The big games of 2010: Mass Effect 2

Our look ahead at the big games of 2010 arrives at the door of the wonderful-looking Mass Effect 2...

5th of 7 games for 2010: Mass Effect 2

The Game

After digging around in the fantastical past with Dragon Age: Origins, Bioware take us on another trip to the future with the eagerly awaited sequel to Mass Effect.

Touted as the middle of an epic trilogy, this space faring second go sees Commander Shepherd assembling a motley crew of mercenaries and assassins to complete a daring, insane suicide mission. To steal a phrase, it’s bigger, better and more badass. Sorry, had to be done.

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Everything from the first game has been shaken down and given a tweak, with a complete overhaul of the floaty combat system the most exciting of the refinements. Whereas before the cover mechanic felt light and fluffy, now the game plays with all the beef of a blockbusting action title. That’s not to say the narrative elements have been dumbed down, though. Bioware are promising the same depth of story, as well as more cinematic cut scenes. Which hopefully signals an end to the “staring out at nothing” style of conversation choice we’ve become accustomed to.

Alongside all the added polish and bombast, there’s a feature that allows you, if you so choose, to start Mass Effect 2 with your choices and decisions from the first game intact. Did a certain character die in your play through of the original? Then he or she will be dead at the start of the second game. Carrying your save over isn’t mandatory, but it’s an interesting move. Bioware, much like Lionhead, are trying to make players conscious of the consequences of their actions, instead of the usual ‘point, click, dead’ morality of mainstream videogames.

Why You Should Be Excited

…because Bioware have yet to make a less than incredible game; they even managed to make an RPG based on Sonic a must buy for the Nintendo DS. That takes an awful lot of talent. The original Mass Effect was, and remains, a science fiction classic, creating a universe to rival the stalwarts of the genre, and filling it with characters and creatures that made the 40 plus hour play time fly by in the blink of an eye. Mass Effect 2 promises all of that, plus a bucket full of polish on top.

For those of you who crave a more cerebral approach to shooting aliens in the face, Mass Effect 2 is the title you’ve been waiting for. Whereas the original fell tantalisingly short of the perfect action and RPG hybrid, two years of toil have gone into Mass Effect 2, the toil of a team with a smash hit on their hands and the freedom to build upon that success. Videogame sequels are frequently greater than their progenitor, and when they’re building on one of the greatest games in a generation, then high hopes can be well placed.

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Mass Effect 2 is going to dominate the early part of this year, one way or another. Whether sweeping, grandiose stories set in the fantastic reaches of a space faring future are your bag, or you prefer pulling out your blaster rifle and peppering alien scum with hot, lazery lead, whether you prefer the intricacies of a character based drama, or the simple joy of picking evil robots up with your mind and pulling them apart with a flick of your wrist. It’s rare that there’s a game that offers something to almost everyone, but Mass Effect 2 has exactly the sort of malleable, enjoyable gameplay core that allows not just experiment, but vastly differing styles of play.

Mass Effect 2 is out on January 28th on Xbox 360.