Xbox 360 Review: Mass Effect 2

Shepard is looking for payback in this outstanding sequel…

The original Mass Effect was a game I enjoyed immensely. I loved the setting, the characters, the gripping story and the choices you could make. The great thing is that those choices can be imported to Mass Effect 2, so not everyone’s playthrough of Shepard’s second adventure will be the same. Of course, the game doesn’t exactly start out well for Shepard…

Those mechs are a pain to kill!

*SPOILER ALERT* The story of Mass Effect 2 picks up a month or so after the end of the first game and sees the Normandy ship hunting down Geth, but the ship is attacked by an unidentified vessel and destroys it. Most of the crew escape with the shuttle pods…except for Shepard who actually dies after being blown out of the ship as he tries to save Joker. The game then picks up two years later where the organisation known as Cerberus reconstructs Shepard with the Lazarus Project for the purpose of saving human colonies from going missing.

The story is truly gripping, you are given a new Normandy and new crew members. But before you can hunt down those who are abducting humans, you have to build your team with new members that Cerberus recommends. You also come across a few old faces during the course of the game, so there’s plenty of nostalgia for ME1 fans. The scale of ME2 is much bigger than the original, but the Mako is MIA so you’ll be flown directly to your mission objective (unless future DLC re-adds the Mako) which is a relief since I didn’t really care for the driving and combat of the vehicle.

Like I said, you can import your character from ME1. But you will still start out at Level 1, even if you had a really high level character from the first game, which is fair enough or it’d be way too easy. The game is ultimately more challenging thanks to enemies that really engage you, I’m currently going through the game again on Insanity difficulty and it’s causing me tons of problems…even with a Level 30 character.

Shepard 0wns this guy...

The RPG elements of Mass Effect have been toned down slightly for the sequel. You get XP and loot during missions, you can change your weapons at a weapon rack and get upgrades from the Normandy and shops, but you don’t have an inventory like the first game where it would get full and be forced to convert items into omni gel. It’s more simple and user-friendly, while the game itself feels more like a third-person shooter than it did the first time round. There’s a level of strategy in combat thanks to the tech and biotic powers that are granted to you and your team-mates. Enemies have to be attacked with certain things to make a dent to their barriers, shields, armour and health. The bigger the enemy, the harder they are to kill. I’m talking about Krogan and Mechs in particular, especially on Insanity.

There’s a total of 11 team-mates in the game (one available by DLC on the Cerberus Network) and each fits the story well, but they also have their own problems that you can help them with to earn their loyalty which unlocks more powers that they can use, which is ultimately worth doing. I personally tend to use Miranda and Jack for most missions, but each player will find the combo that works best for them.'s Garrus!

As with the first game, Mass Effect 2 empowers you to make tough decisions that will impact the third game, but it also entices you to playthrough the game a second time just to see the alternate side of your choices. The decisions can get Shepard laid, killed or his team-mates destroyed. Achievement hunters will be glad that they can earn most of the points in one playthrough, but it’s best to leave Insanity to a character that has completed the game once for bonuses that will help you through it, just be prepared for a hard time…

Mass Effect 2 looks a lot better than the original. Character models are gorgeous, worlds are beautiful to look at and the physics are impressive. I will say that the load times can be epic in length, but on the plus side they do give you a nice break from the action. The game does come on two discs and does require you to swap them twice…it’s odd, but it doesn’t bother me as much as it will others. Voice-acting is just superb, each character is believable and the script does not disappoint. The music is epic and fits the sci-fi theme well, overall it’s near perfect.

The Verdict

Mass Effect 2 surpasses the original game with a great story, amazing characters, an amazing universe to explore, better combat and is a more enjoyable experience. It’s as close to perfect as I could have wanted and I cannot wait for more DLC for an excuse just to play more. This is the best game of the year thus far and it’s going to take a lot to top it.