Mum (and pretty much any other person who had a hand in raising me) always told me that "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." I probably should have taken that advice last year when I dubbed Mass Effect 2 the most disappointing game of 2010. It's not that I necessarily regret my decision: in the context of 2010, where I purchased another Xbox 360 to play Halo: Reach and Mass Effect 2 (and Gears of War 3, which was then delayed by the better part of a year), these games had to deliver on expectations. Mass Effect 2 had been touted by many as a "Game of the Year," contender, and it was released in January!
When I actually had the game in my hot little hands, things didn't go exactly as planned. I spent about 10 hours with the game and was underwhelmed by a combination of lacklustre voice-acting (mainly from the make-your-own protagonist) and repetitive combat that played like just about every other third-person conver shooter on the market. The biotic powers spiced things up a little bit, but not enough to get me through the title.
Fast forward to February 2011, three months after I deliver my indictment, and here I am playing through the same game (essentially), again. The first ten hours were once again a hard, mind-numbing slog, yet I persevered. I recruited a few more team members, fully upgraded some abilities, and then I actually found myself having fun. Was this the GOTY that the majority of gaming journalists had been singing praises for since the beginning of last year? No. Not even close. What Halo: Reach lacked in narrative depth, it more than made up with frenetic combat and persistent rewards across single and multiplayer suites. While Red Dead: Redemption may have had fifty-too many fetch quests, the Wild West constantly surprised and engaged with dynamic situations, hunting and foraging. Mass Effect 2 is a great game, but the experience was a little too repetitive and dare I say, sterile, to take the mantle from Noble Six, Marston, or Big Boss.
Now Mass Effect 2, particularly on the Playstation 3, is a dense package. I was rushing through it, and it still took me about twenty-three hours. I did complete all of the additional missions that were released as DLC for the 360 version as well, but considering you spend most of that time crouched behind a random bulkhead: twenty-three hours is a long fucking time.
A review will be forthcoming, so expect a quantitative value to be assigned to Bioware's space opera sequel next Monday.
What are you guys playing this week?