(PC, Xbox 360)
The original may have received near-unanimous critical and commercial success, but don’t go into this sequel to 2007’s flawed-but-beautiful spacefaring epic Mass Effect and expect a rushed follow-up. Nope – Mass Effect 2 has had possibly the biggest between-games overhaul we’ve every seen, one that neatly corrects every flaw inherent within the previous game.
To begin with, the combat has been completely redesigned to be faster, more varied and more streamlined. You’ll find yourself constantly changing weapons, special attacks and cover, and experimenting a lot more with different characters to compensate for more aggressive, tactically varied enemies. Meanwhile, the inventory and armour systems have been pared down and refined so that you’re no longer rummaging through piles of old guns, but are instead updating and recalibrating what you already own. As a result, the game has shifted from a semi-traditional RPG to a complex shooter, complete with stat summaries at the end of each mission. It’s a brave move, but it works perfectly, and almost makes us wish they’d remake the first game with these rules – because, believe us, you want to play that before you play this.
They’ve even relegated most of the first game’s cast to cameo roles, instead focusing on a new series of allies and enemies, most of which have their own agendas and schemes. It would be criminal to reveal anything about these new characters, suffice to say that our favourite is Mordin, a troubled alien scientist given to impromptu performances of Gilbert and Sullivan. Seriously.
It would be criminal, too, to spoil the plot. We will say that there’s nothing here that comes close to the awesome plot twists and revelations contained in the first game, but this isn’t the place for them anyway.
As the middle part of a trilogy, it’s too busy fleshing out the universe, telling human (and alien) stories and hyping us up for Mass Effect 3. And boy, are we hyped.
Available now in stores.