After getting through the original Mass Effect, there was a bit of a wait until Mass Effect 2 came storming out into stores. There was a host of massive changes, the graphics were improved, running and gunning was completely different and Shepard was more maneuverable. Did I mention that he/she is a zombie? Well, OK, not a zombie, but Shepard dies at the start after the Normandy is completely destroyed but is resurrected from pretty much the ground up by a beautiful Australian crime fighter. This gives us a chance to start afresh with the character in terms of abilities and appearance even if the character is imported directly from Mass Effect itself.
In this installment, you’re allied with Cerberus, the paramilitary human supremacist group that resurrected you and tasks you with investigating the disappearance of thousands of humans across far flung colonies. Many may remember Cerberus as a black ops military wing that went rogue and conducted some horrendous experiments on people in the previous game. It seems that the humans are being abducted by a mysterious race called the Collectors for some nefarious reason and it’s Shepard’s job to find out what the hell is going on. Cue gunfire, explosions and more great character interactions and funny moments. Also, playing as a renegade (the Mass Effect version of evil) is quite possibly the funniest way you could go in Mass Effect 2.
The undertone of the game is vastly different from the original. Where exploration, wonder and the unknown were the overarching themes in the first game, the locations in Mass Effect 2 are darker, murkier and the enemies and allies are far more grey. You feel more enclosed in the darker parts of the galaxy here. For instance, there are very few missions where you’re in the open, it’s mostly in corridors, fighting mercenaries, pirates and occasionally, the baddies of the game – the Collectors. Shepard is now operating out of bounds of the human government and the auspices of the other major races, therefore, the story is more personal and intimate in its delivery, each crew member you encounter, new or returning has far more dialogue and personal history than in Mass Effect.
Because of the much more personal feel, it seems appropriate that the voice acting in this game is a marked improvement on the original. It certainly helps that some big name stars are part of the cast. Martin Sheen as the Illusive Man really takes the cake and the banter between Seth Green as the ship’s pilot and Tricia Helfer as
Number Six EDI is fantastic. The voice acting and the writing for each character really makes me feel that despite being in the pits of the galaxy and fighting for what feels like a lost cause, the team that you assemble never makes you feel like you’re the only one shouldering the weight of the mission on your shoulders alone.
This was a masterful execution of a game and you could tell that Bioware poured their heart and soul into it, purely because there were lots of little injokes, great characters and it never, ever felt rushed. The fact that it has spawned some amazing and hilarious jokes within the community (especially this) shows just how good of a game Mass Effect 2 still is.