I realise I'm in the minority but I don't actually think this game is all
that brilliant. I'm not sure if it's an improvement over the original or not,
but I personally prefer the original. Okay, they've made some changes, some
good, some (in my opinion) not so good. I enjoyed this game but it didn't blow
my mind like it did apparently everyone else in the entire world. Literally
every review I've read can't seem to praise it highly enough, but I for one
don't think it completely deserves it. It's a good game, sure, but it's far
from the (insert hyperbole) game that seemingly everyone claims it to be.
My biggest gripe would be the missions and the main campaign. The core of the
campaign is devoted to recruiting your team and doing each team member's
“loyalty” mission. Those are fine, if short and somewhat linear. I just
don't think it's good enough for that to be the bulk of the game. There are
only a handful of missions involving the alien menace (the sinister and
unimaginatively named Collectors). They provide an impetus for the story and its
climax. But it terms of content it's almost a side line. The bulk of the game
is made up of short, unrelated and fairly repetitive side missions. Most of the
missions (be they plot or side) involve you simply fighting your way through a
totally linear level, punctuated with a dialog here and there to break it up.
Eventually you'll come to the climax (another dialog and/or boss battle) and
that's it, mission complete. Over and over again. Mission after mission after
mission. There are only two or three missions that deviate from this
The combat follows the formula of entering a room or similar area, taking
cover behind the piles of crates or architectural features that are suspiciously
always present, while the enemy does the same, then popping out and blasting
away at them until they're all dead. Then proceed to the next area and do it
Much improvement has been made to the combat itself though, not least the
removal of the enemies constantly spouting the lines “Enemy is everywhere!”
And “Hold the line!” Combat in general is fun and satisfying, if
This game is very, very heavily focused on combat. You could argue that it is
leaning more toward a third person shooter than a role playing game. It's still
a role playing game, but I think it would be best described as a third person
shooter with some role playing elements, and very high production values.
Some of the role playing mechanics have been watered down or
“streamlined”. For example there are only half the skills of ME 1 (and three
of them are special ammo types). All of the skills are associated with combat.
There is no decryption skill to unlock containers, there's just an (albeit
improved) mini game. There are no persuade or intimidate skills, that's handled
differently now. There are also fewer powers, at least in my preferred class of
Infiltrator. In ME 1 my Infiltrator's class powers were Shield Boost,
Overload, Marksman, Damping, Sabotage and Immunity. In ME 2 I've got just
three; Tactical Cloak, AI Hacking and Incinerate (a sort of fire ball, as if
this was Dungeons and Dragons or something). I got so bored with this class
I restarted as a Soldier so I could use all the weapons and at least get a bit
of variety that way.
When you get hurt you no longer have to apply medi-gel yourself. If you take
damage you automatically regenerate. If you're taking a real beating all you
need do is take cover until your health comes back up. No need for a health
meter. You only need medi-gel to revive companions who have been knocked out in
combat. Although this makes sense to some degree because your suit is
automatically applying the medi-gel every time you get hurt, I didn't like it.
It reminded me too much action shooters.
Some other changes or “streamlining” are the complete removal of the
inventory and any ability to customise weapons. I'm aware some people love this
aspect of the game, and I'd be the first to admit that ME 1's loot system was
horrible, but I think a happy medium could have been found instead of just
ripping it out completely. There are far, far fewer weapons and no new armour.
When you find a new gun it upgrades and replaces your old one of that type. You
can revert to your old one but you can't sell it (you can't sell anything
actually). And you will only find a couple of each type throughout the entire
game. You can buy or find upgrades for your weapons that give bonuses, for
example a ten percent bonus to damage, that usually effects all the weapons of
that type for the squad. But customising each weapon with heat sinks and barrel
mods and whatnot is gone. And there are no other armour suits than the one you
start out with (not including DLC). Again you buy upgrades for individual body
parts that change the appearance and offer bonuses. It looks pretty cool and you
can change the colour scheme (which is neat), but it looks like bulky, heavy
armour. If you prefer a lighter, more figure hugging look you're out of luck.
And I should also note that you can't change the armour of your squad mates.
That's a shame because for me, a fun part of the original, or just about any
party RPG for that matter, is kitting out each of my squad mates.
That's completely gone. Another victim of the “streamlining”.
I should further note while I'm on the subject, that the weapon and armour
upgrades are pretty much all there is to buy at stores. There are one or two
other pieces of gear (like a visor that gives you a boost to head shot damage),
and pets and model ships to customise your cabin with but that's it. Each store
will have fewer than half a dozen items for sale.
The graphics have been improved and it now looks better than ever, but still
runs perfectly on the 360. And thankfully there's a brightness control (which
is at least one improvement over ME 1).
The designers made an attempt to do away with the repetitive side missions
that made up the bulk of ME 1, and was one of its most serious flaws. Now each
side mission has its own unique and very pretty environment. But there are fewer
of them (if you don't call the companion missions side missions), and they all
follow the same repetitive formula (see above). But what is kind of cool is they
are now hidden away on planets and you must explore to find them.
They took the Mako out completely, for better or worse.
I like that there are a couple more hub worlds (stations or planets that you
can revisit like the Citadel). But they are not developed very well. They look
pretty, and convey a sense of busy space ports and such, but there just isn't
much to do and not much to explore. The Citadel was the biggest disappointment
of the entire game for me. I fully expected the designers to develop it much
further, expand it and flesh it out and make it an integral part of the game.
But far from expanding it they cut most of it out. Now it's just counsellor
Anderson's (or Udina) office, a bar, a few shops and two pathetic little quests.
There is one cool character there, C-Sec captain Bailey (voiced very
convincingly by Michael Hogan of Battlestar Galactica), but after you've had a
quick look around you'll have very little incentive to return, which is a
None of this might bother you of course. A great many people LOVE the game
and laud it as a huge improvement over the original in every way conceivable.
The guts of what made Mass Effect such a great game are still there; the
characters, the in depth conversation, the relationships and romances (sadly no
fem/fem or even a fem/asari romance), the quality voice acting and writing, and
the cinematic grandeur are still there. I mostly enjoyed the game and
I certainly don't regret buying it. It's just not a great game. And a great
game is what Mass Effect 2 should have been.