Actually, I’d be lying if I said I was bitter, because Mass Effect 2 is one of the best video games I’ve ever played. For those of you who like a story in your game experience, ME2 has you covered. This is a vast adventure with a complex set of characters and a menacingly shadowy antagonist. In fact, the only real problem that I have with the story is that you ought to play Mass Effect 1 first.
That’s not much of a problem, but ME1 is not quite the masterpiece that the sequel is. The story is still great, but there are several hours in the middle where it seems to just fade into the background. Also, the gameplay isn’t as solid as the second game. Mass Effect is a roleplaying game with third-person-shooter elements. ME2 is an actual third-person-shooter when it comes to combat, and a solid roleplaying game all other times. The action sequences in the game rely on a rock solid shooter mechanic.
The secret to the success of ME2 is the designer’s willingness to jettison anything that didn’t add to the experience. This “throw it out the airlock” approach was taken to the concept of inventory, filler missions, and best of all, the terrible driving sequences of the first game. ME2 ignores the trend of emergent gameplay and focuses on tight, well-designed levels. Everything is carefully planned, but the game always feels like it is your own. This is one of those “choice” games, but you never choose between being “good” or “evil,” rather you choose between being nice and being a dick, but you always are the good guy (ed: or girl).
Actually, that fictitious editor’s note touches on another strength of the game. This is one of a long line of games that allows you to customize your character. The customization in the ME series does a great job of making you feel like you own this world. I should mention that when ME3 comes out early next year, your choices in the first two games affect the third game. When you make a choice in this game, it seems to matter, and that’s the highest praise I can give.