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Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011

Mass Effect 2

9.8 out of 10

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The sequel to Bioware’s near-masterpiece is just as good, and now that it’s one PS3 and has a ton of downloadable add-ons, it’s worth checking out again.

Have you ever watched a really great science-fiction movie only to find that the main character totally should have made a different decision? Then you’re in luck, because Mass Effect 2 is right up your alley: imagine watching a really good, 20-hour science fiction movie and having full control over the main character’s decisions, weapons, and special powers.

All of the dialogue is voice-acted, and it’s done well. All of the worlds and characters are rendered with exquisite detail. The story, however slightly generic, makes everything feel familiar and new at the same time. You’re Commander Shepard, and it’s your job to investigate a rogue alien race known as The Collectors who are attacking colonies across the galaxy. On your quest, you’ll interact with different alien species on different planets, assembling a crew to take on some of the most terrifying and dangerous creatures in the universe.

Sound like fun? It is. The only downside is that while assembling your crew, you’ll be following a pretty simple formula: find the person, fight some bad guys, gain the person’s trust, head on to the next person. That doesn’t mean it still isn’t wildly entertaining. It doesn’t get dull, either, thanks to the fantastic combat system that lets you give plenty of orders to your crew when fighting hordes of bad guys.

Solve problems or ignore them. Help the destitute or let them die … or kill them. It’s up to you. It’s such a complex, free world that it makes watching a science fiction film seem almost obsolete.

Voice acting:
Really well done. Makes the whole experience a lot more fun.

Best power:
The ball of energy you throw at people.

Watch your tongue:
If you get on your crew’s good side, you can totally score with some of them. If pixilated video game sex is your thing, more power to ya.


Overlord Mission (Downloadable Add-on)

8.5 out of 10

In this downloaded mission, Commander Shepard finds a wonderful new space-age tank, uses it to fly around and jump really high, then proceeds to solve an entertaining little mystery: what happened at the Cerberus facility Shepard was sent to investigate?

Expect lots of Geth and some great tension as you begin to uncover what happened, and the level design and music are both fantastic. The story’s good, and Shepard gets to make some great decisions. After letting the game collect dust for so long, I’d forgotten how cool Commander Shepard is. Still, it feels kind of lonely when your cohorts never talk to you or respond to your actions—it’s a small thing, granted, but at this point they’re fully fleshed out characters and you almost expect some sort of response from time to time.

I recommend playing the download on “Veteran” difficulty.

Stolen Memories Mission (Downloadable Content)

7.5 out of 10

Let me get this out of the way first: this is a fun mission. You get a new character—a cool thief gal who can sneak up on people—and you infiltrate a party “Ocean’s Eleven” style to steal something, then fight your way through some tough hordes of bad guys. Lots of fun. And I love the fact that you get to interact with someone new, too. And she joins your cause! Great.

But it seriously takes about an hour to beat. It’s an intense hour, no doubt, and as always the voices and music and setting are well done. But it’s an hour. An hour! You’re telling me they couldn’t have set up the mission with a nice long battle instead of a simple conversation? At least that would have made it feel like it was worth the money.

Lair of the Shadow Broker Mission (Downloadable Content)

9.0 out of 10

Now this is downloadable content: a great story, great fights, and it lasts longer than an hour. In this mission, you hook up with an old friend in order to take down the mysterious Shadow Broker. In the process, you get to play investigator, fight a Spectre, battle through a ton of tough mercenaries, and then battle a ton more outside of a massive space ship. Then, as if that isn’t enough, you get to take on the Shadow Broker himself.

Then you’re rewarded with even more goodies, including some new “investment opportunities,” weapons and “dossiers” on your characters. What does the Shadow Broker think of your favorite cohorts? It’s worth exploring. Fantastic story, good interactions, and lots of moments where you’ll probably be overwhelmed and die. Loved it.