Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, Windows
Genre Epic RPG sci-fi sequel
MtAMinutes to Action 5
Keep Playing? Yes!
Buy from Amazon

Mass Effect 2. It is only the sequel to one of my favorite games of all time. It is only the biggest release so far in 2010, and might be for the entire year. It is only... Mass Effect 2.

All right, I'll come back down to earth for a bit. I will admit, I am very excited for this game. I haven't been this hyped for a game since Majora's Mask. But I will try not to let it interfere with my duty as an amateur video game reviewer to answer the burning question: Would I keep playing? (spoilers: YES!)

Mass Effect 2 is the latest science fiction action/shooter/RPG hybrid from BioWare. The game picks up a few years after the first Mass Effect closed with Commander Shepard still in the starring role. The original galaxy threat is still at large, but is taking a backseat to a much more pressing and immediate menace. One of the game's big features is the ability to import your Shepard from save files from the first game. This is one of the reasons I beat the original six different times with four different Shepards. Maybe a bit excessive, but I was just preparing myself for the full experience come January 26, 2010.

So here we go, the first hour of Mass Effect 2. I will be creating a brand new character for the experience. If you're interested in checking out all of our other Mass Effect series content, we've got a ton of it.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select New Game and then pick a new male Shepard. I had the chance to import a character from Mass Effect 1, but I'll pass for now. Loading... Electronic Arts presents... a BioWare production.

01 - A fiery sun appears as the camera pans back, and the Illusive Man appears. Miranda is speaking with him, and the game starts revealing what the canon Mass Effect 1 story is: Shepard let the council die during the attack against the Citadel. The Illusive Man and Miranda (voiced by Martin Sheen and Yvonne Strahovski respectively) are part of the Cerberus group, a rogue organization that is very pro-human. They know that the Reaper threat still exists, but the galaxy could only rally behind Shepard.

Mass Effect 2 Illusive Man Martin Sheen

02 - Some text appears wrapping up the end of the last game, also confirming that the humans are now leading the Citadel Council. The Normandy SR1 appears and we get a look inside of it. The ship is very familiar and some old faces appear such as Navigator Pressly.

03 - Joker, the pilot voiced by Seth Green, alerts the crew that a ship is inbound on the Normandy. It begins firing upon the Alliance ship and all hell breaks loose.

04 - Pressly is blown to the floor as the camera begins to focus on Ashley Williams (also confirming that she lived and Kaiden Alenko died). Shepard appears, but he puts his helmet on before we can see his face. I enter a quick conversation with Ashley, but then order her to an escape pod.

05 - The rest of the crew are boarding the escape pods, and they jettison away. Shepard has stayed behind to rescue Joker. We get an outside view of the Normandy and it is blown to pieces. I get control of the bombed out vessel.

06 - Joker comes on the comm and asks the Alliance for assistance, don't think they're going to make it in time. As I run around with Shepard, he holds his arm up to block the heat or bright light, not sure, but it looks cool. The sound design is impressive as I move from one deck to another and I can see into open space. The hull has been totally blown away and the explosions and loud alerts are replaced by just Shepard breathing. I have goosebumps. I take a quick look around the area and am amazed by the detail of the ship.

Mass Effect 2 Shepard N7 Armor

07 - Joker is in a sealed cockpit, and has a funny looking force field helmet on. Joker has brittle bones so without Shepard's help, he wouldn't be getting out of here. Shepard tosses the pilot into the escape pod but before he can get in himself, is rocked away. He slaps the jettison button and it launches away.

08 - Shepard is in space now, alone. He's left behind. I can see oxygen escaping from his helmet as the Normandy blows up for good. Air is quickly escaping and his breath becomes frantic. Shepard begins to topple towards the nearby planet.

09 - The Mass Effect 2 title screen appears. Shepard is dead.

10 - His body has been recovered though, and "the Lazarus project will go ahead as planned." In the Bible, Jesus revived the dead Lazarus, looks like someone is also trying to bring our hero back to life. Machines are cutting him open and repairing him. His vitals appear and I get to name and configure Shepard's looks. I'll leave it at all the defaults though.

11 - Shepard is waking up, Miranda and a man named Wilson are attending. Looks like he's under Cerberus care, for better or worse. It's a bit premature though and they frantically put me back under. Seeing Miranda right over my head through Shepard's eyes remind me of Assassin's Creed and Lucy Stillman.

Mass Effect 2 Male Shepard Lazarus Project Character Creation

12 - The facility we're in is under attack, Shepard just can't catch a break. His face hasn't totally healed yet and he's all scarred up. I get control and grab some armor and an empty pistol. I'm told by Miranda over the comm to get behind cover before some canisters blow. She also woke me up; my guardian angel.

13 - I find some ammo and the game's first bad guy appears, I take him out quickly. Interesting how the game has ammo clips now, different from the first.

14 - More mechs appear and I take a bit of damage. The screen's edges go red as I take damage like in Modern Warfare. Some scientists are shot up on the other side of a window and their blood splatters on the glass. That was a big mech!

15 - I'm giving a grenade launcher and shoot a group of mech soldiers huddling in a doorway. Very awesome. I switch back to the pistol.

16 - Miranda is in trouble, so we're heading in her direction. Hah, the mechs blow up after they're destroyed. I watch a data log on the computer and hologram of Miranda's face describes Shepard's recovery. An audio recording of Wilson tells how Shepard's recovery has cost four billion credits!

Mass Effect 2 Shepard Grenade Launcher Heavy Weapon

17 - A hacking game! Very different from the Simon Says mini-game of Mass Effect 1. You have to play a game of Memory and match five sets of symbols. Pretty obnoxious actually! The original Simon Says game just took a few seconds, this one took over a minute. I finally unlock it though and get some credits.

19 - Moving through the facility again, someone yells my name and an instant later they're blown away by the big mech. It's cool how there's audio logs now like in BioShock. Wilson believes that Miranda is jealous of Shepard because of his huge potential.

20 - Jacob from Mass Effect Galaxy appears, we chat as we shoot some guys in a cutscene. I can ask him questions about what's going on, wow, it took two years to recover Shepard! The Alliance announced he was Killed in Action and probably doesn't know what Cerberus has been up to.

21 - My new squadmate, Jacob, is a biotic and can use the new Pull power. It tosses them in the air a bit, hard to see what the difference between that and Lift is. Back to talking with Jacob, I choose to skip the questioning though and move on through the facility.

23 - Wilson comes on the comm and asks for help, he can't believe Shepard is back alive already. Man, Shepard looks awesome with his incision scars. I encounter another group of mechs and take aim at their legs, completely knocking them off. That was sweet.

Mass Effect 2 Shepard Head Shot Mech

24 - Wilson has been injured so the game takes a moment to explain Medi-gels new role, looks like it's used to revive squadmates with the Unity spell instead of actually healing them. Interesting, to say the least.

25 - Jacob tells Shepard we should find Miranda, but Wilson is apprehensive. He thinks she may be a traitor. Wilson has some engineering powers such as Overload.

27 - The trio has a conversation about Cerberus, they weren't exactly a popular group in the first game so it's definitely intriguing to be working with them now. You can even have Shepard say, "I'll never work with Cerberus," but I stick with a more neutral response. I receive +4 Paragon points for being nice I guess.

28 - I find a datapad and attempt to hack it... badly. You have to maneuver a block of text around red blocks of text? I'm really not sure. There's arrows but I don't know what they do. Let's just move on, guess I should have read the instruction manual!

29 - Another battle, it's nice to see my squad using their powers. Their effects are a lot more obvious in this game than the last.

Mass Effect 2 Shepard Miranda Wilson Dead Conversation

30 - Oh, there's Miranda... with a gun. She just shot Wilson! She says he was a traitor and I have Shepard say that he agrees with her. There really was no indication that he was or wasn't.

32 - Miranda, Jacob, and Shepard leave the station in a shuttle, at least it didn't blow up behind us. We're all sitting in the shuttle now talking about what's happened. Miranda wants to ask Shepard some questions, one of them was about Virmire and how Kaiden Alenko died during the destruction of the cloning facility. I wonder if you play as a female Shepard if Ashley died and Kaiden would be alive? Curious.

33 - We arrive at another space station and receive +4 Renegade and +2 Paragon points. The notification system is a lot better than the last. I approach a station that lets me customize my gear, both my armor and casual outfit.

34 - Haha, there's like this cowboy outfit in the casual closet, let's go with that. Wow, the options for armor are amazing. You can control the tint and highlights of your armor, this looks really awesome.

35 - I head into an elevator... no, a teleport... no, a hologram projector. Shepard's hologram appears in front of the Illusive Man and we finally meet. Martin Sheen is a great Illusive Man. Shepard jokes that he hopes Cerberus left everything... intact.

Mass Effect 2 Shepard Armor Appearance N7

37 - Humanity is under attack, whole colonies are disappearing. The Illusive Man believes the Reapers are behind all of this, but maybe not directly. I thought the Reapers were just hanging out in dark space?

38 - Shepard's first mission is to head to Freedom's Progress, the last colony to be wiped out. I can spend some squad points now, I've got two points. Since I'm a soldier (the default), I've already got Adrenaline Rush unlocked, I need to try that out. So the first level is one point, the second is two, is so on. All the upgrades have four ranks.

39 - I decide to level up Combat Mastery which gives me a boost in defense and offense, along with more Paragon/Renegade influence. I leave the remaining point for next time.

40 - Should be noted that the Start Menu is exactly the same as the first. The Mission Complete screen appears, that's odd. I get some stats since the beginning of the game, wow, so different.

42 - Loading... Shepard, Miranda, and Jacob arrive at the desolate Freedom's Progress. Snow or ash is falling. I get the feeling that Miranda is a Renegade and Jacob a bit of a Paragon. I've also received new weapons: shotgun, assault rifle, and sniper rifle to go along with my pistol and grenade launcher.

Mass Effect 2 Shepard Miranda Battle Fenris Mech Dog

43 - Jacob remarks that it looks like everyone just got up and left in the middle of dinner. Eerie. No bodies, no damage, nothing. Well, except for some security mechs. It just looks like they're local security though, but reprogrammed to kill me. Some dog like security drones also rushed us.

45 - The battles are very close quarter, the game has definitely become more of a shooter.

46 - Tali! A group of quarians appears led by Tali, one of Shepard's original squadmates. This is also the first time we've seen other quarians besides Tali. Wow, the character detail has really been upped. The quarians are here to rescue Veetor, a quarian who came here on his Pilgrimage. Shepard and Tali decide to take their groups to rescue him and shut down his security drones.

48 - Tali won't join the group though, too bad. Our groups separate. Can you melee in this game? No idea, not that I miss it from the first game, it was always a bit obnoxious. Some assault drones fly over head and I employ Miranda's Overload technique to take them down. The assault drones keep blowing up right next to me!

49 - The quarians went on ahead and tried to capture Veetor first, what's the rush? Probably just don't want Cerberus to get him. Oh oh, the quarian squad is getting shredded apart! We see about eight of them dying in various ways. Too bad, should have teamed up with Shepard! I position my squad around a garage door and Tali opens the door.

Mass Effect 2 Tali Zorah Nar Rayya Quarian

50 - A giant mech appears and I immediately use Overload on it. The thing has three health bars: shield, armor, and health. I try to tell my squad to do something... but they were dead!

51 - After I revive them with Unity, the mech blows up and the battle is won. Some fragile crates are being highlighted, can I open them? Guess not. I pick up some iridium from a broken down mech.

52 - We find Veetor, he's just staring at a bunch of computers. I have the chance to use a Paragon action during the cutscene: Shepard raises his tech arm-piece and knocks out all his monitors! Better than the alternative of like punching him in the back of the head or something.

53 - Veetor was here when the Collectors arrived, he's got video footage of them capturing the humans here. Looks like they send out a swarm of bugs first to knock them out.

54 - Miranda wants to bring Veetor to the Illusive Man but Tali adamantly refuses. I tell them that Tali can take him back to the flotilla. Shepard asks Tali to join us, but she has her own mission now. Too bad.

Mass Effect 2 Shepard Ymir Mech Freedoms Progress

55 - Shepard is meeting with the Illusive Man again, seems he already knew about the Collectors, but this confirms everything. He's explaining Shepard's mission: he needs to stop the Collectors.

56 - I can ask what happened to my old squadmates: Ashley has been promoted! So much for that Williams name. Garrus has disappeared and Liara is working for the Shadow Broker and thus can't be trusted.

58 - What about Wrex? Is he dead in the canon? That would be so sad! Glad I've got some Shepards saved up.

59 - First task is to go to Omega and recruit a Salarian scientist who can supposedly combat the Collectors' ability to paralyze their target. That would be useful. Wow, what's this? Joker can walk? Did Cerberus repair his legs, or could he always walk, just limply? Huh.

60 - He reveals the Normandy SR2, a magnificent ship that appears to be a replica of the first. The camera pans all around it and then it rockets out of the station. Mission complete, and the end of Mass Effect 2's first hour.

Mass Effect 2 Normandy Sr2

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 5

What was awesome: Mass Effect is back and better than ever! The game starts off with a huge dramatic bang and never lets up. The first hour is contained so completely with a great opening sequence, introduction of the new cast, and a solid first mission. The twists have been incredibly entertaining so far, and I love we got to see some familiar faces right off the bat.

I'm not entirely sure, but it seems the armor and weapon system has been simplified, this seems like a great change and I love how you can configure Shepard's look to be whatever you please. The last game was obsessed with having mods that would add to your equipment, but the system was cumbersome and usually once you found a working set, you never changed. Mass Effect 2 seems to have dropped system and instead allows you to change ammo type mid-battle as one of your powers. That should be very useful.

What I liked: The upgraded combat system is fun, I'm not sure if I'm totally sold on all the changes, but I believe it will be better in the long run. I do, however, love the ability to target particular body parts and either shoot them out or inflict more damage. Fighting the mechs was a lot of fun because they were the perfect example of what can now be done. Shoot the leg and it flies off. Shoot the head and it explodes.

The bullets also fly relatively slow and can be tracked by the eye. It reminds me of Gulf War footage where every few shots from a high caliber gun would shine so you knew where you were firing. It just looks great in this game.

The voice acting is incredible and the number of recognizable actors is amazing. It can be a bit distracting though as you picture that actor voicing the lines, but more often than not, the character being voiced looks like that actor, so it's not too bad. The sound design is up there with the Modern Warfare series, and you can tell EA and BioWare put mega-bucks into the production of the game. Kind of funny when Dragon Age: Origins only looked so-so.

What I didn't like: I really don't understand the new hacking mini-games, especially the datapad one. It just boggled my mind and everything I tried failed.

Gameplay: The shooting gameplay has greatly improved. Taking cover feels much more natural and the guns have a more realistic feel to them akin to Gears of War.

Fun Factor: This was some of the most fun I've had playing a video game in ages. Especially true since I loved the first one so much. If you never played Mass Effect 1, it may be harder getting into this one, so play that one first!

Graphics and Sound: The game looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous, BioWare has really outdone themselves. The voice acting is incredible, but all the well known actors are a bit distracting! The sound design as the beginning during the Normandy sequence was simply jaw dropping.

Story: The twist at the beginning was definitely unexpected, but had my heart racing and a little choked up. I love where the series is going but it's still awesome to see some old faces again.

Would I keep playing? Yes! The game has lived up to the hype so far. I now have confidence that the game could be better than the original. Play this game, buy it. Now. Go.

Mass Effect 2 Shepard Casual Miranda Jacob
"Some people call me the Space Cowboy."