Mass Effect 2 is one of the most critically lauded titles released this year, but I'm not loving it. It has impressive visuals, deep characters and the action is solid, yet I believe there have still been better games released in 2010. It has hours worth of missions, side-quests and a comprehensive array of dialogue options, yet I believe I will struggle to finish it. The reason for this is simple: Commander Shepard. The central character, made to my specifications, Shepard is inconsistent, wooden and painfully awkward. A combination of near monotone voice work and stiff animation, my custom avatar has me at times cringing from a complete lack of sincerity.
Mild Spoiler Alert: The most glaring example of Shepard's erratic manner is during the reunion with Garrus, my favourite ally from the first instalment of the franchise. After listening to the protagonist put his crew, and the inhabitants of Omega to sleep with his droning tenor, the protagonist greets his old friend with his arms stretched out, essentially asking "Yo Garrus what up dog? Gimme some love!" Where did this come from? Since when was the captain of the Normandy so relaxed and at ease? I couldn't link this behaviour to the character I had previously observed for the better part of 5 hours.
Shepard isn't the only flaw in the package however. Textures often fail to load properly when you enter new locations, meaning that those noticeable load times still aren't long enough to ensure that the game consistently looks as good as intended. Further to that, sometimes the action grinds to a complete halt and continues loading. Also problematic is the combat. While I acknowledge that more often than not, it is enjoyable, it plays like your average cover shooter (at least early on, further in I am sure that stronger biotic powers should serve to differentiate the experience from the competition). There is not much here that you haven't seen, or played before in other 3rd person action games. Further to that, the ammunition system is just plain painful. I just want to use my heavy pistol, that is it. But I get 24 bullets for every mission. I could use other weapons (shotgun - short range, automatic pistol - too unwieldy), and I can retrieve more ammo from fallen enemies, but if I'm fighting from a distance, I've got 24 chances to make the galaxy a safer place.
I am intrigued to know whether I would've noticed the above, had it not been for the relentless hype behind this Game of the Year contender. I still think Shepard would have left me fatigued, however I think some of the other issues may not be so glaring as they are now. I am going to persevere with Mass Effect 2, as I'm sure if nothing else, my brother would not forgive me if I did not play it through to near completion. Otherwise, I may not have found the inspiration to see Bioware's latest space-faring RPG (RPG lite I might add) through to its end.
Who is excited about Mass Effect 2 coming to the PlayStation 3? Who is nonplussed?