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Quick Review - Mass Effect 2

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People play games for many different reasons. Some enjoy driving a car in a circle, while others prefer jumping around collecting shiny baubles. Then there are the miscreants who love nothing more than pointing and clicking on whatever they want to die. These are all admirable pastimes, and the games industry has become expert at packaging such experiences into a format best described as "cinematic." But as games have become more "cinematic," a key feature of the cinema is often left behind. Storytelling in games is usually a crude byproduct of game design necessity, an afterthought shoehorned crudely between the ice world and the sewer level. It's natural that games should look to film for help in developing meaningful narratives, but it is often the case that film's narrative devices feel overly contrived in a dynamic, interactive setting in which the player should be calling the shots. 

Canadian developer BioWare has always met the challenges and opportunities of interactive storytelling head-on, drawing inspiration from film techniques, but masterfully building upon them and integrating them into interactive experiences that propel the art of storytelling to new levels.

Mass Effect 2 is BioWare's most fully realized work to date. The hybrid shooter/RPG leaves the player feeling like they are interacting not only with polygons and physics, but with heady philosophical concepts and the very fabric of the narrative itself. It's a breath of fresh air in an industry where character development usually goes pistol, shotgun, rocket launcher. It's a rare thing for a game to build such a strong rapport with story and characters, but Mass Effect 2's unparalleled writing, sparkling graphics and top-notch voice talent make it easy to get pulled in. 

Another unique concept that pushes the narrative envelope, Mass Effect 2 allows you to import your character from the first game.  At import you can alter your appearance and class to your liking, but all your decisions remain intact. A surprising amount of unexpected baggage comes along with you. Throughout Mass Effect 2, you're accosted by a motley gaggle of minor characters whose lives you affected in the first game. You'll struggle to remember some of them, and others you'll recall after a bit of conversation. Some offer thanks, others entreat you to entertain a side-quest. In any case, you come away feeling like you've made a lasting impression on the world, something few games can actually pull off. If you haven't played through the first game, we highly recommend it as importing your character adds immensely to the enjoyment of Mass Effect 2. It isn't a prerequisite, though, as there's plenty for new players to like.

The main story arc of Mass Effect 2 revolves around attacks on several human colonies whose inhabitants have vanished without a trace. You're recruited by the pro-human splinter group Cerberus to investigate the mysterious disappearances. Along the way you recruit a team of elite operatives to take the fight to the bad guys in what increasingly looks like a suicide mission.