Mass Effect 2 Updated Hands On Preview - The Start of Something Special
Written Thursday, December 17, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
I’ve literally ummm’d and ahhhh’d over how I was going to approach this preview for well over a week now. I was stuck in two minds. Having played the first hour or so of Mass Effect 2, do I a.) Give a detailed account of the first hour of the game with spoilers and everything; or do I b.) Limit the preview to generalities, talking more about some of the cool new stuff we noticed and leaving out the plot spoilerific moments. Being in a festive mood, I went with the latter.
In what was possibly my fourth hands on preview of BioWare and EA’s Mass Effect 2 – Is it 4? One, two, three, yes, four – we were thrust right into the very beginning of the game. If you’ve not played, or you’ve even forgot the events of the original, the opening sequence is a Star Wars-esque scrolling text recap, detailing all the main story points from the original and anything that should be noteworthy. If you’ve not played it, BioWare has set the path. If you’re importing a save, you’ll be reading about your decisions from the original here. The first 10-15 minutes is a rollercoaster ride as it looks to offer a segue between the two titles and introduce Mass Effect 2 and its new characters. What happens though, well, you’ll have to pick up the game for that one because we’d hate to spoil a few of the intro’s surprises; BioWare did enough of that at E3 this year. We won’t spoil the rest.
After the action packed opening cinematic (all in-game engine), it’s time for you to step up to the plate. For those worrying that they had chosen the wrong class in the original and still wanted to import their save, fear not, Mass Effect 2 Producer, Adrien Cho, stated that the ability to change classes between titles was a recent addition. If you're importing, the ability to re-customise your experience doesn’t stop there either and you can choose to change the appearance of your character as well. We went with the standard-stock Shepard and didn’t have chance to try out the character builder, but we hope it’s a ton better than Mass Effect 1’s “everyone’s ugly” tool. Whatever you decide to do, everything is tied in brilliantly with the story and the immersion isn’t broken just so players can re-customise their experience in the sequel. Players who import their high character level saves as well will receive an in-game reward and although Cho wasn’t specific, he did hint that it would be XP related.
The opening few scenes after all the spoilerific moments see Shepard on a Cerberus ship of some kind. Here you’ll be run through such things like the cover mechanics, the use of medi-gel, the ammo system and more. Whilst the opening “training” mission in the original saw you shooting weird floating creatures on Eden Prime, this time the combat is a little more two-way – presumerably to place more emphasis on the location based damage. There was one little gem that I was largely unaware of that this opening section educated me on, and that’s the new way BioWare have delivered another aspect of character customisation, this time in the clothing department.
Unlike the original, Mass Effect 2 doesn’t restrict your outfit choices in terms of armour to all-in-one ensembles. You now have the ability to pretty much create your own combat set-up. You can choose what gloves you wear, whether you’re always wearing a helmet, what greaves go with the armour and more. Furthermore you can choose your casual outfits as well and these are outfits that you’ll wear on the numerous space stations you’ll set foot on, as well as the Normandy. Speaking of space stations, I was eager to ask Cho whether the Citidel would return and if so, what can we expect to see after Sovereign ripped through it. According to Cho the Citidel does make a triumphant return, but following the “dark second act” theme that BioWare are keen to push, it’ll be a different side of it we see. Whether old areas will return remains to be seen, but we’re told there will be plenty of new areas to explore.
Throughout the first few hours of the game you’ll meet a few key players from the story’s plot; the Cerberus operatives, Miranda – who is charming, cool and sophisticated – and Jacob – who seems to be an honest, down to earth kind of guy – play the biggest roles. Their first point of call is to arrange a meet for you with Cerberus’ top dog, the Illusive Man, so he can enlist you and set you off on this much publicised suicide mission. In the hands on period we not only got chance to become acquaintances with the Cerberus operatives and Martin Sheen’s Illusive Man, but we also met an old friend, Tali, the quarian from the original. That’s about as much as I’m going to talk about as far as plot and characters go; the rest is a journey of self-discovery for you. If there is one thing that I feel inclined to say, it’s that the dialogue sections with these characters are on a similar level, if not better, than the original, which is a win in our books.
In our last preview I expressed my concern over Shepard’s new cocky, in-your-face demeanour on Omega, however, I can safely say that those concerns were put at ease after watching Shepard wrap the supporting cast around his little finger with his calming influence. The first hour alone houses a few plot twists and you have to wonder what the rest of the game will be like, and whether they can keep this pace up. Sure, the gameplay might not be as frantic as the rest of the game in the opening hour, as it mostly introduces the controls to new players and the new mechanics to all, but the plot does not disappoint.