Another aspect that has seen quite spectacular improvement is the dialogue, now handled in a more dynamic way. Instead of characters stood talking at each other in standard poses - something that shattered the illusion of authenticity in the first game - they will chat on the move, or framed by more cinematic camera angles. One example we saw was Shepard and an Asari ally flying through a city in a hover-car. The two chatted while Shepard weaved through the traffic, making their conversation feel far less forced and wooden; more like it belonged in an epic sci-fi movie.
That's not the only way the dialogue has been made to feel more 'natural'. Later on, the pair find themselves questioning a guard inside an enormous sky-scraper. Shepard wants to get to his boss, but this grunt isn't playing ball, feigning ignorance and fobbing our hero off. A QTE prompt appeared in the corner of the screen giving Shepard the opportunity to interrupt the conversation, booting the crony straight through the nearest window and onto the street below (That'll be a fistful of Renegade points, then). You'll be able to talk while fighting too, although Bioware hasn't shown off how this will work. Chances are, it'll involve a mini cut-scene in the middle of certain combat sections, but again, it adds a level of realism absent from the series to date.
Planet exploration is another thing that has been evaluated and changed. Although tackling the various side-missions in the first game was far from a chore, the limited number of planet types was disappointing. "The planets themselves will be much richer and more diverse, since they're each based on a unique 'hook' of their own," says Hudson. "They will each feature visuals and gameplay that you can't get anywhere else in the game." The way you explore them has changed too, and during the E3 demo, Bioware showed a clip of the player choosing where they wanted to land on a planet.
We're assuming that the Mako will return - how else would you cover large distances? - although this is yet to be confirmed. The new exploration system will also mean more and better DLC. Bringing Down the Sky was the only DLC offering we had for Mass Effect until recently, but Hudson assures us that "ME2 has been enhanced in ways that will make it easier for us to build DLC content and release it more frequently. It's a more integral part of the game and our plan for the whole experience." One thing we'd like to know is, if your character does die at the end of the story, will you be able to play DLC without restarting the game? This is something Bethesda had to deal with when fans complained about Fallout 3's ending, and they responded by releasing the Broken Steel DLC, which let you play beyond the end.
Ever since the credits rolled on the first game, we've been hungry to know how the story continues, and more importantly, to know if there are going to be any nasty consequences following our dubious moral choice to, er, 'go interspecies' with Liara last time. We confess our sexy adventure to Hudson, and he rather cryptically tells us: "Relationships and human stories are central to the Mass Effect experience, and the decisions you made regarding relationships in the first game will carry into ME2 and beyond as some of the most important aspects of the ongoing story." Do we hear the pitter-patter of tiny half-human, half-Asari feet? Is that so wrong? Morality. It's a tricky bugger...