Thoughts on… Bioshock 2

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The star of Bioshock wasn’t Jack, the Big Daddies or even Andrew Ryan – it was Rapture, the underwater city that acted as a living backdrop to the dramatic events of the first game. It was such a brilliant setting but still most treated the news of a sequel with contempt, thinking of it as unashamed cash in (a situation not helped by certain 2K executives talking about milking Bioshock for all its worth). I was less than interested in it and didn’t even think of picking it up despite the promising previews. Well, I finally caved, picked up a Steam copy and have to say I was glad I did.

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Bioshock 2 takes place in 1968, eight years after the events of the first game. This time around you aren’t playing as an outsider coming in, but instead as one of the Big Daddies the gentle protectors. However, you aren’t any of the normal kind but instead you’re one of the Alpha Series, the prototypes before the designers decided that maybe it was a bad idea to give these madly devoted bodyguards the ability to throw fire and/or bees when they feel that their Little Sister is in danger. You have a very special bond with her which is slightly ruined when you are forced to blow your own brains out on New Year’s Eve 1959.

A large amount of the plot is based around the bond between you and your linked Little Sister, Eleanor. Throughout the game she is constantly in contact, offering you advice and leaving little gifts of plasmids and tonics lying around along with a jar of fireflies. However, Eleanor is the daughter of the new supremo in Rapture, Sofia Lamb (and before anyone shouts spoilers, this is revealed in the first 5 minutes) and Sofia is not too happy to see you back. There is a lot of times where Sofia, just like Ryan in the first game, berates you over the radio for coming in and wreaking the world and also pulls the stunt of locking you in a place and almost killing you (to a point, I wonder if Rapture included an “evil methods of revealing your identity” course). Lamb doesn’t quite have the same personality as Ryan or even Frank Fontaine (who has some brilliant audio diaries once you find his office) so you never feel like she is a major threat, she is just some crazy with a radio. Its also a bit weird that you only find audio diaries that mention Lamb in the areas in this game, when you are told that Lamb’s ideas spread through the whole of Rapture. That said, the diaries featuring socialist Lamb squaring off against capitalist Ryan in several debates are among the best sections of plot I’ve ever heard.

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The areas of Rapture you’re shown this time around are all new with no repeats from the first game. It is mainly the pleasure areas, such as Lamb’s own garden where her and her bunch of crazy artists hung out thinking revolutionary thoughts (until they met a watery end) or Siren’s Alley, an area that went down hill until it became the Red Light district of the underwater city. They show a different side, yet they still share the look and feel with the cobbled together turrets, Circus of Values vending machines and the ever present dripping water (including a smart thing where if you stand under a drip you hear it clanging off your suit). The real standout is Ryan Amusement’s, a museum setup to explain the principles of Ryan to the children of Rapture. Its also a good place for those who never touched the first game to get some of the history of it, as well as be a little ironic. It shows just how good the level designers are when you wonder round the gift shop and notice the little details.

As well as loopy Lamb and Eleanor, you also meet some other new characters. The best of these, and one of my favourite characters from both games, is Augustus Sinclair. You may recognise his name from Sinclair Solutions, the makers of the plasmids. He is you characteristics southern gentlemen, whose entire goal seems to be to make money. He holds quite a few secrets about Rapture, Ryan and you and seems to drip feed them as you go along. He also acts as your guide through Rapture while also reminding you of your goal. He is a brilliant character and his eventually fate, while not upsetting, did leave me in the “Fuck You Lamb” frame of mind for the ending. Yet he is but one of many characters who you have to deal with, including two of Lambs lieutenants. I do have to say that the Bioshock guys know how to introduce their characters as pre splicing version before you enter their area – for example, one character is a priest so in the area before you see him, you find an audio diary of one of his sermons. This method is brilliant as it leaves you mind open to consider just what may have happened to the voice of the past you hear. Similarly to this is some of the audio diaries that relate to the previous game and Project WYK. Its a little thing that helps to link it to the previous game while also revealing some more of the goings on behind the scenes of Rapture

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Your trek through Rapture also brings up several moral choices. As well as the Little Sisters, you also meet three major players in Lamb’s rise to power and have the option weather to spare them or take your revenge. Each of them also has a link to you, either back to your mysterious past or having just spent the last level trying to kill you. The choices are included but they feel a little bit manufactured. The fact a cowardly character simply stand in front of you as you walk towards him with a drill kind of ruins the effect – you’d think he’d be backing away as fast as possible. However, these moral choices do affect the ending in a way that is really really good. I can’t tell you exactly what’s its like as you have to see it. But the good one had tears starting to appear as it was just what you wanted.

So that’s all the plot line, but Bioshock 2 is still a first person shooter at heart. It’s the exact same mechanics as in the first game, with a selection of weapons and plasmids to use. There are a couple of tweaks such as the ability to dual wield weapons and plasmids which help to make the gameplay a lot quicker and faster paced. The new weapons (all designed to be similar yet different to the first games selection) feel a lot more powerful so gun battles play better. In fact the combat overall is just slicker, making it more fun and less of the chore it was first time around. Similarly, health and eve (aka plasmid juice) are handled in exactly the same way. Hacking (or plumbing as it was the first time around) has been changed to be a slightly easier way of simple button presses. The aim is to land it in the green or blue areas but landing it anywhere else ends with either 1000 volts or a flying drone wanting to put a couple of .45 rounds in your arse. Now I had no issues, but many people who are colour blind have complained about the choice of colours which can lead it them being unable to differentiate between items galore or face ventilation. Researching is also back, but now in video. The idea is the same (do research to get bonuses) but now you take a clip instead of a still. In the video time you have to use a mixture of guns and plasmids in order to gain the best results. It works better then turning you into a photography but it would be better mapped to a single button as opposed to being a separate weapon as you can end up selecting it by accident mid-firefight

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The ending of the last game majorly fucked up when if brought in the escort mission for the Little Sisters. This time, the system is a lot better. After offing a fellow Big Daddy and adopting his Little Sister, you then have a chance to set up some defences around a corpse before gathering your very own ADAM. Of course this makes the local splicers go ape shit before descending on her in an attempt to take the precious. So you need to stop them (via bullet, drill or electro-spear.) Various tonics (gained by rescuing the little tykes) can help out making her gain more ADAM or do the deed faster but after two collections you have to drag her to a vent to either rescue her or get the munchies and harvest the slug from her. Luckily, when you are moving her around, she climbs on your back so there is no dragging around or waiting for her to work out how to walk AROUND the wall. Additionally the sound guys have worked out how to make

Run. Now.In terms of enemies, the Splicers are the most abundant. They have really gone downhill in terms of genetics, with all of them covered in grotesque tumours or with malformed limbs. However they are exactly the same when it comes to combat, although the grenade spammers have been kicked out. Instead they are replaced with the new boomers. These rather large gentlemen are basically like a gorilla, getting close to you and punching or throwing large chunks of the scenery at you. They feel like weak version of the Bouncer Big Daddies but are great fun to shoot up especially when they turn up in tuxes. The Rosies and the Bouncer versions of the Big Daddies are once again protecting little girls, but they are now joined by the Rumbler, who has a nasty habit of throwing turrets and RPG rounds at you. There is another Big Daddy type, but I won’t reveal them as they first turn up in a awesome moment. The fights with these tin cans are still as good as they were, having to plan out areas to trap before funnelling them into your killing zone. Finally, there are the Big Sisters who turn up once you have cleared out an area of Little Sisters. These fights are the true stand out, really having a feeling of terror when you hear the music and your low on ammo.

I do have one or two faults with the gameplay though. The first is the fact that despite being a massive clunking lump of metal you fall prey to a splicer with a wrench is a tiny bit wrong (what’s he doing? Unscrewing the leg joints?). I didn’t die very often but the deaths I had just felt cheap, with no real reason why I had to go back to the vita chamber. This game also lacks the whole “Oh No I’m going to die” fear just like the first due to the chambers but it does come with an option to turn off them if you like the whole permadeath thing. The other thing is the combat and most of the gameplay is simply dragged over from Bioshock 1. Its alright but it would be nice to have a few more changes seeing as you’re a rather different character to the simple human that Jack was.

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The graphics and sound are both amazing. Its the exact same engine as the orignal so don’t worry about it not running on your PC if the first one was fine. It still looks as good as ever, with the water dripping and running across the ruined surfaces. The effects of the plasmids are pretty cool, as are the new guns with their ornate decorations on some while other look like some crap thrown together. Bioshock 2’s graphics are not techical as good as Crysis but the art direction is a lot better – every think has the same art deco look the first game got to a tee. Want to see art deco skyscrapers under water? Go for it! Similarly the music, a key part of the first game is back and as good as ever. The orchestrated soundtrack is perfect for the setting, with some songs that just help to add to the tension and bring it to a level where you’ll be absorbed into the game. I still love the old 50’s style music. There is that innocence in them that is in contrast to the ruined setting around it. Though I swear to go, the song “Hush, Hush, Hush, Here Comes the Boogeyman” has quite literally drilled a hole in my head and is now stuck in their.

Now, I’d be pretty happy at this point with the single player. But Bioshock 2 also has a multiplayer option (made by Digital Extremes who took part in UT2003 and UT2004) which is interesting to say the least. Its a basic COD4 style setup (kill dudes with guns, gain points to gain levels and new guns, rinse, soak, repeat) but with a change or two. The use of plasmids changes it up slightly and you can hack turrets in the levels to bring the pain, booby trap vending/health machines to make enemy players hate your guts or snap a picture of a fallen foe in order to gain a damage bonus. Or alternatively snag the Big Daddy suit and introduce your misguided enemies to a rivet flying at high speed. Game modes include the usual deathmatch and team deathmatch (complete with 1 life mode for both of them) as well as a few new ones. There is Adam Grab (in either solo or team) where each player attempts to grab hold of one of the little sisters for as long as possible, Capture the Sister (where one team aims to take the Little Sister from the defenders) and Turf War (effectively Domination, with Team Atlas squaring off against Team Ryan). So far, so normal.

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What is different is the multiplayer has a story. You choose one of 6 (8 if you preordered) character, each with their own back story. The multiplayer battles are in fact part of plasmid testing for Sinclair Solutions. In between each level you can go back your apartment where you can change your loadout of plasmids and guns, choose your character customisation options or listen to a set of audio diaries that reveal a little extra about the world. Its a nice idea, but some missions that play directly into the story of Rapture would be rather cool. Imagine playing in the battle over the Kashmir Restaurant in 1959. The setting of Rapture is too good to just simply have battles with no more story then fight. The areas are all pretty good though, bringing back fond memories of the first games amazing settings. The multiplayer also has a bad case of the gremlins, which can lead to freezes, crashes or simply major lag. I also worry about the population on all three platforms due to the elephant in the room of MW2. However, the game does have multiplayer achievements that should guarantee at least a small amount.

Bioshock 2 is not a poorly made rip off sequel. It feels natural, taking the story on with a new insight into the mysterious world of Rapture. Its not as written as well as Bioshock but that’s like saying that 1984 isn’t as well written as Wuthering Heights – it is still miles ahead of an industry that brought us such crap as Rogue Warrior. The gameplay is better, it has multiplayer but it just feels familiar. And that’s a good thing. If you have played the first, play this to remind you of the good bits. If you have never been to Rapture, play this as well. You may miss a few references (WYK Project!) but its still a good intro to one of the best settings in games ever. This has to be a must play.

Gearbox, I am Slightly Disappointed – Borderlands DLC

Before I get into this let me say that Borderlands is a brilliant game mixing the genres of RPG and shooter into a fun co-op experience. It was my number 1 game of last year. However, I feel Gearbox may have dropped the ball on the 2nd and 3rd DLC.

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So Zombie Island of Dr Ned was pretty good. Nice new area, some pretty cool enemies (Were-Skag! In a Straw Boater!) and more of the Borderlands humour. It felt like a true deleted scene, something Gearbox had in the drawer while they were making Borderlands but wasn’t quite there when Randy Pitchford came down and told them to get the thing sent off to be printed to disks. Its just a continuation of all the cool things that made Borderlands good. I wrote my review on the old site and it was reprinted on geeks.co.uk.

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Mad Moxi’s Underdome was just a catastrophe. It was just stupid – focusing on the combat which isn’t quite Borderlands best point (its the RPG and loot-lust thats the main bit). On top of that, all of the challenges are not only really, REALLY hard (just ask Giles) but also monotonous. Its simply a hard slog to get through all of the parts in order to get the achievements. I still haven’t gone through this DLC pack due to these reason, and Giles only got through it via godlike patience and by utilising the split screen mode to lower the difficulty. Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb also found issues with the pack, giving it two stars out of five and saying:

“These are nice benefits, especially for players who have hit the level cap and are looking for something–anything–that will let them advance. But everything in the Underdome is a total hassle, and that gets old fast.”

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So onto the Secret Armoury of General Knox and at first glance it seems to have all the required features – level cap increase, new cars, new guns and more quests. And those parts are pretty good. I’ve only really done the first couple of quests but it was a serious pain. In the first area, before you really seen much, you encounter your first set of new enemies, the Crimsion Assassin’s. These girls were hard to take down in solo play, even as the basic versions. But its the named boss that is among them that is the true pain – I actually had to trap her on a piece of scenery before slamming a load of grenades on top of her to kill her. Later on you have to fight through a road block, which almost made me turn off the game due to the difficulty. In solo, the difficulty is far too high leading to some very frustrating sections. I just hope that co-op is better.

The thing is, the rest of it is actually brilliant. Scooter, one of the best characters from the main game, is back and in the spotlight. In fact the entire thing is funnier even after 5 minutes play. Its just a shame the first taste is just a bit bitter.

Thoughts on… Heavy Rain Demo

Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy if your’re American) is an unusual game. The story is goes a bit loco about half way through and its focused almost entirely around Quick Time Events. I didn’t find it fun but please bear with me before the rabid fanboys come and burn down my house. Despite not liking it, I do realise that I did do the whole “being part of a story” thing quite well. David Cage now has another game coming up which is exclusive to the PS3 called Heavy Rain, which promises more of the same. For any PSN users a demo is now available on the network, and I had a little play.

The demo contains two levels following two out of the four characters and gives what I feel a pretty good intro to the mechanics. The controls are explained in a tutorial, but basically they revolve around using the buttons according to onscreen prompts. Some are right stick movements, others require you to hold various buttons down at once, others are the obligatory Six Axis waving bullshit while the final type are button mashing. I’m not actually a fan of this as it ends up with you wrapping hands in weird positions. Similarly many of the prompts arrive with plenty of time, but others turn up so fast its hard to get them right.

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The first section has you playing as an asthmatic private investigator by the name of Scott Shelby. He is investigating a serial killer by the name of the Origami Killer (as all the characters are) and the scene you play is him talking to the mother of one of the victims. It just so happens she is also a lady of ill repute. You can approach the talk with her in a selection of ways. First time through I went in the soft and caring approach, which slightly pissed her while the second time I went in, tricking her into talking. After the talk, you leave and have an asthma attack which required a series of button pushes in order to deal with it. However, of more concern is a man who has just gone into your witness’s room. When you burst back in there, you take part in a long series of what equate to quick time events. It pretty good though as they don’t obscure the mo-capped punch up going on in the background. This sequence also illuminated the point that failing a button press doesn’t end the game which is a quite good for any players who are not quite on bleeding edge of . Instead it changes the events. For example, at the end of the fight, my Shelby (who missed a few buttons) was more beat up with a broken nose than if I’d managed to hit every button. This section also helps to show that, guess what guys, this is a mature game. In fact, wondering through the street before the guest house is a bit film noir, with the constant rain pouring down. In fact, the game shows just how much rain has fallen at the start of each section, which gives me a feeling that it might be a major part of the plot.

The second section shows off another side to Heavy Rain, in the shape of a drug popping FBI agent complete with his fake futuristic CSI style evidence gathering system.  You arrive at the scene of an investigation into the death of a boy, the son of the witness from the first game. After dealing with a rather suspicious local police detective and a bunch of ill behaving cops (seriously guys, lets walk all over the crime scene. No chance of disturbing the evidence at all!), you load up your evidence gatherer and walk round looking for clues. Many are dismissed as unrelated or belonging to the police, but some lead on to more clues. I won’t ruin them but I will say that climbing up that hill is the one of the worst sections of quick time events I’ve played.

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And that is the underlying problem – the story and graphics are superb but the control method feels clunky. Its the same problem that Fahrenheit had and it didn’t quite cripple the game but it did take away some of the enjoyment. Yet in spite of this, the story is gripping (better then many other thriller movie) and the graphics show a massive leap forward. Water is a very hard thing to model but Quantic Dream have made it look the best it has ever been. On top of that, the motion captured actors make it look like it is getting close to the Uncanny Valley with facial expressions to rival that of the landmark in CG, Final Fantasy. They look like real people – from a single glance at Shelby you can tell he is down, stumbling through life with a sigh.

Heavy Rain is one of those games that will push gaming along in both story and graphics. When people want to show off that games are not just for kids, Heavy Rain will be the game they use. But, based on the demo, it isn’t going to be the easiest to control. I’m still excited about it, but its the gripping plot that is reeling me in.

Heavy Rain comes out later this month (26/02/2010 in the UK) exclusively on PS3.

Thoughts on… Mass Effect 2

(Warning: This Contains Spoilers That Are Apparent In Any Trailer Released By EA or Bioware)

Lets get this out of the way. I started Mass Effect 2 with a Mass Effect 1 character. Becca Shepard, Renegade Soldier, Saver of Wrex and Killer of Alenko (he was a bit shit). I had a fling with the blue alien and saved the council. I already had an attachment to my character, who may I remind you kicked the galaxy’s butt. It sounds weird to hear her voice coming from other female Shepards. But I digress…

Bioware’s latest Sci-Fi epic starts basically at the end of the original. Despite having saved the galaxy from the Geth and Saren, Shepard is left for dead after an attack that rips the Normandy into little bits (as well as providing a Dead Space style vacuum sequence which was pretty good). Two years later, Shepard awakes on an operating table inside a facility which is having 10 shades of crap blown out of it by its own security while simultaneous someone over the radio is guiding you out. For an intro, this is one of the best. Between the whole “death in space” sequence and waking up, you have a chance to edit an existing characters (such as from Mass Effect or a previous Mass Effect 2 play through) or to create your new one. It makes sense, with you having been basically rebuilt from the ground up yet keeping the same memories. The face editor still makes it hard to create good faces, but you can now share you characters face layout by a little number string in the top corner. You also get a chance to remind yourself of what happened in the first game later.

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So after arming up, killing a few bots, shooting a couple of guys and meeting with two friends, you finally get to meet the Illusive Man, Mr Charlie Sheen himself. He must have the coolest office in the universe overlooking a Neutron Star (which changes colour depending on his mood) and seemingly empty apart from a chair where he sits doing nothing but acting snarky to people and chain smoking like there is no tomorrow. He informs you about the fact that human colonies are going and then the usual stuff (only you can save us! Go see for yourself!).

The main meat of the game isn’t actually fighting the Collectors (who are the ones taking the humans on a little trip) but instead recruiting and earning the loyalty of a team of elite people to use against the Collectors. Each character (apart from Mirranda and Jacob who you pick up in the starting area) has two missions linked to them and these are nearly always brilliant. Be it fighting through a quarantine zone to rescue a Salarian scientist or pretending to be a merc in order to meet up with an old friend, all the recruitment missions are fun. There are one or two exceptions but these are made up by their loyalty missions which are some of the best I have ever seen in any RPG yet. Not only do them help you in a gameplay term but also illuminates the flaws or defects in a character. Thane, a Drell Assassin, is foremost among these with a second mission that was tugging at the heart strings by the end.

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The characters in Mass Effect 2 have seen a massive improvement. In the first game, many of them felt quite flat to say the least, but in the second this feels fixed. I gained an emotional link with most of them, apart from one or two such as Samara, an Asari justicar with some of the most annoying dialogue I’ve ever heard. Many other people who have reviewed Mass Effect 2 say the Salarian scientist Mordin to be their favourite character (and he is hilarious – especially a reference near the end of the game) but I still have a soft spot for Garrus, the Turian agent from the first game. Not only is he now a badass, but he also shows the change in the two games. In the first, he was the slightly naive agent, who normally represented the Paragon leaning in any circumstance. Now, he is a bit more rogue cop, down and dirty and more than happy to to shoot people in the face in order to get what he needs. He is just another part in showing the darker route Bioware has taken the game.

In fact, the new Paragon/Renegade setup makes a lot more sense. Its now more of a focus, instead of the hodge podge it was in the the first game where only specific things very rarely counted towards either value. Now nearly every conversation will end with a smattering of points into either value. I admit sometimes it does end up with some bizarre things (“YOU DIDN’T SAY THANK YOU? RENEGADE POINTS!!”) but overall it makes sense. The main improvement to this system is the new interrupt which just make sense. The first game was filled with moments where you just wanted to interrupt a long speech with a punch to the face. In the second, most conversations (though still too few) include an interrupt which occasionally helps the gameplay. The ones most speak about are throwing people throw windows or punching someone, but the best one is early in the game. You notice an engineer fixing a gunship. After a long briefing talk, you get the opportunity to shock the guy with one of his tools, which halts his work. It show two of the good things about the new system – it helps you later on yet it also allows you to play the supreme space badass, like your very own Mal.

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Another improvement I love is the trimming down off the inventory system and RPG elements. The first game’s inventory was clunky as hell. To swap an upgrade out, you had to pause the game, go into a menu, find the weapon, swap out the upgrade system and then rejoin the fight. It totally threw off the rhythm of the combat as well as making it hard to deal with a large number of items of varying kinds. The second game cuts this down – upgrades are out totally instead replaced by research done on your ship. On top of that, all the weapons you carry are chosen at the very start of a mission or in weapon boxes along the way. This system feels more like a mission based shooter rather than a free roaming RPG and makes the game a lot more playable. Similarly the long complicated levelling up system is replaced by a more focused one. There are only 30 levels to rank up instead of sixty, but there are fewer skills to be unlocked. Each rank in a skill feels like its making a difference to combat, instead of the simply tiny stat bonus you sometimes see in RPGs. Instead of the eight skills each character had in the first, Shepard has six while everyone else only has four (three at the start with the last being unlocked via the loyalty missions). These skills range from old favourites (such as warp or pull) to new ammo powers to replace the upgrades. I really, really like the new systems. As with the conversations, it makes the game infinitely more playable and it just flows.

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The new combat is also a huge improvement. First up though – the guns in the first game were basically unlimited ammo but limited by an overheat. In this they have been replaced by more conventional magazine based firearms. Its a slight shame as the old system allowed you to be less worried about missing shots when fighting but it does mean you have the cool effect of magazines littering the ground after combat. However it is outweighed by the new heavy weapons which have been added in. Unlike other weapons, these are usable by all classes and help to equalise the numbers when your shooting up mercs or geth. They vary in usefulness from the destructive but ammo eating nuke gun to my personal favourite the flamethrower but each and everyone is fun to use even if it is just to see the effect. There are 5 heavy weapons in the main game as well as two DLC ones (compared the the two or three of the other weapons) and their are what you expect from a Sci Fi shooter. Actually the limitation on the number of weapons makes tooling up for a bit of shooty shooty a hell of a lot easier. Overall, the combat has been tuned up based on the lessons of the great cover based shooters. It feels as though Bioware is leaning more to the action side of action-RPG. Oh, and the bloody Mako is gone, replaced by a shuttle system. Thank god.

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Finally, the Normandy 2 should be mentioned. After your last ship was ripped into strips of metal, your employers thought it would be funny to give you a new ship with almost exactly the same layout. It did have a feeling of the background to it being simply “Because We Can” but it was pretty funny to walk round the new Normandy thinking, “Wow this place looked shit last time”. The Normandy has a variety of functions. The most used is getting you from place to place which is a little different. You don’t just jump into one system that has one planet – instead there is a mass effect relay in one system in every cluster and so you must fly between them. Its basically dragging a cursor, but you now have a fuel meter to look at. If it runs out it starts to drain into your mineral fund. These are used normally to research new upgrades for you guns and so loosing them is a bit of a pain, primarily because you have to play more of the stupid mining game. You basically scan the planet from orbit until you find a spike in a mineral’s concentration then fire a probe down. Its the most boring part of the game and so unbearable I ended up doing it while I watched episodes of How I Met Your Mother. It is less time consuming than travelling around to the planet but its just crap. However, it has to be done in order to get the upgrades need to get the best ending to the game. I prefer the idea of researching new stuff rather than having to go out and buy it, but the games mixes the two. You can buy the rights to research things from a shop, but if you find it in the field then it is automatically upgraded and usable. You can view these from a new private terminal that helps to flesh out the world along with your own private cabin. As well as various things such as an armour customizer (much more interesting than the preset armour suits of the first game) and a way of looking a your achievements, the cabin can be filled with stuff related to your ongoing mission. You can find your cracked helmet from your time in space, or buy model ships, fish or even a space hamster. The cabin also includes your own Personal Assistance who not only alerts you to new messages but also helps to cut down on time wasting by alerting you to when various members of your team wish to talk to you.

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Right, time talk to technical. You can rave all you want about a game but you still need to mention the flaws at some point. So, the game has a few gremlins in it. Occasional sounds problems (such as clips stopping abruptly, cutting off sentences) and odd graphical glitches do slightly mar an otherwise excellent visual and audio presentation. It is bandied around a lot but Mass Effect 2 really does decisive to be considered cinematic. All the way through it feels like your playing through a strange combination of Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner and Firefly all crushed together. Part of this has to be the amazing voice cast. As well as Martin Sheen, it also stars Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin (both from Chuck), Michel Dorn (Warf!), Tricia Helfer and Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galatica), Shohreh Aghdashloo (her of creepy voice from Flashforward) and Carrie-Anne Moss (if you don’t know who she is, get the hell out) are added to the cast. On top of this, Seth Green and Keith David return from the first game and Shepard is once again voiced by Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale.

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It isn’t really a major part of Mass Effect 2, but an important thing to include is EA’s new way of force feeding you the concept of DLC. In every new copy of Mass Effect 2 is a Cerberus Network Access Card. This is then attached to your EA account and it adds you to a stream of free content. Already (2 weeks after release) there are three sets of DLC on there. They are small pieces (with a whole new character being the largest) but they are however completely free. If you buy Mass Effect 2 second hand you can pay to join the network for around $15. Its a nice idea, but it can slow down the game starting as it has to login to a separate network.

So Mass Effect 2 is a brilliant game. If you’ve played Mass Effect then this is essential –  its the continuation of the story and a brilliant second part. If you have never touched an RPG before this point, Mass Effect 2 is a perfect introduction. Finally, if you’ve never played games before, Mass Effect 2 (if played on easy) is a pretty good introduction, with a good story and a pretty good introduction into both third person shooters and RPGs. If own a Xbox 360 or a PC, this is a must play and a must buy as the game has some serious replay value. It has multiple classes, loads of achievements and a load of decisions to try and tweak with. Play it and enjoy.