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Why Mass Effect 2 is one of the greatest games ever made

If Mass Effect is gaming’s Star Wars then Mass Effect 2 is our Empire Strikes Back.

Few sequels have trumped the original as handily as Mass Effect 2. The first game, albeit beloved for its own reasons and remembered fondly despite itself, was full of issues that BioWare not only addressed, but completely solved when developing the sequel. Weird technical problems held it back from true greatness, and the combat simply wasn’t that engaging. And the Mako. And the space racism. And Ashley. And the elevators and the Mako again.

Mass Effect 2 improved in all of these areas, cleaning up the engine’s technical follies and expanding the already-impressive universe without sacrificing what made the series special. More importantly, it completely revamped the combat, turning the action RPG into a shooter that could stand toe-to-toe with some of the best in the genre, and one of the best games of all time

But while the gameplay was strong enough to stand on its own (as we saw in Mass Effect 3, which managed to add in enthralling multiplayer, fueled entirely by the shooter aspect), it’s really the story and the world(s) that make Mass Effect 2 one of the greatest games ever made. In its predecessor, BioWare established the series’ backdrop as one of the most interesting sci-fi settings in or out of games, and with the sequel it uses this already fantastical canon to craft an action-packed RPG that’s second to none.

It starts with a bang (and an excuse to remake your character). The SSV Normandy is attacked in the opening scene, and like any good leader, your commander goes down with the ship. Your Commander Shepard, carried over from the first game or freshly created, was presumed dead, and for good reason: You died. But the paragon (or renegade) of the human race couldn’t be allowed to rest in peace, so the pro-human Cerberus organization found your charred remains, pumped them full of SCIENCE, and brought you back from the dead. Awesome, right?

Well, sort of. Cerberus isn’t so much “human pride” as it is “human superiority,” meaning their goals are more focused on the good of hu-mankind – the rest of the galaxy be damned. But there are bigger cuttlefish to fry: A race of ancient robots called The Reapers are coming back to wipe out all biological life in the entire universe, so that takes precedent over working out interspecies relations.

How the story plays out is really up to you. Choices are presented throughout the game, both large and small, that completely change the future of the series. What you say to different people can effect how they treat you in the future, and which characters you side with will change the galaxy’s perception of your Shepard. It’s empowering to know how much of an influence you have over the events of a game, and made us feel much more connected to the story than we may otherwise have been.

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74 comments

  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - August 8, 2012 12:34 p.m.

    This is definitely my favorite out of the series.
  • Desann - August 8, 2012 12:51 p.m.

    Totally. Mass Effect 2 is... yeah, my favorite game. Ever.
  • Acerlux - August 8, 2012 2:12 p.m.

    Agreed. For me, Mass Effect is at its best when its exploring its characters and universe. ME2 did this better than either of the other games, so even with the lackluster customization elements compared to 1 and the weaker combat than 3, this is the best in the series and my favorite game ever.
  • FellowHerbivore - August 8, 2012 4:07 p.m.

    I totally agree. Such a beautiful game everything about it is pitch perfect, and I had 0 problems with it.
  • fatguy19 - August 8, 2012 1:02 p.m.

    Agreed. The combat was far superior and and the weapons and side quests were far more varied.
  • aberkromby - August 8, 2012 1:08 p.m.

    I never really cared for Mass Effect. I played the demo (for mass effect and 3) on ps3, and just found the gameplay to be very.... average.
  • blasian89 - August 8, 2012 3:01 p.m.

    It's really not about the gameplay though. It's more about the story, the universe they created and the characters that the players invest in. And there are a lot of great characters, difficult moral decisions and epic story moments. I really hope you reconsider giving it a 2nd try. They should be relatively cheap to buy nowadays.
  • aberkromby - August 8, 2012 7:28 p.m.

    Maybe I will, I dunno. It doesn't help that I'm a ps3 gamer, so I never did and probably never will get to play the first game, so I missed out on the hype-filled introduction of the series. ME2 is around $20 (for 'Mericans like me) at gamestop last I checked. Given that space-marine corridor shooter/RPGs aren't usually my thing anyways, I might wait for it to drop a bit more.
  • lazer59882 - August 8, 2012 1:16 p.m.

    this game for me is just like GTAIV, in that while i was playing it i enjoyed the hell out of it, thought it was the best game ever, and completed every side mission i could find. in retrospect though, with both games, my brain tells me they were huge failures, and huge steps backwards for their respective series'. ME2 gutted all of the RPG elements from the original, and when that proved successful financially, bioware went and stripped hardcore RPG elements out of all their series. not only did ME2 set the mass effect series on a downward path, it set bioware on one. i never made it through mass effect 3, after playing the first game 3 times and the second once. i guess it's a problem with most sequels, it's less about making a great, ambitious game, and more about fixing the first game's mistakes. i just recently went back and started replaying KOTOR, and was blown away at how far bioware has strayed from their roots. mass effect 2 isn't even the best game in it's series, let alone in the bioware gameography, and nevermind of all time. (same goes for GTAIV, and rockstar)
  • lazer59882 - August 8, 2012 1:22 p.m.

    ps - for a hardcore RPG completionist, there was nothing remotely suicidal about the "suicide" mission. it kind of sucked that the dramatic tension was killed for everyone except those people who don't do every side mission. and oh yeah, mass effect isn't star wars, star wars is star wars.
  • Golddav3 - August 8, 2012 1:19 p.m.

    The link to "cuttlefish" on page 1 xD
  • Witha3 - August 8, 2012 2:01 p.m.

    "...And the space racism." Stopped reading here.
  • pimlicosound - August 9, 2012 2:05 a.m.

    I assumed Hollander had his tongue in his cheek as he wrote this, because the racism amongst the different races is such an important part of the game it would be ridiculous to have hated it while having still having any love for the series. It would be like saying, "You know, I loved Mass Effect, except for those bits where the humans and turians don't get along, and the krogan hate the salarians, and the quarians had a bit of a quarrel with the Geth. It was the other things that made it great - the guns, and the blue alien strippers."
  • duncanainsworth - August 8, 2012 2:02 p.m.

    As much as I enjoyed this game and think that is the best in the the series I don't think it's the best game ever made
  • nightvine - August 8, 2012 2:02 p.m.

    3rd worst game bioware has ever made 1st being m3 or swtor 2nd da2 did they pay you to say this buy any chance
  • GR HollanderCooper - August 8, 2012 2:16 p.m.

    O_o
  • Ironarm - August 9, 2012 10:47 p.m.

    I'm gonna go ahead and call this the BEST...COMMENT...EVER! It gets Commander Shepard's Seal of Approval!
  • cgriff63 - January 18, 2013 10:57 p.m.

    I mean everyone has their opinions, but really?
  • Alex 360 - August 8, 2012 2:19 p.m.

    I love absolutely ME1 and ME2,but i got to say,ME3 is by far my favorite.A lot of weapons and customization,great rpg elements,amazing story,characters and conversations,fantastic soundtrack.Its also my favorite game of the generation so far.
  • darkraichu34 - August 8, 2012 2:21 p.m.

    I honestly just got around to ME2 about a month ago, and it's the first console game I've ever put more than 200 Hours into. I agree, Story wise, it's one of the best. I love all but a few characters. Gameplay though, I found to be rather standard. Fun, but standard. And some of the locations reminded me of KOTOR, but maybe that's just me.

Showing 1-20 of 74 comments

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