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Mass Effect 2

Massive attack or epic fail? Take one guess.

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Combat is also helped by being able to issue limited orders to your two team-mates in any given encounter - simply pressing left and right on the D-pad plonks a waypoint wherever your cursor is pointing, and moves your party members to the desired areas, which is very useful. We stumbled on a few occasions where we'd moved too far ahead and triggered an attack, only to find that our computer-controlled friends were way behind us, taking their sweet time in finishing off a straggling bad guy, or hunkered behind cover, presumably anticipating something nasty in the metaphorical woodshed.

It's a simple system, but a useful one, and coupled with the slightly-more intuitive abilities menus (hold down RB to bring up radial menus with all of your party's abilities, including different ammo types, which is a tiny but crucially helpful change), it means that issuing orders and manually directing your chums' biotic powers and special abilities is but the work of moments, weaving itself into the ebb and flow of battles with as little imposition and frustration as possible.

Elsewhere, there are further tiny tweaks and adjustments, each so minor as to be inconsequential, and yet terrifically, essentially amplified in context. Take, for example, the re-jigged ammo system; you no longer have to wait for a weapon to cool down, you simply eject the thermal clip and reload.
It's all indicative of two things; that there was little that really needed fixing in Mass Effect, and that Bioware have listened carefully to the criticisms of their fans and made the necessary improvements.

There are additions, too - surveying uncharted worlds from the Normandy means you can accrue various minerals, which you can feed into the upgrade research you discover, allowing you to improve weapons, armour, biotics, even the Normandy herself. And the N7 missions - while still being shorter and more generic than 'main' missions - play a larger role.

But there's two sides to Mass Effect 2. For all the action, for all the blasting with both weapons and biotics, there's the actual role-playing - and boy, is there a lot of it here. If you're a fan of the first game, or Bioware's RPGs in general, then you will, of course, love this; if not then your enjoyment of Mass Effect 2 is largely going to rely on how you view conversations - how much you talk, and how much you like listening to others talk. Missions are completed with brute force; everything else is decided by talking to people, and it's how you talk to people that determines the bigger picture.

Of course, as with the first game, there's really only three different ways to treat people - with a good (Paragon), bad (Renegade), or neutral attitude, but it's never quite this clear cut because of the sheer, mind-boggling amount of conversational gambits and information. Perhaps one of the most important new things on offer - again a seemingly slight thing, but actually dramatically effective - is the option to interrupt conversations with either an honourable Paragon or hot-headed Renegade response. These add a drama and urgency to conversations which certainly breaks up
the arguable monotony of ask-and-answer sessions, but sometimes it's a frustration, too. At one point, holding a guard at gunpoint as we traversed up a tower looking for the newest member of our team, the Renegade option flashed up on the screen.

With a brain and instincts re-wired by years of gamesplaying and rubbishy QTE button-mashing, we automatically hit the right trigger, it barely registering as conscious thought. The result? The poor old guard, uncooperative to the last, was kicked out of the window to a messy end on the pavement below. It was momentarily appalling; having spent so long in the game trying to be a decent person and, as much as possible, do the right thing, to be so suddenly amoral was a shock to the system. Perhaps that's the point, of course, and Bioware cannot legislate for player behaviour; nevertheless, be warned. You don't have to hit the trigger if you don't want to.

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