Since weapon upgrades affect your entire team the only place where changing your loadout makes a difference is with Shepard's heavy weapon. Each has slightly different uses (particle beam vs missile launcher, for example) and heavy weapons are the only ones whose ammo is scarce. Access to specialty ammo has changed from the first game too; special ammo types are now available on the biotic power wheel rather than being a weapon-level modification handled in the equipment screen. Some characters can develop warp or shredder rounds, but it’s all done quickly and easily through biotics. It’s a relief after the first game’s convoluted menu screens.
There are also character specific upgrades you can develop in the lab. You can research custom biotic amps for Jack or special health tonics for Grunt, for example, or even upgrade the ship itself. It's up to you how you want to spend your hard-earned money and resources. Speaking of resources, than brings us to...
The one single thing wrong with Mass Effect 2 (OK, two things)
There's one atrocious part of Mass Effect 2 that sticks out like a sore thumb. In order to build the upgrades you find scattered throughout the universe, you'll need to gather resources. A small amount of resources are found in crates during the course of missions, but if you want to build the really rockin' stuff you'll have to play the mining minigame.
Above: That's no moon... oh, wait
The mining minigame consists of holding down the left trigger while sweeping the scanner across the surface of the planet. When you've found something, the controller vibrates and the readings on the line graph spike up. That's your cue to fire a probe and collect your resources. Conceptually, it would work if it didn't take so damn long to scan each planet. It just gets more and more irritating every time you're forced to endure it. Want to build that sweet shotgun upgrade you just found? Get ready to piss away half an hour or more sweeping the solar system for platinum. This tedious minigame is a letdown after the masterfully paced combat and story.
The other complaint is Shepard%26rsquo;s helmet
Above: Kiss me on my visor, you sexy beast
Our bittersweet reunion with our love interest from the first game was utterly ruined because we had to have that extra +5% health. Well, you never know when shooting might break out, right? On the topic of armor, the PS3 version comes equipped with several suits that were either added as DLC or were included as bonus content through other means. But a lot of them include helmets so…
Is it better than?
Borderlands?Yes, with a caveat for shooter purists. While Mass Effect 2’s combat is certainly no slouch, Borderlands feels more like a red-blooded shooter experience without all those meddlesome emotions and wacky biotics getting in the way. Borderlands also does a better job of scratching the loot itch. So if you just want to hook up with some friends online and blast monsters in the face, Borderlands is your jam. Mass Effect 2 trounces Borderlands in the role-playing department, though. Mass Effect 2's story, characters and locations are much richer than those found on Pandora. We prefer the depth and variety of Mass Effect 2.
Dragon Age: Origins? Yes. Everything about Mass Effect 2 feels more polished, and not just because of the lasers and shiny spaceships. Mass Effect 2 has a better combat system, better voice acting, better dialog, better animation, better graphics... After playing Mass Effect 2, it's disconcerting to have your character remain silent during conversations. Dragon Age: Origin's multi-layered command wheel is overly complicated, and the characters seem stiff and wooden by comparison. BioWare, you've outdone yourself again.
Fallout: New Vegas? Yes. Both are outstanding RPG/shooter hybrids with brilliantly realized worlds and memorable characters. Both test your moral fiber and do a great job of incorporating your decisions into the story. New Vegas improved upon Fallout 3 in several key areas of comparison, namely deeper character interaction and more varied environments, but in the end we still side with ME2’s massive scope and penchant for framing dialog and action scenes as well as a legitimate film.
Just for you, Metacritic!
Everything we loved about the 360/PC versions, now on one disc and with all the DLC goodies included. We can’t name another game that so expertly mixes shooting, exploration and sweeping story. A shining beacon of our medium.
Jan 18, 2011