Mass Effect 2 opens with an amazing and completely refreshing scenario. Shepherd is dead, and we see his struggling, choking corpse floating through space and burning up as he enters a foreign atmosphere. Was Bioware lying when they had said that the player can import their previous save file into this second instalment?
Hardly. Mass Effect 2 does a simply fantastic job of keeping the player guessing, dispelling claims about a derivative plot. Your Shepherd remains safe, rest assured, at least until his two-year reconstruction is complete. Believe me, a lot can happen in two years.
Visual Improvements, Atmosphere, and Sidequests
Mass Effect 2 has tapped the full potential of the engine, and it shows here. Textures appear silky smooth, and console gamers will be very pleased with the performance of the game engine when installed to the 360 Hard Drive. Texture pop is no longer a problem as it was in the first Mass Effect, and if anything, the graphics appear much smoother and varied.
Sidequests, or "boring Planet X" syndrome that plagued reviews of the first game, a mar on the face of an otherwise perfect experience, have been greatly improved. Not only is there a striking moral imperative that lurks behind each sidequest, but they now feel like more than simple fetch quests. Motivations behind each crew member are now brought to bear fully, and conflicts between crew members and their private motives may become clear as time goes on.
Some New Characters, and a Truly New Boss
Resurrected by the dead by the shady Illusive Man, a distant relative of the Cancer Man or Cigarette Smoking Man from television's The X Files, Shepherd now works for Cerberus Corporation, a multi-planetary and intergalactic corporate conglomerate that has ties to every industry and every marketplace.
The Illusive Man has brought Shepherd back for a single reason, to investigate and defeat a new threat from the Collectors, a race that seems strangely evocative of the Predator race from an earlier science fiction canon. He, and his new companions, seem to be the only hope that humanity and the other sentient races may have against the Reapers.
Flush with a new cast of characters that, if anything, seem even more life-like and animated than their predecessors (nearly all of which can be sought out during the downtime in the main narrative of Mass Effect 2), this title is prettier, nastier, and altogether more refined than the original instalment.
Between the vastly improved combat and highly streamlined inventory systems, and complimented by this array of new and inspired character and settings – Mass Effect 2 is sure to be a landmark achievement in the role-playing genre.