Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mass Effect 2 Review

Review of Mass Effect 2


I started playing computer games at the ripe old age of 3. First game I remember playing was for C64 some 20 years ago. I’ve player nearly every game Bioware has ever made, I’ve also played old fashioned Pen And Paper RPG’s for a good part of my life so I’m no outsider to games. From that I have to say I’m disappointed in Mass effect 2


I’d give it an 85-87 score.


The story is unrealistic and most of the action is out of character when compared to how the characters acted in ME1. The dialogue is for the most part well made, but constantly feels like it was written by 14 years olds for 14 year olds. Controls are clunky, many a time I’ve leaned against a wall only to notice that for some reason Shepard decided it’s a good idea to slide up and down the wall and end up stock between floors due to the badly designed surface. Many of the dialogues involving camera movement have the camera going inside the various NPC’s by accident looking ugly and distracting. The world in general feels like a dystopia without a single ray of light where the only good guys are the ones working for shadow governments and illuminati. Because let’s face it, that’s what the illusive man represents. I for one can’t accept the fact that the same Shepard who saw his entire team killed by a thresher maw and spent many a mission hunting down Cerberus operatives and saw his superior officer murdered and fed to alien insects would gladly throw everything aside for a brand spanking new ship. It strikes me as massively out of character. Shepards willingness to abandon the systems alliance, old friends (Kaidan), the council(your status is revoked since you work for Cerberus) because he gets a shiny new ship to me seems so far outside what the Hero of the Citadel would do that its staggering. Keep in mind that the man singlehandedly defeated a galactic evil that wanted to destroy all forms of life, why would he then go into exile to work for a criminal conglomerate? The feelings of disbelief stuck with me throughout the game, each plot turn and twist more laughable than the previous from the standpoint of ME1. Finally culminating in the revelation that the collectors, the Bad Guys™ no one has ever heard of before are modified Protheans out to destroy humanity specifically with a giant dong shaped ship that wants to abduct the population of Earth. For one the plot completely rewrites well understood points from the previous game, such as the fact that when the reapers left the remaining Protheans were left behind and they starved and then died. Oh, and apparently each species sees the Asari as looking like their own species, listen to the bar conversations, the Asari are apparently mind controlling everyone to make them think they look like your species instead of something else. Old romances are completely ignored far as I can tell, you won’t get Liara to come with you since she is apparently on some kind of quest to torture and maim people because the Shadow Broker killed someone she cared about. In, what I see as a radical alteration of her character. Generally the plot feels haphazardly collected for the main purpose of driving the old cast away so they can be replaced with a more “gritty” cast. Considering that the new cast has an assassin, a serial killer, mass murderers, and otherwise “gritty” people in it. In short, the game feels like it was completely rewritten to get rid of the glimmers of hope that the original game offered, that despite things going wrong in the end with enough determination things will go right and all that stuff. The plot from the first moments to the last feels cheaply made, badly written and the reasons for splitting the cast are meant to be emotionally interesting but they are not. It diminishes from the characters. Instead of Wrex, the lovable old Battlemaster we get Grunt, a tube grown Krogan made by a mad scientist to be the perfect weapon, feel the grittiness. Instead of Liara we get an Asari “warrior monk”, an Asari that follows a strict moral code that makes her need to kill any police officer who tries to apprehend her and enjoys killing surrendered enemies by stepping on their throats, feel the grittiness. Instead of Kaidan we get a black Cerberus mercenary, feel the multiculturalism and gritty. The cast also involves a fucked up psychopath who enjoys killing people because “she had a tough childhood”, an assassin who abandoned his family to go on a quest to kill people and so forth. Most of the characters feel not just nasty, but in fact more evil than Saren from ME1. Most of the characters profess their desire to simply kill things with no real reason as to why, got in my way is the favorite reason. This group of murderers working for a secret society that wants to ensure human supremacy over all other sapient forms of life is, compared to the epic storyline of ME1, pathetic. Granted the official story is the destruction of the collectors  but the between the lines story is that no one but the murderers and psychopaths do the right thing and everyone else is just soft.


The combat system where you open doors, crouch and run from the same key is a strange choice, many a time I’ve tried to run away from an enemy only to find that the game decided I wanted to crouch behind a box on the enemy side of fire. I’ve also many a fond memory for trying to move away from cover, also by using the same key only to see the game decide that I wanted to vault over the box even if I was facing away from it. These control issues will probably get the player killed quite a few times. Combat maps are still linear with very little room for decisions on how to approach issues. You have a pipe with enemies, you go down pipe with enemies, you have 2 branches, one goes head first other goes to the flank, you take one, you kill enemies, rinse and repeat. The decision to replace the heat with ammo rewrites the combat entirely. There are also no armor, weapon or ammo upgrades. Okay, granted there is the “buy this upgrade” but no real customization, no choice of “I’ll fit my pistol to kill geth and my rifle to kill humans” or “I’ll have a very high power sniper rifle and mount it with the strongest ammo since it will overheat with a single shot anyway” and so on. Instead of a large array of potential skills and paragon-renegade persuasion skills you have 5-6 different skills, all combat related. The resource gathering side game is mostly boring hot-cold game which adds nothing to the game other than pointless hours spent listening to beep beep sounds followed by throwing a dart. The choice to have the ship on the travel screen is also purely aesthetic with no real game purpose. Since the system or galaxy map never has any other ships flying around its mostly just for “oo, look at the ship” for the first 2 minutes after that it’s just flying around slowly instead of abstraction by clicking. The side games of lock picking and hacking are repetitive and offer little to no variance. There are also fairly common nag windows and hand holding for players which I find unnecessary and degrading. Holding down right mouse button and scanning the planet after a few seconds without launching a probe the window will pop up and blink “click left mouse button to launch probes” even if you had just spent the last 3 hours mining and know damn well the left mouse button launches probes. These nag windows are common in most places in the game, including in the overly large info window on the right side of the screen which blocks a part of the screen to tell you, slowly, blinkingly and in row that you just gained a codex entry, or credits or journal entry. Longest I’ve seen this flashing info box take up a quarter of my screen was 45 seconds.


In closing, the game feels dumbed down, ret conned to fit the counter-strike players and the people who think ethics, moral, epic storylines and complex weapon, armor, or game play that requires planning and tactical planning is for l0sers.


On the good side the scenery, graphics, some animation and surfaces are marvelous. Kudos for the graphics designers.








Most of everything else, but hey, the graphics are really that good you mostly won’t notice your loving the game less and less than the previous.