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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Mass Effect 2.

Transcript Edit

In case you've lost your memories of the last few years from being slapped particularly hard by your dad's cock, Mass Effect 1 was BioWare's epic sci-fi action RPG with some spicy NPC diddling which hit the controversy circuit before any of the knee-jerk busy-body twat sandwiches involved took time out to actually play the game and see there was barely enough flesh to satisfy the world's least choosy cannibal. And Mass Effect 2's diddle content seems determined to be even less erection-friendly. I went to all the trouble of picking the most appallingly wussy conversation options, just to woo the wovely wady, and all I got out of it was a bra and a bit of pants-on dry humping. With all the futuristic zippered outfits these people wear, that seemed like a highway to an unwanted bell-end piercing. I assume this was an attempt to avoid the same media outcry as last time, to which I would say: "You do know why the first game sold so well, don't you, BioWare? 'Cause it wasn't for the fucking vehicle sections."

My unimpressed penis aside, Mass Effect 2 does something I haven't seen since the Quest for Glory and Ultima games, and that's the ability to import a Commander Shepard from the first game and slip him back on like a comfortable pair of space trousers, and whatever choices you made back then occasionally come up in the story of this one. Commander Shepard, legendary space hero, whose gender went unrecorded by history, goes missing for two years and turns up dead, but then he becomes alive again, so I guess he's a space vampire now. In the meantime, the human race has grown in power throughout the galaxy, either because the alien-run council all got killed in the last game or because they've been sitting around eating space donuts for two years, and a new threat has risen (as indeed it must, 'cause you can't just spend the whole game knocking back Singapore Slings on a beach somewhere, outside of the Dead or Alive franchise) in the form of human colonies mysteriously disappearing. Presumably they all heard that there was another Mass Effect game coming and ran away before they could become part of a vehicle section.

A little prematurely, as it turns out, because the vehicle sections themselves seem to have had the same idea. They're conspicuously absent, as is the ability to go down to random planets and explore a square mile of terrain. While I definitely don't miss the bouncy castle shopping trolley car physics, the free-roaming planets did give the game universe a sense of tangible bigness, while most of Mass Effect 2 feels like swapping between a bunch of enclosed shooting galleries before coming back to your ship to play with your train set. Off-roading around random planets is now replaced by scanning the surface from orbit, launching probes to extract resources, which is as interesting as it sounds, and it sounds like this: wwwhhhhaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. You don't have to do it, but you need the resources to buy upgrades and get the best ending. This is supposed to be an exciting space adventure! Commander Shepard should acquire resources by shooting them out a monster's face! Or by extracting them from the throats of alien hotties with his tongue.

So Shepard's car has disappeared, and apparently he was keeping his inventory management system in the boot, because that's gone too, and thank fuck for that. Instead of hoarding piles of guns and armor, swapping out your equipment for the latest models and pawning off truckloads of obsolete gear after every single mission (which is always the second most tedious part of RPGs after picking the shrink-wrap off the box), now you stick to the same guns and armor and just upgrade them. Yay! Except you can only get upgrades through the planet-scanning mechanic. Boo! You can also customize Shepard's armor color, so of course I dressed him up in hot pink in memory of his long-forgotten comrade Commander Gobulcoque.

As for the combat, it does get repetitive, since Mr. Vehicle Section didn't show up for work and Mr. Cover-Based Shooting has to pretty much hold up gameplay by itself and--dare I say--it's also a bit too easy. Ambushes are always laughingly predictable because of the tell-tale sign of chest-high walls. And I was a sniping specialist, so all the biggest battlefield threats went down before they even got close enough to call me a tosser. You can give your party members specific directions, but I got through the whole game without ever needing to, because by the time it would become hypothetically become necessary all the enemies were whistling jaunty tunes through the holes in their heads.

The writing's solid, but then BioWare don't score any points for that anymore. Birds fly, fish swim, Michael Atkinson molests dogs, and BioWare games have good writing. But when the characters deliver the dialogue, they always come down with the BioWare face, that uncanny valleyesque look of oddness because the voices and the physical movements are created separately. You can almost see them going over their stage directions in their heads. "Hello, Commander Shepard (wave hand). I heard you might show up today (nod head). How 'bout those freaky aliens, eh (shake fist, grr grr, slightly racist undercurrent)?" As in the last game, your conversation choices give you points in Paragon and Renegade. It's not exactly a moral choice system, just defines whether you swing towards Dirty Harry or Captain Picard. Late in the game, persuasion options pretty much need all Paragon or all Renegade, which messes up the roleplaying a bit. When you're choosing whether to free a race of slaves or force them to strip off and dance about while you take photographs, you're not thinking, "What would I do in this situation?" You're thinking, "Which option gives me the best dickhead points, because I need them to persuade Crewman A to take her top off."

When the bottom falls out of the game criticism market and I have to start prostituting myself to developers, BioWare will be one of my first ports of call, because there are few enough developers in the world who treat writing as an integral part of the game rather than an optional set of colorful tassels to put on the handlebars. So Mass Effect 2 is very well written and epic and immersive and all that, but gameplay-wise it's still flailing around like a neurotic twenty-something checkout girl trying to find the right combination of hats and dresses. They discarded the ugly yellow sunhat of vehicle sections and tried on the frumpy brown frock of resource mining, and it's still not quite working. For Mass Effect 3--and I know there will be a Mass Effect 3, because the loading screens rather unsubtly remind you to hang onto your save games--they should try bringing back the planet surface exploration but let you navigate the terrain with jetpacks! And populate it with giant wolves that shoot lasers out of their mouths. If I wanted to be a space quantity surveyor, I'd play Eve Online.

AddendaEdit

Saviour of the universe: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

"Lazarus Project"? Wow, bet that took a whole meeting to come up with

Will nitpick for food

ScreenshotsEdit

Mass Effect 2 1

Knee-jerk busy-body twat sandwiches

Mass Effect 2 2

A new threat has risen

Mass Effect 2 3

The human race has grown in power

External LinksEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
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2008
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2009
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2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
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Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
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Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
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2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
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Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
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2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
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2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart

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