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The stakes have never been higher for Commander Shepard and the Galaxy in Mass Effect 2 as you lead a desperate mission against impossible odds to stop the enigmatic Collectors from abducting human colonies, and find their connection to the Reaper threat. Along the way you make new allies and friends, and continue to build your resources for that final confrontation.

And in that vein Bioware drastically improved upon nearly all of the basic game play mechanics and the model from ME 1 and brought it to the new systems. And since this is the first edition of the game to be released on another console than Xbox has an extra added bonus to the rest of us.

Thus formed my own attraction and love of the ME series, ME 2 in particular, and provided one of the greatest and most polished game play experiences of any game that I have ever played.

Character: 9.8/10

ME 2 introduced me to the Mass Effect trilogy and thus introduced me to many of its characters for the first time. This was my first experience with Garrus Vakarian, Tali Zorah, Ashley Williams, Liara T’soni and others. It also introduced us to many series first including the Illusive Man, Miranda Lawson, Thane Krios, and the Quarian Marine Kal’Reager.

They characters were well voice acted and thanks to many of the mechanics of the game you related to them, you got to know them as you were dealing with specific problems that they faced in their everyday lives to help them deal with the mission at hand. Plus you heard from other characters in the previous ME game and got to catch up with them both as full squad mates and as cameo appearances.

Special kudos go the voice acting of Jennifer Hale, Martin Sheen, and Brandon Keener who really brought their characters alive and provided some of the most intimate and epic voice acting that I have heard from anything. Martin Sheen just worked as the Illusive Man and Jennifer Hale brought Female Commander Shepard alive in a way that no one else could, hence getting me to love the character. Also Seth Green and Tricia Helfer provided great comedy with the characters of EDI and Joker. And well too many great characters to count the more I think about it, it would be easier to list the characters that I did not relate to and even than they are some of the best done characters that I have had the pleasure of interacting with.

There was nothing ‘wrong’ with the characters per se…just that they seemed static. They never left their assigned places on the Normandy (with the exception of Samara) never truly interacted with each other outside of the missions (save for EDI and Joker) And the squad banter was at times uninspired.

Basically it was just Shepard interacting with these characters, which worked, but then it didn’t allow for character development among themselves.

Story: 9.0/10

ME 2 had a great story in a lot of ways, the abduction of human colonies is a classic, getting to the bottom of the mystery of the Collectors, discovering that they were secretly the Protheans from the long-lost eons, and the further answers about the Reapers and just why the Collectors were collecting.

But the only problem was that the vast majority of the game did not focus on this.

Sure it was all building up to the one solid moment of the Suicide Mission as you gathered resources and pieces to the puzzle to survive or not depending on your actions throughout the game. But it wasn’t really a story. Most of the events in ME 2 were unrelated to the central goal of stopping the Collectors. Sure it helped keep your team clear but we did truly not deal with the Collectors except for a couple of missions.

ME 2 was a character piece and it worked well.

Aside from that the story did provide plenty of set up for the next game in the series from everything to the Arrival DLC, to Lair of the Shadow Broker, to discovering that someone was attempting to cure the genophage, all of these would pay huge dividends and come up in big ways in ME 3. And the new characters that you were running into also helped. This is the kind of ‘arc building’ that I really appreciate.

Gameplay: 9.4/10

ME 2 made huge improvements in most of the areas from ME 1. Especially most of the areas that I complained about, there were little to no vehicle parts to speak of, and the few of them that were there were DLC and side quests, the inventory system was non existent…which was an improvement even though it did also take away from the RPG feel so it was also a negative. But other than that the exploring and side missions were well done to a point, the combat flowed more easily and made more sense, though they did add those dang thermal clips and universal power cool down.

Other then that there was not too much to complain about. The power additions were better and the cover system worked to perfection.

The only thing that really bothered me was the Side missions and occasional imbalance of difficulty. The game went from almost easy peasy against the ‘grunts’ to being atrociously hard on a lot of the bosses. Also the number of powers for your squad was a bit…dull. But the side missions over all were pointless distractions from the main mission and now that I have done them all in various play throughs I do not see myself going back to do them again.

Final Verdict: 9.4/ 10.

ME 2 since it was my first experience of the franchise from a game play perspective I did not know what to expect. On the one hand the game series sounded clichĂ©d when I had first heard about it all those years ago in Game Informer but my friends seemed to enjoy it. I didn’t have an Xbox and I normally do not go out of my way to play these types of games on my computer who either could not run it or the controls proved to be overly difficult. So I was not too eager to go out and get a game on that system that I was not sure of its mettle.

Which ultimately proved to be one of the greatest game play experiences that I have had. Sure it was buggy, sure it glitched, sure there were parts of it that were like poking me in the eye with a blazing hot poker, and part of it was not very RPGy. Though ultimately this was also my first major RPG experience that clicked with me.

But the greater package was superb, as it was for ME 3. The music was awesome, the characters were the greatest collection of characters of any video game, and the balance between action and story worked. May’ve not been the best game play experience that I ever have had, but it ranks up there, and its a game I am proud to own and proud to keep coming back to.

And hooked me on this phenomenal universe.

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