If you’ve been gaming for any amount of time you’ve definitely been exposed to a fair amount of hype and hyperbole that never actually ended up materializing into the end all be all that was originally promised. Whether that lie was the illusion of choice, morality or freedom that exists in current gaming narratives or some other pretentiously-delivered and ultimately underwhelming undertaking is irrelevant. We were deceived.
However, much like the archetypal battered spouse we return to video games time and again, convinced that the lies were tough love and sure in our knowledge that this time, this one game will make everything okay. Lucky for us, Mass Effect 2 is that game and, yes, everything is now perfectly okay.
Taking a huge cue from professional reviewers and rabid fans alike, developer BioWare examined, analyzed and tweaked almost every single aspect of the first Mass Effect and the result is. . .well, it’s beautiful.
Gone are the cumbersome inventory menus, annoying combat issues, frustrating planet-exploring Mako controls and repetitive side quests. In their place arrive varied and exciting side quests, a total lack of anything resembling an inventory, fast-paced engaging combat and a horrifically repetitive and frustrating planet-exploration component. Oh well, if 2 out of 3 ain’t bad then 3 out of 4 is certainly acceptable.
As far as the narrative goes, ME2 follows the further adventures of Commander Shephard and his crew of noble miscreants as they pursue the Collectors, an enigmatic alien race that happens to be the galaxy’s only lead on the Reapers and their strict policy of “Death to All Organic Life-Forms”.
While not touting a wholly original story, Mass Effect’s focus on constant choice and interaction does an amazing job of making sure that no two games are or ever will be the same. Every decision, every conversation, even your character’s gender and background make each playthrough different enough to be consistently rewarding and utterly different. It is almost impossible to play Mass Effect 2 in the exact same way as anyone else and that is possibly the greatest narrative feat of this generation of gaming.
I could go on and on about the brilliance of the dialogue tree system, the outstanding “interrupt” feature and the focus on character development that makes ME2 stand head and shoulders above its peers, but I won’t. Instead I’ll advise you to pick up a copy, lock yourself in a room with enough food and water for about 35-40 hours, ignore any phone calls from loved ones, and take a glimpse of what gaming can and should be.