If a computer games review was simply a list of faults in the form of a haiku, then my review of Mass Effect 2 (Bioware) might look something like this:
The text is too small
Surface scans are a bit dull
My fish keep dying
But that would be pretty pointless. In fact, it might even put you off buying the game, which would be a shame since these are very minor faults, and it's really good. If you're familiar with the galaxy saving antics of Commander Shepard, or even the distinguished pedigree of Bioware (Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Dragon Age: Origins) this won't come as much of a shock. ME2 is the second part of a planned trilogy, with the first massively successful for its combination of action, dialogue driven plot, and good / evil role playing possibilities within a sci-fi setting*, and it would have been difficult to utterly screw that up. Difficult, of course,
isn't the same as impossible. But they haven't. So that's all right. Episode Two brings the heroic / maverick Shepard back from the dead two years after a blistering attack on the Normandy that ultimately breaks up the original team. Now funded by Cerberus, who you may remember as sinister xenophobic terrorists, Shepard must forge new alliances, defeat new enemies, and spread peace and understanding / kick alien ass across the galaxy at whim. Mostly at whim. You can't actually join the bad guys. Good cop or renegade cop is the deal.
The new gang are a motley crew of dysfunctional telekinetics, morally compromised scientists and troubled warriors, who all need a bit of help and a pep talk in order to get them in shape for a last-stand suicide mission, creating an irritating emotional bond that Bioware exploit mercilessly for later dramatic effect. Don't forget kids, caring about other people makes you weak and ineffective in battle. And life is a battle, right? Right. Sweep the leg.
On the subject of which, the combat system works in real time, but can be paused mid-firefight to regroup,
select alternative weapons or powers and send instructions to the team – who, and this to me is the
greatest wonder of the current generation of gaming, - are genuinely quite a useful bunch who don't need
constant supervision in the middle of a war zone. Hoopla. Firing from cover is the order of the day, with
enough variation in the theme to avoid getting repetitive.
One of the selling points of ME2 has been the much-vaunted option to carry over a character from the first episode, and this appears to have been quite successful, with occasional asides providing a sense of continuity without punching you in the face with it. Furthermore, Bioware continue in a grand tradition of (comparatively) decently plotted drama, and while there's no KoTOR moment, there's plenty to enjoy. Load "" particularly enjoyed the scene in which the player takes a brief step out of character to join brittle
boned and weaponless Joker (Seth Green) in a panic-stricken dash through a ship invasion. Load "" could make parallels with a certain Buffy episode here, but feels this would be an invitation to a So ME2. All round good fun. And really, what could be better than that. Lurid interspecies pornography? Sturdier fish? Possibly. Maybe next time.
* Aided by semi-hysterical media coverage making claims of lurid interspecies pornographic scenes that, regrettably, never materialised.