Friday, June 26, 2009

E3 09: Mass Effect 2 Hands-on Preview

Mass Effect was truly an epic game, one full of planet-hopping, galaxy saving, and alien shagging. Since the original seemingly had it all, constructing a worthy follow-up would be quite a daunting task. Thankfully, Bioware seems to be up to the challenge, keeping everything that was great about the first game and improving upon all its little problems immensely.

The first change worth mentioning is that Mass Effect’s much maligned combat has been greatly improved. My demo had me raiding a tower on a blue metropolitan planet that looked a bit like Coruscant from Star Wars. Classes have been tweaked from what they were in the first game, opening up new abilities to fit every player type. In this case, I was playing as a Soldier build and the assault rifle was my go-to weapon. The combat is similar to the original, with the time-stopping weapon and ability wheels popping up with the press of a button. Everything is a bit faster paced this time around, with two hot-keys available for different rechargeable abilities. I could also tell individual teammates to lock-on to different enemies at any point. Where an enemy gets shot now seems to make a much bigger difference in how they react, making combat that much more visceral. All of this comes together very smoothly, as I could imbue my bullets temporarily with a special power that would send enemies floating through the air and then tell my squadmate to take them out while they were incapacitated.

The first Mass Effect did a lot to push dialogue trees forward in games, but the conversations were not without their problems. While the voice acting was great and the facial animations were expressive, dialogue sequences still felt stilted and janky as the camera unceremoniously cut between two staid characters. Now, the camera and characters both move around a lot more, proving that the inhabitants of the Mass Effect universe can *gasp* both walk and talk at the same time. Bioware has also made these interactions time-sensitive, so you can’t just stand there awkwardly deciding how to respond. The game forces you to be quick, or the conversation may not go the way you want it to. Furthermore, you’ll have the option to interrupt a chat with the left shoulder button. In one choice example, we were shown Commander Shepard ending a discussion by throwing a guy out of a window, hearkening back to the days when Han Solo could shoot Greedo first and yet still be the hero

Check out the rest of the preview here, at TGR.
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