Published on November 21st, 2009 | by prime0
Mass Effect 2 – Preview
“It’s about bringing along a squad of the most badass operatives in the galaxy, so you can overcome what might otherwise become a suicide mission.” Or so says Dr. Ray Muzyka, CEO of BioWare and Group General Manager of the RPG and MMO tem t EA. And he should know, as his team at BioWare has spent over two years honing one of the most sought after sequels in RPG console history.
It’s those words though (‘Badass operatives’) that sends tingling doubt down the spine. Coupled with the Subject Zero teaser trailers, is Mass Effect 2 in danger of tumbling down and pandering t the shooter-hungry masses? In a word, no. after finally getting hands-on time with both Mass Effect 2’s combat and conversational mechanics, there’s very little to worry about at all. In fact, it’s about time you got very, very excited indeed.
Our demo took place in one of the galaxy’s seeder nightspots, where drunken revelers gawp at gyrating Asari while dark techno hums through the sound system. You see, even though Shepard is trying to work out why humans are disappearing all over the galaxy, and what the malevolent alien race The Collectors have to do with it, he’s still got time for a shot and a bit of, um, recreation.
He’s there to speak to an Asari woman, but in truth it’s more a chance for BioWare to show off its enhanced character modeling and cut-scene direction. Remember how the original’s visuals popped in over the space of 30 seconds every time a new scene began? Not anymore. Remember how characters would stand bold upright and deliver their lines at each other’s vacant faces? Nope, all that’s changed.
The game really looks the part, and when you’re neck deep in space-banter, characters move around, sit down, stand up, and even exchange subtle glances and expressions. It serves to draw players deeper into the world of what Muzyka is calling ‘the dark second act of the Mass Effect Trilogy’.
Even though the setting is ostentatiously gritty, there’s a tone to Mass Effect 2 that matches the edgier moments from the first game. It comes from the music, the lighting, even the delivery of the dialogue. These are the types of techniques that skilled film-makers have used for years to build otherworldly universes, and BioWare has done great work in mimicking and even expanding on such welcome stylistic choices.
Of course, with this being a demo and Mass Effect 2 being ‘as much a shooter as a role playing game’ – Muzyka, again – it’s really not long before we’re crouched behind a wall with an assault rifle in our hands, ready to do battle.
Immediately, the changes in combat are apparent. For starters, there’s so much more precision in your aiming, so you feel less like you’re throwing handfuls of shells at a wall, and more like you’re accurately selecting and dispatching targets. Perhaps the biggest improvement though, is in the way the enemies take damage. Placing a few sniper shots into the head of a robotic aggressor left him slumped over a barricade, wires shorting and fizzing as it died a painful digital death. This is type of feedback that all the great shooters give players. It was only a brief shootout – although one that thrust a grenade launcher into Shepard’s hands – but a very promising one. Battles no longer feel like a compromise, but an integral, enjoyable part of the experience.
In fact, ervy aspect of Mass Effect 2 has been cranked up in an attempt to really capitalize on the potential of the first game. It’s not difficult to decipher BioWare’s philosophy here – the Canadian RPG supremos are trying to make their own Empire Strikes Back.
“We’ve really amped up the intensity of the experience across the board, both the shooter and the role-playing aspects of the game,” Muzyka excitedly explains. “We have really precise controls on the battlefield with tactical depth, and it really feels incredibly precise as you’re shooting, and with the role-playing aspects, we’re not losing anything on those things either. We have an amazing experience with incredible depth and customization, progression, exploration and combat, and I think fans are going to have an amazing time. There’s nothing else quite like Mass Effect 2 out there; it’s a truly amazing experience”.
Normally such PR hyperbole would have us reaching for earplugs, but it’s tough not to get swept along with the passion and enthusiasm of the BioWare guys. It’s infectious. This is a labor of love, a game Muzyka himself has called “perhaps the best title that BioWare has ever worked on,” and quite possibly the finest piece of science fiction yet seen on a game console.
So allay those worries, silence those doubts and make sure you haven’t wiped your save from the original game, because Mass Effect will be here sooner than you think. It’s time to dust off those space fatigues and get on with saving the universe.