes available cater to all forms of play-style. From the gun-happy soldier to caster based players who enjoy biotics.

* The mix of RPG Dialogue, planetary and galactic exploration, third person shooter combat mechanics make Mass Effect 2's gameplay some of the most addictive play around.

GRAPHICS / SOUND
The graphics on the PC are fantastic. With settings turned up pretty high the game looks great, armor and biotics have great effects. You easily will get immersed in this game because of its graphics. When wandering on alien worlds, each planet feels different and has great backgrounds, and unique ambient effects. ** Audio is spot on. This game is like 50% dialogue / 50% combat you could say... both aspects are polished in the audio department. Main characters give fantastic performances and even extras do a great job. Weapons can sound a little primitive at times but it works in the games favor. These are futuristic weapons after all and don't rely on varying amounts of gunpowder. The sound track will also blow your mind!

STORY / REPLAY
If you played ME then you know the storyline. In fact if you have a ME save file on your PC (or 360) you can import your old character. They will start with bonuses and key storyline points will be altered based on what happen in ME. If you are buying this for PS3 or never owned a PC/360 copy of ME then the game will automatically start you "neutral" with the IDEALISTIC ending to Mass Effect based on the story written on paper. The story is of course top notch giving you plenty of changes to alter the final outcome which gives you varying endings (same overall ending just slightly different outcomes/conversations). ** REPLAY value for this game is just through the roof. A single playthrough could be 30hrs to 60hrs in length . Not only will a SECOND playthrough allow you to alter the storyline, unlock additional dialogue scenarios (be a bad guy instead of good?) I'm on my 3rd playthrough already and the game has not gotten old.

OVERALL (98% 9.8/A+)
Mass Effect 2 is a game worthy of "Game of the Year". It brings everything to the table!! Simple yet fast paced combat...In depth dialogue/storyline with great voice action. Fantastic soundtrack to help immerse you into the game. Crazy number of things to do in the game and so on. This is a game any RPG fan needs to own or at least play once. Even if you have not played Mass Effect, the opening does a good job easing you into the game w/o making you feel totally lost.
** I highly recommend this game for your collection as it is an experience that will last for a lifetime

PROS
- 30+hrs of gameplay
- Amazing voice acting / music / graphics etc
- Amazing Replay value w/ alternate dialogue and scenario paths
- Ability to alter cut scenes using Paragon / Renegade actions
- Fun mini-game by probing planets for resources (and doing so uncovers hidden mini-missions)
- Deep storyline w/ a well balanced combat system that makes this game suitable for a much broader audience.

CONS
- Changes made in ME2 take away from the RPG feel that ME had.
- Far less customization / skill variety for characters

** Pro-tip ** Travel or locate the solar system. ^_^ Once there go into an orbit around Uranus. Attempt to probe it ^_^ that's all I will say.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2010
Pros:

The story is fantastic. Playing 20 hours in I almost felt bad for every extra minute I put in because I knew it put me closer to the end. And with a story this good you really don't want it to end. I tried to complete every quest I could find, my entire play though lasted 30 hours total.

The gameplay is also very good, for a third person shooter. Sure they took out a lot of the RPG elements from the first game, but I enjoy 3rd person shooters too. If you like 3rd person shooters you'll like this. If you're really craving for some hardcore RPG, look somewhere else.

Driving around in the Mako to explore a planet in the first game to me is the worst part of it. Thankfully in this game they took that part out. No longer do you have to drive through miles of empty areas to get to the part of the planet that has the "anomaly". In ME2 you just land there directly. Much better IMO.

The areas are a lot more varied now. No longer will you have to fight through baddies in what seems like the same rooms again and again. The "towns" are not quite as open world as an RPG like Oblivion, but still very detailed and very much alive.

Cons:

This is nitpicking but I really don't like how they implemented the helmet wearing system. Basically you can only choose to wear or not wear a helmet from a single specific terminal aboard the ship. Once selected you will wear the helmet throughout the entire mission! No choosing while playing the mission. Why is this a con? Well, it looks stupid for Commander Shepard to not be wearing a helmet during battle while wearing an awesome piece of armor. But then it is equally ridiculous to be wearing a full battle helmet while in a completely safe part of a town, like talking to a diplomat in his office. Nitpicking? Sure, but it annoyed me enough to write it in this review.

Other Thoughts:

The game uses a simple disc check as DRM. It does not place any SecuRom registry entries on your system (I checked).

In order to change more advanced video settings, you will need to run the configuration utility. Also I have not found a way to change mouse sensitivities. Thankfully I have a really nice mouse that allows me to lower DPI settings to compensate for the game's default high sensitivity.

Registering with the Cerberus Network allows you to download some DLC, which come in the form of .exe files that can be backed-up to an external drive and used multiple times.
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26 of 35 people found the following review helpful
I'd been eagerly anticipating Mass Effect II (from here forward ME2) for a long time, especially once I learned that EA was doing away with the invasive DRM that crippled ME1. I pre-ordered mine and started playing as soon as Steam unlocked it. I've played about 30 hours, and have developed some opinions based on that game play.

First off, the excellent bits:

1) Graphics are great, and run smoothly even on mid range graphics cards.

I run two 4870s in crossfire, but even my friend with a HD4670 can run all settings on high with 2x AA. That's really impressive for a game that is this visually appealing. Cut scenes are very well done and even well 'acted' since all character animations were based on green screens. This might be the game with the most lifelike human facial expressions, movements, etc. that I've ever seen. It pretty much pushed gaming forward in the same way Half Life II did a number of years back.

2) The characters and storyline are for the most part excellent.

Sheppard is back (and really back if you kept your ME1 saved game--you can start off right where you left off) and is better than ever. I love the voice actors they have for him/her and I love the voice acting in general. They went after some top-shelf talent including several of the cast of Battlestar Galactica for voices including the amazingly good Michael Hogan who's voice is spot-on perfect. Martin Sheen does the voice for Illusive Man and gives some respectability to another Smoking Man/G-man cliche character who would otherwise just be irritating (Seriously EA can't you have a little more imagination that this?). With a few exceptions characters are multifaceted and engaging. Interestingly, Miranda (the main female companion) is the most shallow and really doesn't interest me that much as a character. To bad, because both the Asari and Ashly from ME1 were amazingly rich and interesting characters. While it's likely Ash is coming back (no spoilers, she's shown in multiple of the trailers), so that might improve the 'relational' aspect of the game. Basically you can hit on just about anyone of the opposite sex as your Sheppard, which is pretty funny at times.

3) Dialogue options are numerous and occasionally very funny or very sad.

You can spend a lot of time talking to characters and learning a lot about the universe. These rarely open up new missions/options however, and I wish they'd done a better job of making conversation bring about new results or opening new missions. The only dialogue options that appear to lead to new things are those directly tied to the Paragon/Renegade options (you can pursue being good or bad in the same way you do in all Bioware games).

4) The universe is more varied and detailed than ME1.

Planets have a variety of flroa/fauna and cities and interiors have a lot more diversity. Omega is particularly good and really does feel like a seedy space station similar to Nar Shada from the Star Wars universe. Planets feel unique, not just another ball of dirt you drive a vehicle around on finding junk. I've heard a few complaints that Normandy II doesn't have a Rover--to me that is an improvement as I found the driving around bits to be tedious and didn't really add much to ME1.

5) Normandy II is gorgeous. I love it. Enough said--check it out for yourself.

6) Powers are more useful overall.

They have limited the number and you could argue 'dumbed' the game down in this area, but my initial disappointment with the leveling system has been replaced with a respect for it's simplicity and usefulness. This is not a complex or deep RPG, but it provides enough of that element to keep me engaged.

7) They've broadened the romance options in the game to allow for a grater number of choices and outcomes. This adds some interesting texture to the game, especially if you are playing a female Shepherd. Allowing for some inter species romance (outside of the Asari) really make things interesting.

_______________________________________________

The Bad:

1) The combat system is nowhere near as good as I had hoped.

First off: They added clips. Seriously a huge mistake. One of the things I liked about ME1 was its avoidance of cliched clips/ammo/crates. Heat buildup was a very interesting alternative that ME1 used and it had real advantages (primarily not having to run around collecting clips to keep weapons ready). I wish they'd NOT changed this.

From problems with combat tactics being totally cover dependent (more on that to follow) to squad behavior that defies reason, to certain weapons just feeling useless, the whole combat just feels like a muddle and not nearly as fun as I had hoped. The cover system is just plain bad: you will take cover, but hit the wrong side of a square/rectangle which leaves you open to fire--getting unstuck and back to the correct edge takes far too much time as the cover feels 'sticky' and doesn't allow for repositioning easily. Secondly, when you take cover, so does your team, even if they have superior position and firing lines. There is no way to get them to bloody charge when you want them to (especially if you are using the Krogan armed with a shotty) accept endlessly point them in the right direction using Q/E keys. I find that getting them to do anything tactical is a nightmare, and so playing on anything north of Veteran difficulty is very, very hard.

The weapons are disappointing big time. The sniper riffle is over the top powerful in a way that makes the other weapons nearly useless by comparison. The shotgun is a prime example; there is no effective way (that I've discovered at least) to employ it like you could in ME1, whipping around corners and head-shotting several enemies at close range. It feels useless. Similarly, the assault weapon class also feels very useless. Pistols and the sniper riffles own the type of combat ME2 provides.

Because of this, certain squad members feel much less useful than others, and my usual preference of having a shotty weilding Krogan for taking territory quickly and brutally just doesn't work in ME2. Sad. Basically if you arm all three team members with sniper riffles you can just waltz through almost every level very easily, since as soon as the sniper riffle is out of ammo, you just switch to the second best weapon like the Hand Cannon.

2) Mini games are lame.

Most of the mini games are lame. Especially scanning planets which takes forever, but is also mind numbingly repetitive. They did an ok job on all the in-mission ones which feel short enough to not distract from the overall immersion factor.

3) Certain characters just feel stereotypical or boring.

No more WREX. My favorite hands down from ME1. The sad Krogan they replaced him with just doesn't cut it. The new Krogan shouts things like "Right on your A$$" in combat. Not very Krogan like or threatening--it reminds me of some of the lame things the soldier shout in Far Cry I.

Miranda is shallow. She just is. And why doesn't she have any armor? I know that she's for teenage fantasy world kids, but surely she could use some body armor just like Sheppard/other characters? This is a game designed for teenage boys when it comes to the female characters--sad that Bioware and EA don't recognize that there is a small (but growing) number of female gamers who would appreciate characters who are not so 'sexed up.' I'm not being prudish, just asking that female characters be given some semblance of realism and likability for more than being hot.

(SPOILER ALERT--SPOILER AHEAD)

Garrus? Really? He was lame in ME1 and they brought him back and not WREX?

4) DLC has been a disappointment so far (once I even got it working).

EA botched the DLC release when the game came out. I was unable to log into 'Cerberus' their online authentication server until days after the game release. Typical EA customer service nightmare ensued.

Once I got my DLC, it was pretty lame:

a) Inferno armor = poor quality and much worse than what you get soon into the game
b) Normandy crash site = ok; 5/10

I hope they release better stuff in the future, like some of the really good Fall Out III DLCs. Maybe something that introduces a new character or powers or a set of missions that is expansive in more than a superficial way.

5) There is a real lack of meaningful bosses in this game. There were few in the game in general, and the only two that felt challenging were the final boss and the boss of the Krogan's loyalty mission. ME1 had a number of diverse and entertaining bosses that ME2 sadly lacks.

6) The game is shorter and feels 'smaller' than ME1.

While art direction and locations have been improved over all, the game just feels small in many ways. For example, the Citadel has been made tiny by comparison to ME1 (probably because people complained about having to run around too much) and all the other 'worlds' are just as small. It makes it feel like you land on a whole planet just to explore a tiny warehouse full of small rooms. There are no real expansive levels that give the sense of being on an actual planet. I remember that KOTOR I and KOTOR II really were able to capture that feel, even with much inferior graphics. ME2 offers environments that are just linear, boxy, and small.

The game ends too soon--I can't really say I felt like I got enough game play for my dollar, especially compared to a game like Fallout 3 or even Oblivion. Different sorts of games I know, but I thought there would be MUCH more content than there is. (I found all N7 missions and there are only about 10 of them vs. 30+ in ME1).

Conclusions:

ME2 is a great game. It's not perfect, but it's still well worth buying and playing. It doesn't quite live up to all the hoopla pre-release. It's not god's gift to gaming, but the strong story elements keep the game entertaining even when the combat isn't spectacular. For a team style game, ME2 is certainly rudimentary with leveling and powered minimized. Think of it as a movie you get to play through and you'll like it more. Hardcore RPG gamers will be left disappointed, but the average game fan is going to love ME2 for all the things that it does right.

____________________________________________________
Some responses to comments:

To those who feel I'm being too critical:

This game has been the most highly promoted game I've ever seen. Cross platform, mass appeal, and marketed intensely, it's safe to say this game has been hyped by everyone from EA to web pages devoted to gaming. Because of that, I think it's fair to be more critical of this game than others out there, since expectations were set so high. EA and Bioware have a history of making great RPG party style games (when they've not been crippled by DRM) such as KOTOR I, KOTOR II, etc. I feel that they should progress and learn from older games and IMPROVE from game to game in meaningful ways. I expected ME II to be that much better than ME I, and honestly, I found it to be a great game, but not a big step forward for Bioware. I may be more critical than the casual game fan, but that's because I genuinely love games and want to see them move forward in excellence. ME II is NOT A BAD GAME, and if any of you read into my summary that I dislike it or think it sucks, you need to read the review again. I tried to be very honest about what I really liked and what I didn't, with no agenda other than evaluating the game.

Thoughts on the female characters:

I do feel like the female characters in this game (with the exception of the Quarian who is fantastic) are shallow and stand in as mere sex symbols more than characters. Deep V neck armor (seriously, the Justicar should be on the front of one of those cheezy fantasy novels), form fitting outfits that defy logic for someone engaged in combat, the list goes on and on. I'm not opposed to SOME of the females being of that variety, but COME ON, give us a few characters that a female gamer can actually relate to! Not to mention EA/Bioware's strange inclusion of frequent lesbian gay relationships but not a single male gay relationship. This is strange considering the game's extremely flippant take on sexuality in general (inter-species relationships, pole-dancing in clubs, e-mails/coversations throughout the game about sex). I guess in the super open and futuristic world of ME II there are a whole race of space babe lesbians (Assari) but not a single gay male? This is a pandering double standard designed to appeal to juveniles who think girls getting it on is 'hot' but will shout epithets over TeamSpeak playing Halo. I'm not saying any game should support any agenda what-so-ever, only that that Bioware should take some notes from guys like Robert A. Heinlein and make the world they create be 'honest' and not manipulative.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2011
I didn't play the first Mass Effect, so I'm new to this series. However, I have been a fan of Bioware games since Baldur's Gate, so I thought that I would give Mass Effect (ME2) a shot. Glad that I did. This is one of the best games that I have played in the past ten years. It's a well-polished, entertaining sci-fi thriller with good controls, great graphics, memorable characters, and a vast galaxy to explore. If the game has a flaw, it's the main story line--you know, small team of unlikely heroes defeats galactic threat against overwhelming odds. It's the usual sci-fi fare. Nonetheless, the good stuff is in the details, and ME2 gets just about everything right.

Gameplay: The game is largely a third-person shooter, with a good dose of roleplaying and exploration. The shooter part is entertaining and accessible and gives each battle a bit of flare. Over the course of the game, you gain a number of high-powered weapons and upgrades, which make firefights more dramatic. The roleplaying elements mostly involve upgrading a few abilities of your character and his/her allies, as well as making various decisions about quest plots. The characters in the game are well-developed, and your teammates have their own stories and quests for you to accomplish. There are dozens of quests in the game. Some are part of the main quest; others are related to your teammates. Additionally, exploring the galaxy can open up a number of optional quests, which are typically short but imaginative. Many of the quests have multiple stages and help to flesh out an intriguing story or character. The game is worth playing a second time just to see how differently some of the quests turn out based upon your decisions. The ending, which is exciting but inconclusive, obviously sets up the sequel (ME3).

The team structure of the game works quite well. You can usually take 2 teammates on missions. For the most part, they hold their own in combat and don't have pathfinding issues. Most teammates are talkative and add an illusion of realism to the game. The diversity of species in your squad makes for some interesting matchups, though I found all of my allies likable. You can even start romances with selected characters, though the game seems to limit you to only one such coupling per playthrough.

Graphics: ME2 is a gorgeous game. Character models and animations are life-like, and the environments are beautifully rendered. The game has a lot of cutscenes which could be right out of a first-rate sci-fi movie. The game is well optimized, and I had no trouble playing it with a Geforce 8800GT video card on 1680x1050 resolution (mostly high settings). A lot of care was put into creating the lush visuals, which give the game a very immersive quality.

Sound: Like the graphics, the game has high-production values in the audio area as well. All of the voice acting is good, and the weapons, ships, explosions, and so forth are convincing. The soundtrack is fine, and the music generally fits the mood of events.

Technical issues: The game is extremely well polished, at least with the 1.02 patch applied. In over 35 hours of gameplay, I did not experience a single crash, freeze, or other technical error. This is rather amazing for a PC game. ME2 comes with a decent manual. Very importantly, the game has a very reasonable DRM system. You need only have the disk in the drive--no need for any online registration or authentication that would otherwise make this single-player game dependent upon an online server. I really do hope that they keep this system for ME3.

Replayability/Value: Given that I bought the game here at Amazon for $15, it is one of the best deals out there. It is worth the original asking price of $50, so I definitely got my money's worth. The game's flaws are minor, such as a rather conventional main storyline, some gratuitous profanity, and a bland but necessary mini-game involving mining planetary resources. However, the cinematic and technical achievements of the game are such that these minor flaws are just quibbles.

I will replay this game again at some point (it takes about 35-40 hours to complete), but for now I'm looking forward to ME3. I highly recommend ME2 to anyone who likes shooters, roleplaying games, or simply a well-told and exciting story. You do not need to have played the first game in order to understand and enjoy this one.

Pros:
+gorgeous presentation, high-production values
+well-formed and memorable characters
+interesting quests and moral dilemmas
+great visuals and voice acting
+accessible controls and gameplay dynamics
+reasonable DRM
+does not require a playthrough of the first game

Cons:
-very typical sci-fi plot
-gratuitous profanity

Rating: 4.5 stars
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2010
In anticipation of ME2, I decided to buy ME1 (which I played through a couple years ago but on Xbox 360) while it was on special on Steam, and play through some of it to refresh my memory of that great game. I was surprised to find that ME1 looks absolutely spectacular on the PC, versus merely very, very good on the Xbox 360. I made myself comfortable with the controls and the play "flow". And of course I rediscovered those things that irritated me as well.

When I finally got ME2, I was anticipating it to be as big and as epic as ME1, but even better, bigger, and more beautiful.

What I got was a SEVERELY dumbed down game that certainly looks a lot prettier (in many ways, not all), but that simply does not seem to be the RPG that the first one was.

You're no longer working with people whom the universe respects (i.e. no longer working with the galactic leaders). You are working under some pretty important people that the galaxy beholds, but it's jut not the same. You're a mercenary now, no longer a military soldier, yet you're constantly told that you are "exactly the same as you were before". I suppose the game would be somewhat boring and less original if it just continued on with you working for the folks you worked for before, so that's not necessarily a bad thing, it's a good thing. What bothers me is how heavily the shift of focus changes to your new boss, as if it was all about your boss. It's not.

I got ME2 because it was rated very highly and everyone kept talking about immersion. Let's talk about immersion...

Every time you complete a mission, you get a Doom 2 style "Mission Completed" arcade-game-like screen that tells you the stats of what you accomplished. I don't think that's immersion. That's arcade gamey.

Every time you get on an elevator, a destination UI pops up asking you where you want to go. Okay, so they removed one of the annoyances of ME1 (waiting on elevators). But I don't think that's immersion. That's arcade gamer impatience. Honestly, watching the walls slide as you're on the elevator was one of the things that I thought made ME1 most immersive, because there was no loading screen or cutscene, it was seamless and made the world seem huge. What would have been a fairer compromise? Admit that the elevators were too slow in the first one and make them five times faster. Grab a rail and hold on! This is the distant future, after all, not the 21st century; the ship's elevator should be akin to a turbolift.

You no longer have inventory. What is an RPG without inventory? In fact, in the absence of inventory, I can't really consider this an RPG anymore. It's a shooter. Grab your gun and go. You can't select upgrades for your gun and fit them anymore. You have to have your gun upgraded in the lab. Where's the fun in that? Daddy can I go to the bathroom? Can you help me?

Selecting your friends to go out into combat with you reminds me of those paper cut-outs I used to use as a child, which I glued onto popcicle sticks and we'd make puppet shows out of them. The characters are standing there in a pose, cut out, laid out in front of you, and when you select one the 2D snapshot pose zooms in slightly, as if holding a paper cutout on a popcicle stick closer to your face. What they could have done was put these characters in an animated 3D scene and have them react to selection, as with Dragon Age, but I suspect they ran out of time and threw this simple screen in as a 2-day afterthought implementation.

I found the pause-and-strategize screen rather confusing. Since you can mix-and-match your friends' skills and selected weapons with your own, it was really difficult for me to figure out who has what skill or weapon for selection. The distinguisher is established only by a dividing line that toggles based on mouse hover and click.

The graphics at the character level proved to be absolutely spectacular. Really, I think this was the primary selling point of ME2. The richness of detail and the clear definition of model edges versus ME1 makes ME2 really stand out as a beautiful game. However, there are glitches and areas of weakness in the graphics, which are at times jarring because they are in such contrast to the usual high quality detail. Sometimes the occlusion algorithm goes a little wonky at smaller details and it looks like, for example, eyelids and mouths are flapping in the wind. The prerecorded video sequences as cutscenes are also in shockingly low-resolution and heavy compression, and at times reminded me of old Star Wars TIE fighter cutscenes from fifteen years ago, which back then I thought were awfully heavily compressed and low-detail as well.

The audio in ME2 is as spectacular as the better graphics. Really. If you approach a dance club you can hear the thumping of the bass but once you step into the club you hear the music in full. Step downstairs and into a private room and close the door, you're back to hearing thumping again. That was immersive, I'll give ME2 that one!

The Citadel's back in ME2, but not in its former gameplay glory. You cannot run the same areas (hardly any, really), and I also noticed that with all the details turned up in video settings the distant horizon looks very low-quality compared to the spectacular horizon on the Citadel at the early levels of ME1. I suppose this can be understandable since the Citadel does not take center stage as it did in ME1.

The one thing that ME2 still has that seems to make it an RPG still is the dialog system. There's a lot of chatter in ME2, every bit as much as in ME1. I want to say that it's more chattery than ME1, but I think it's about the same, just a bit less rewarding somehow. Occasionally you go through a lot of effort to meet up with someone somewhere, and discover that you wasted your time other than to fill a hole in the storyline.

The action gameplay is interesting but it's difficult to monitor your health. If you're panting heavily, hear your heart beating, and you can see veins popping out in your eyesight, you have a problem. Immersive? Sure. But it's difficult to gauge. There's no directional pain highlighting, so you don't know who's shooting from where, and sometimes you don't even know that you're "in pain" until you're almost dead. Once you take cover and wait, the heal process is near-instantaneous; immersion is lost. You can use medi-gel when you're hurting, but doing so while your teammates are still alive and kicking you'll get scolded by the UI with whining, "Nobody's hurt!" (equivalent text, not quoted word-for-word) even though you can still do it and it does heal. With that plus the health and the weapon choice all jumbled together at the center of the bottom of the screen, it really made me miss the health bars of ME1 and the distinct and easy-to-access weapon loadout window.

Speaking of the weapon loadout window, with my ME1 pre-/re-play I got myself comfortable with the UI shortcut keys that let me choose the loadout and inventory window ('I' key) and the "quest log" (sic) window ('J' key) to access my missions and side "quests", but now everything is mapped to the ESC key with mouse-click selection of, for example, Squad or Journal. I had the ESC key access to these before, but I didn't want to use that multi-step approach to getting to the desired UI. They made this a lot harder.

Overall, I feel like everyone who praised ME2 as being ME1 but perfected did a severe disservice to those of us who really just wanted ME1 again with a continued storyline and better graphics. ME2 has some severely reengineered gameplay mechanics, some of which are so dumbed down that the game has lost all what made it an RPG other than verbal chatter. Some of the changes are a complete droppage of some very important features and good ideas as a throw-out-the-baby-with-the-bathwater approach to evading criticism, which I find to be both cowardly and unwise. On the other hand, it's also money. ME2 reaches out to a broader user base, and where I am offended, someone else is happier. Great for them, but they lose my attention in the process.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2013
If anyone says otherwise than they are lying and should be fired out of a canon. The characters were real & had some serious issues and I loved hearing about each and every one of them. Sadly, this was also when EA took over to spread it's "lets put this on servers and bring forth the lag in a single player game" logic. Let's not forget the DLC of everything. ME2 is awesome despite EA taking over the franchise and ultimately giving the series a nasty case of the E-AIDS.

note---> E-AIDS: when a game company puts money and needless mulitplayer over gameplay, story, characters, common sense, and the wants of the customers.
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