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Flawed features from Mass Effect 1 (that we still kind of miss)

Like a lot of people, we've been getting ready for Mass Effect 3 by spending the last couple weeks replaying the first two titles in the trilogy. (Possibly also like a lot of people, some of us are rebuilding save files we foolishly deleted.)

Above: This time, I'll wear that OTHER suit of space armor to the club!

Played back to back, it's striking how much better the series got between installments. The original Mass Effect is still a groundbreaking classic, but there are a lot of things that are tough to take on the second or third playthrough. For every awesome set-piece, like the zero-G battle up the side of the Citadel Tower, there's a boring grind, like humping the Mako around planets looking for rocks to tag.

The sequel abandoned many of these problematic mechanics rather than fixing them, and it's a much better game for it. Mass Effect 2 is set-piece after set-piece, all killer, no filler.

Still, we can’t help but miss some of the features that got cut. Sure, ME2 was better overall without them, but they weren’t ALL bad, and they brought something to the feel of the game that we liked, however small.

Here are a few of the flawed features from Mass Effect 1 that had some positive qualities. And just to prove we’re not nostalgic fanboys, we’ve also included some early features that are probably better forgotten.

The Mako

What was wrong: The missing Mako might be the most noticeable difference between Mass Effect 1 and 2. The rugged six-wheeled rover was an iconic part of the first game; even the initial teaser trailer closed with Shepard dropping the Mako into Geth-infested territory.

Above: "If we could get it to fly, we could probably take Sovereign"

Playing ME1, you got intimately familiar with the Mako throughout the game's campaign. You might even say a little too familiar. Depending on how many of the side quests you tried to complete, you could spend hours driving it over fractal landscapes without anything happening.

If your response to that is "You could just NOT do the side quests," then we know the meaning of all the words you're using, but we have no idea what you're talking about.

Time after time, you'll point yourself towards the nearest radar blip and inch up a nearly vertical cliff wall, cursing whatever Alliance engineer decided the jump thrusters should only point downwards. More often than not, you'd only be rewarded with yet another downed probe and a few generic upgrade modules.

(It's anyone's guess why the futuristic equivalents of NASA bundled weapon parts in their space probes. Maybe it was a warning to anyone who found it. "See this gun barrel? Excellent craftsmanship, isn't it? Maybe you'll think twice about starting trouble, because there's more where that came from.")

What was right: As slow and aggravating as the Mako could be, it was an absolute powerhouse in a fight. There isn't anything comparable in the game. As far as you're concerned as a player, the Mako is the most badass thing in the known universe, narrowly edging out Thresher Maws. Get in the Mako, and a pack of enemies that would rip you apart on foot suddenly become flaming ragdoll XP piñatas.

Sure, it's not exactly "balanced," but there's something to be said for letting balance take a backseat to power fantasy. Sniping fools with the Mako cannon is just plain fun. And when the Normandy comes screaming out of the sky on Ilos and spits the Mako out practically on top of Saren, you know he's got good reason to run.

Above: Enh, it's just not the same, somehow

More generally, there's a sense of exploration in Mass Effect 1 that isn't quite there in the sequel. You can read about how a moon orbits a gas giant whose upper atmosphere is populated by phosphorescent bacteria, then drop down and see it up in the sky for yourself. Unlike ME2's linear (but fun!) N7 missions, you never know what you're going to find when you drop the Mako planetside, even if it usually is more crashed probes.

The DLC for Mass Effect 2 introduced the Hammerhead, a hovering successor to the Mako that mercifully lets you leap over cliffs with ease. But without planets to explore freely or an XP and loot system that rewards you for kills, the Hammerhead feels more like a taxi than a tank. Unlike the rock-solid Mako, it's a prima donna that sounds klaxons and catches on fire after taking a few measly Geth plasma bolts.

Above: Plus, anything that lets us live out our 3D Moon Patrol fantasies can't be all bad

70 comments

  • LEGOMatrix - November 17, 2012 8:24 p.m.

    This article is spot on! I am currently watching my flatmate, a massive Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9 fan, play through Mass Effect for the first time. It is a bit painful as he has no sense of direction and I get bored being his GPS (oh my god the Mako missions...). He is also a complete newbie to shooters and is playing it on piss-easy mode, and so has no use for changing the equipment. I figure by the time he finishes ME2 he'll be so in love with it he'll go back over ME1 on a harder setting.
  • RedOutlive. - March 22, 2012 2:26 p.m.

    The main problem of ME2 to me was exactly how BiowarEA decided to scrap all diversity of the game and replace it with cover based shooting, instead of trying to improve on what they had. The Mako was problematic but it could be improved, especially the steep mountain exploration part, instead everything was removed and simplified to the extreme... "Planet scanning" was a joke, the linear worlds became even more linear to the point it's not even useful to have a map, so the universe felt small. Plot was an utter joke. Combat is predictable with chest high wall placement, clearly trying to appeal to the casual shooter crowd. What a waste of a franchise
  • Darkhawk - March 22, 2012 10:20 a.m.

    "Oh, you say you're suspicious of letting Garrus on the ship? Hope you weren't real committed to surviving Virmire, lady" Haha so true.
  • Thoughtless - March 11, 2012 8:26 p.m.

    I agree with all of these things, the mako's thruster design is enough to drive a man to drink; but I believe space racism held it's proper place in the game, human nature always seems to work that way on it's own (ex:Aliens are new to me.....I hate aliens) also I'd say that the contact wars didn't help matters.
  • Vader999 - March 5, 2012 7:51 a.m.

    I actually hunted down Thresher Maws with the Mako. And I did have a Spectre-gear level 10 sniper rifle with lv. 10 explosive rounds, and I used that to take down the biggest Geth units with ease; I can take down a colossus with my hands tied in that game, since I also gave my assault riflemen (Wrex and Garrus) lv. 10 Frictionless materials and inferno ammo, giving them unlimited ammo and the ability to turn robots into energy sakura leaves. Or sometimes I arm their assault rifles with explosive ammo too, turning any would-be attacker into flames.
  • Tom_Traubert - March 4, 2012 2:04 a.m.

    "Blatant discrimination against the fat-fingered and/or drunk." Preach it, brother.
  • Ravenbom - March 2, 2012 6:30 p.m.

    Yeah, I miss the unlimited ammo and hate the inconsistency in the lore. BUT, as much as I miss it I recognize that the 2nd game is better without it. Sucks being a sniper though because one shot is a whole clip. I'm so with you on the everything we don't miss. The stingy auto saves was nearly unforgivable.
  • Ravenbom - March 3, 2012 10:16 a.m.

    I've gone through ME1 and now ME2 in anticipation of ME3 and one thing I'm really missing is the map in combat sections of ME2. Once again, I recognize that it plays better and more tense without a map but it's always odd to play an RPG without a map.
  • pin316 - March 2, 2012 12:36 a.m.

    the thing about some of your points is that the game made them irrelevant in various ways: 1) The whole inventory thing - the feeling of getting cool shit was only really valid first time around...for subsequent playthroughs you don't really care as; a) you know that you'll never be short of gear as it's frickin eerywhere, b) you don't care about weapons as you sell everything immediately to buy spectre stuff as it's impossible to not have the achievement that means it's stocked, c) there are no rare armors/weapons - it's stupidly easy to get the best ones as anyone who has thought 'really, another turian colossus armour, isn't that like 10 now' will testify 2) The mako combat awesomeness was completely nullified by the fact that the game takes away 50% of yourenemy kill xo for killing them with the make, turningg it into an uncredibly frustrating exercise in driving until you see a red dot, get out, shoot, get back in, drive to next red dot, hope mako isn't shot whilst your outsisde so you die when you get back in it 3) I didn't mind the button minigame, i did mind the bug that was never fixed where istead of varying between a 3,5 or 7 button sequence depending on difficulty the game just picked up the first one you did eeach time after laucnhing the game, and then got stuck on that difficulty until you turned it off
  • vortigauntSKUL - March 1, 2012 9:02 p.m.

    "Enemy is everywhere!"
  • PleaseSitDownICannotSee - March 1, 2012 8:22 p.m.

    I liked the music in ME1 a lot more than ME2. The first game really nailed the feeling of a futuristic/cold space vibe. ME2 has good music but something about the music in the first game (especially the wards music in the citadel) was just so much better.
  • snipes101 - March 6, 2012 8:30 a.m.

    I totally agree. The second game's soundtrack had an almost orchestral property to it while the first was for more electronic. Hell I still listen to the first game's soundtrack from time to time.
  • mothbanquet - March 12, 2012 7:25 a.m.

    Indeed, felt much more futuristic. ME2's soundtrack was 'less sci-fi, more opera'. And not in a good way.
  • ArmTheBomb - March 1, 2012 6:21 p.m.

    Wait, what's so wrong about space racism? That's what gave Ashley her character. It was also satisfying to change her outlook on aliens as the game progressed, it's what made her at all interesting.
  • Technomancer - March 1, 2012 5:33 p.m.

    The biggest plot hole with the heat sinks, was how did they manage to get everywhere, even the most obscure backwater planet, in just 2 years? That's not even counting the time it would have taken to study the Geth weapons and then develop the heat sinks. Then there's the biggest flaw, Jacob's Loyalty mission, the Hugo Gernsback crashed 10 years ago, how is it that they have the heat sinks there too?
  • BazyLastard - March 1, 2012 4 p.m.

    And about the inventory system, I'm playing through again right now and honestly if they just added a few sort options, heck even alphabetical, it would eliminate 90% of the frustration. "Do I sell this Incendiary Shots III" ammo mod? Let me scroll down and see if I have Incendiary Shots IV or V yet." Or by item type.
  • BazyLastard - March 1, 2012 3:57 p.m.

    Playing on the Xbox 360, it always cracked me up that the Alliance Fleet's most advanced ship had, apparently, the very first elevator invented. Every time I took it, I wish the stairs had gone all the way to the bottom level. However, when I played it on PC, the Normandy's elevator was much, much faster. Stairs still would have been better.
  • darkrider105 - March 1, 2012 3:32 p.m.

    I have to say that I loved the elevators in mass effect. If you could shortened the load times and just have dialogue between team mates or updates on what going on in the universe than I would welcome it back
  • winner2 - March 1, 2012 2:25 p.m.

    You read my mind with that last caption GR
  • mwe12 - March 1, 2012 1:41 p.m.

    that creepy smile....... (page 2)

Showing 1-20 of 70 comments

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