Never have I been more impressed, and disappointed with a game sequel.
ME2 manages to fix many of the issues I had an issue with the first game. Elevators have been removed, resulting is much faster loading screens. It was actually playable on the Xbox because the combat system was streamlined, and you could map more actions to hot keys, etc… The “playing a movie” feel was removed, and replaced by a much more open ended style of game play. I frequently describe the story as “Oceans 11 in Space.” The Mako is no more. And, they even added a few different hacking games, so you aren’t stuck doing the same stupid thing every time. Unfortunately, it seems like for everything they fixed they nerfed something that was good before.
For some reason, beyond all comprehension they replaced the galaxy map with some bullshit micromanagement thing. Now instead of just making a course, you are forced to deal with getting fuel and manually navigating your ship from planet to planet, system to system. Here is a tip game developers, micromanaging shit is not fun. For example, in the first game it was kind of pain in the ass managing all your equipment, converting things to omnigel, etc… So, in the second game they basically eliminated armor, and limited the weapons do to about twenty (more on this later). The new streamline system actually works pretty well, and helps you spend more time focusing on the fun parts of the game. On the flip side, in the first game you could survey some planets but click on “survey” when you navigated to them. It was quick, painless and earned you some experience. This has been replaced with one of the single most infuriating game requirements I have seen in recent years: the resource mining mini-game. This is a task that makes absolutely no sense for your elite captain to be doing. You have a full crew, you could have the slowest guy shit down and scan a planet. Or, better yet use the ships frickin’ AI system. It does not require the captain’s attention to hold down a button and sping a sphere. It is boring, time consuming, and really ruins the core of the game for me.
Back to the equipment situation. One of the things I liked about ME1 was that there were so many custom armors for all the characters. Well, I guess the developers figured fuck that, and went with the really annoying “one outfit, with an alternate unlockable.” And, to make matters worse, the things the people wear make absolutely no sense. The Miranda character you have for basically the whole game goes around in a skin tight spandex suit that shows off every single curve of her body. I’m sure that provided a lot of protection against explosives, or mosquitoes. The outfits are definitely more details and individualized, but they are not practical. At least Shepherd actually wears armor, and his armor is customizable.
When I found out that they stripped out all the weapons, and upgraded I thought that it would be really frustrating, but it worked out alright. I did not really spend much time thinking about the particular gun that I was using. Although, it was kind of lame that I was still using the same pistol I got towards the beginning of the game near the end. In the first game you spent a lot of time going through your inventory finding better versions of the weapon you had, and better versions of the upgrades you have on it. Although the upgrades in the first game did allow for some interesting options, such as making your gun basically never overheat so you could just shoot forever.
In ME2 you cannot shot forever, not even fucking close. In the first game I was cool with the overheat system. I figure directed energy guns would overheat. It was a good balance, you never had to worry about running out of ammo, you just needed to shoot at a pace that prevented you from overheating. ME2 replaced the overheating system with an ammo system. The explanation for the change is pretty stupid, and given the explanation some things in the game make no sense (i.e. Jacob’s loyalty mission). I suppose it would not be too bad, but the ammo in the game is pretty sparse. It is very frustrating to be forced to primarily use the pistol because your assault rifle/whatever burns through ammo so fast. And, once you run out of ammo you cannot fire, period. I should mention that it is technically not ammo, they call it thermo clips. Rather than having a cooling system link in the first game, the heat from firing is absorbed by chips which have to be ejected, etc… I do not necessarily mind the idea of ammo, but I would have liked to have been able to fire after I am out of thermo clips. Ideally, the clips would allow you to fire quicker, but when you run out it should fallback to a cool down system similar to the first game.
Another backhanded improvement is the hacking game. Sure there are different mini-games, but you are forced to play them, you can not longer bypass hacks. So, but the end of the game I ended up skipping a lot of things because I was sick of the mini-games.
Leveling is a mixed bag. No longer are you awarded experience for dispatching foes. All experience is strictly regulating, and only dispensed for completing missions. Gone are the days of leveling in a difficult battle enabling you to gain and edge and win. Since you no longer receive any benefit from killing enemies I spent a far amount of time trying to figure out ways to progress without grinding through the enemies. Unfortunately, the game designers anticipated this, and made many sequences require you to kill wave after wave of enemy before you are allowed to advance, lame. On the other hand, it only takes 1,000 xp to advance a level. So, getting to the maximum level, 30 (that’s right the level cap is half the first game) can maybe be done on the first play through, and if not almost immediately on the second.
I believe that takes care of all my gripes for the game. This game was much better than the first. While the story is not remotely as epic, it was a hell of a lot more fun to play. I particularly liked that you had much more control over what you did in the game. Sure, you cannot do all the missions out of sync, you do get a lot of control over what you do, and do not do in the game. You do not need to get a full crew, earn their loyalty, or upgrade your ship. You could make the final mission a true suicide run, it really just comes down to what you want to do. This is how games should be.
Ultimately, this game does deserve a good rating, even though they did some incredibly lame things, I am going to focus on the good and hope they cut the BS from the final game in the series. After due consideration I will give this title a 4 on my undecim scale.