Review: ‘Mass Effect 2’

After only 26 days into the new year, gamers have already been graced with one of the top nominees for Game of the Year. With stunning visual effects, nearly no load times, an epic space opera story, and a new action system that almost ranks this science fiction RPG up with shooters like “Gears of War”.

From the very beginning, the game brings a cinematic style saved for only the highest production movies to a videogame for the first time. Not only do actors Martin Sheen and Seth Green lend their voices to the game, but the visuals and camera angles are beyond anything witnessed while playing a game. When Commander Shepard, the returning hero of the series, talks to people, he doesn’t just stand around like stiff board. All voice interactions between people involve an entire scene, including hand gestures, walking around the room, gazing off in the distance, crossing legs, even to the point of allowing the player to interrupt characters in the game, violently or kindly. Say, a certain journalist starts accusing you of being a bad person during an interview, you can actually punch her in the face and walk away in the middle of the conversation.

The strong storyline pulls from space classics like “Star Trek,” while using the veteran actors to breathe life into the characters and seamless visual environments to make the entire “Mass Effect” universe feel real. I refuse to spoil any major plot points, but the writers and directors for the scenes in this game handle plot twists amazingly and introduce new characters with romanticism and passion, something rarely accomplished outside the realm of movies and literature. Shaky camera affects often used in modern action movies are also utilized in cutscenes.

But we should be honest, this is a video game, and video games are about the gameplay much more than the cinematic quality. Fans of the original “Mass Effect” will note improvements immediately. “Mass Effect 2” plays as an third-person shooter, taking strong advantage of take-cover game play. It effectively combines gun play with special powers, allowing a wide range of possibilities with each battle. The new weapon system allows a much more noticeable change in the feel of each gun, allowing the player to feel accomplished with each new weapon unlocked. New weapon classes include SMGs, machine pistols, and heavy weapons. Another new feature not seen in “Mass Effect” is the headshot. Yes, that’s right, this is an RPG that allows you to make headshots.

“Mass Effect 2” isn’t just a great third-person shooter, but also an amazing RPG. Bioware has never let down in the RPG department before, and “Mass Effect 2” is no exception. With great character customization, easy to use abilities, and unique characters joining your squad throughout the game, the game puts accomplishment into each level up. The game also directs the player much more directly on the path through the story, instead of just leaving you to find your own way like in the first game.

Old fans of “Mass Effect” will in no way be disappointed by the changes made in the sequal, and even those who weren’t a fan of “Mass Effect” might enjoy the new combat system and the better directed story. Those who have never heard of the “Mass Effect” series won’t be lost by immediately picking up the sequel. It creates a uniquely intertwined story to the original, allowing even new players to understand the events of the first one.