Duo Review – Mass Effect 2 & BioStock 2

Mass Effect 2The good gets better baby

A long time ago called 2007 BioWare corp. & Microsoft brought forth an epic Sci-Fi tactical, RPG, shooter call Mass Effect. It was good. It had an excellent story, strong action and an overall good experience. So now in the beginning of 2010 Mass Effect 2 storms our systems, but the question is – does it live up to its predecessor? Well ladies and gentlemen, not only does it live up to the first game but it surpasses it in everyway, shape and form.

Players once again suit’s up as Commander Shepard fresh from his victory of the Reaper Sovereign and now is sent to find Geth, robotic servants of Sovereign. From here, without ruining the rest of the beginning, things get blowy-upy and then two years later Shepard is tasked to saved the universe again. The story’s a little sparse here I know, but when you play the game you’ll know why I had to keep my mouth shut about it.

Due to the actions of the beginning of the game the good commander gets a whole slew of somewhat new, yet streamlined abilities to use. These abilities are limited in number for each class, but are much more useful than the phonebook long, nickel & dime ones we got from the first game. Also each class has a signature move that can effectively, but briefly, tip the scales in any engagement. For example the Solider can enter into a ‘bullet time’ state, the Infiltrator can become invisible to get behind enemy lines, and even the Engineer (the weakest class in ME1) can now launch an attack drone and harass enemies with it.

BioWare’s changes aren’t limited to the abilities however; they also improved the upgrading element. Sorry all who was a fan of anal weapons’ upgrading every few battles in the original game – they’re history now. In fact buying new weapons and armor is impossible; player’s will find new weapons throughout the game (although not quickly) and the armor can only be upgraded with different parts and only Shepard’s. Player’s maybe stuck in his iconic armor but at least you can change the color, pattern, and look (through upgrades) of it; so use your imagination. However if superior weapons, deadlier powers, and upgradeable armor still not enough to make Commander Shepard the Iconic Badass he clearly is already; BioWare also saw the need to give him heavy weapons which range from flamethrowers and grenade launchers to nuke cannons and (for preorder players) black hole guns. All pure and simple screen killers, almost makes it unfair for opposition; though I wouldn’t worry too much about them.

In ME: uno the main baddies were Geth and a random assortment aliens that all acted pretty much the same way; like zombie’s who want to die. Dos however the enemies are mostly mercenaries (who are color coded: Blue, Red and Yellow) and the true enemies of the game (which I won’t say for anti-spoiler sake). The difference between the two game’s enemies is night and day once again; because depending on who your, and where, the enemies with uses very different tactics. The blue mercs, for example, are well balanced and use cover very well; the red mercs are always it your face and has strong armor and health recovering skills, and the yellows use shields, tech drones and Biotics (think force powers) attacks to get the job done. If your not smart and take advantage of your skills, surrounding, and subordinates, you will get overwhelmed and screened faster than you can say EZZO.

In all seriousness players I cannot begin to tell you all how Mass Effect 2 ROCKS SO HARD, but I’m going to try anyway and forgive me for missing any awesome detail. First of all the combat is improved and simplified; no longer deal with annoying menus on the battlefield. Abilities can now be hot linked to the left and right shoulder buttons (players powers) and D-Pad (followers powers) on the controller. The D-pad also controls the followers’ movements, so players can position them in strategic locations in a fight. What’s more, they did away with the weapons overheat system of the first game and replaced it with ‘Heatsync’ clips; which is a fancy way of saying the weapons need to be reloaded now. Now that may seem like a bad thing on paper (replacing a near-unlimited ammo system with one that is finite and must find all over the place); and admittedly I did need time to get use to it. After I did it was glorious; the first game’s combat was RPG based with a little shooter element, this game’s combat is shooter based with a RPG element – and it’s better for it.

Combat is not the only thing improved here.

The look, the feel, and whole story this time around is much more realistic. In the first game everything was sterilized and clean – it was like watching a mannequin melodrama. They told story well enough, but there was absents of emotions from the characters that made it difficult to identify with them, let alone care what happens to them. The sequel gives this series’ life; when you see a character (not just Shepard) express emotions, you’ll believe it. When you see one at a point of total desperation they will cry, or you’ll encounter one at a height of blind rage they scream into the sky with weapon blazing, players may even experienced two characters embrace each other in such a way – that there’s no question on how they feel towards one another. Mass Effect 2 has redefined emotional storytelling in games for me (barring Uncharted 2 because I haven’t played it yet), the stuff I’ve seen in the scenes are definitely movie film quality but it’s the little things that steal the show.

What do I mean? Its things like an easy level up system, its things like upgradable in game features, its things like background banter from unimportant characters that still draw my attention, its things like smart allies in combat and even smarter enemies, its things like the unexpected, its things like making even mundane exploration in space mini games for amusement, its things like making random missions not like another random mission, its things like porting the player’s data from the original game to this one and allowing those choices made (grand or small) then to follow now, its things like choices that players will continue to make and effect the entire game as a whole.

It is little things like this that makes video games great; and me proud to be a gamer since day one.

Mass Effect 2 is the perfect game save for one flaw – it is not a game that reads well in standard definition. In order to catch every word being said I turn on the subtitles; but it doesn’t help if I can’t read it. This is another game made specifically for a hi-def TV and no other. Sorry BioWare can’t let that one slide.

Thorough this review I’ve been judging the original Mass Effect harshly, and I don’t mean to. I loved the first game, worth every cent I’ve paid for it; but Mass Effect 2 is in a league of its own and even makes its predecessor look pale in comparison. Game of the year? Without question. Tiles have a new measuring stick to compare themselves to now and the industry will only get better because of it. This bad boy came out in January people; if this is a sign of things to come I think the rest of the year in going to be bliss for gamers.

Mass Effect 2 gets a Platinum Score.

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BioShock 2‘Would you kindly’ play this game

Now that Mass Effect 2 is out of the way, time to move on to another long awaited sequel: BioShock 2. Now those who played the first game must be scratching their heads, because no matter what ending you got it was rather definitive. That doesn’t stop 2K though from taking us back to the failed social experiment that couldn’t: the city of Rapture. Dive in people, let’s see if the series can stand the test of time or left rusted out and waterlogged.

The first game’s hero is MIA this time around (due to the good ending storyline I’m sure), so players suit up as one of gaming most impressive and imposing forces, a Big Daddy. And not just any Big Daddy, but one of the rare Alpha series Big Daddies; meaning you play as one of the first Daddy’s in Rapture. This is where the story starts actually, a year before all hell breaks loose in BioShock. You, as a Big Daddy named Delta, were created to protect a ‘Little Sister’ (little girls transformed into genetic slaves that extract ADAM, an evolutionary wonder drug, from the bodies of the dead). Normal Big Daddies are bound with the current Little Sisters they’re with, but Delta’s only bound to one named Eleanor. They were out doing their rounds when Eleanor was attacked; Delta did not approve. He defeated three of the four attackers handily, but was stunned made compliant by the forth. A mysterious woman comes out of the shadows, tells Delta that Eleanor is her daughter, and then forces Delta to kill himself Quick game right? Wrong. Fast forward ten years later after the fall of Rapture, Delta wakes up to find not only he’s alive but has total control of his actions (Big Daddies themselves, like the Little Sisters, are little more than what are they created for).

He maybe aware, but it doesn’t change who he is so Delta sets out to find Eleanor and in turn, discover what happed to Rapture since the first game.

As I said before Delta is a rare Alpha series Big Daddy: prototypes of the ones seen in the first and second games. What makes them special is the fact they can use plasmids and gene tonics, which are special abilities one can get from ADAM (like what the protagonist used in the first game). Combined with the fact they are faster and more nimble than a normal daddy, but still able to wield their heavy weapons like the oversized drill bit and the riveter gun (which you couldn’t do in the first game) makes players feel like the ultimate force under the sea. Delta’s also able to takeover machines up close or from a distance thanks to hack darts, lay down mini turrets for quick suppression fire, and even uses a motion camera to earn advantages against enemies. Most importantly players can ‘recruit’ Little Sisters to gather ADAM for them; once they have their fill players can absorb it and use it towards more abilities.

Being a all powerful ADAM eating, plasmids slinging, drill punching, rivet shooting, bad ass in pressure suit may make a player a little over confident; I know I was until I realized (quite quickly in fact) that these ain’t the same splicers I faced in the first game. The same thuggish, leadhead, spider, and etc splicers return in this second installment; but this time around they’re way more organized and must have taken some commando classes because they appear right out of nowhere (and sometimes in plain sight). Of course the automated defenses are always a problem; improvised rocket launchers and flying turrets will ruin your day for sure. Then there are other Big Daddies, normally harmless until provoked but they guard Little Sisters and they have (and can obtain more) ADAM; so sooner or later players will have to face them. They all come in many shapes and sizes but they all good at one thing and that’s hurting you. Finally new to the series are the Big Sisters, which are Little Sisters that hit puberty and have a massive chip on their shoulders. They show up after players clear an area of all ADAM and their intent is getting it back. Unbelievably fast and agile, can summon fire, and use telekinesis; the Big Sisters don’t screw around – so be prepared when you face one.

BioShock 2 is an excellent game and is a spliced up fusion of a shooter, RPG, and light horror genres. 2K made some improvement from the first game. Hacking, for example, is easier but happens in real time which adds to the challenge and real danger of being attacked. New plasmids and gene tonics also are very creative and give Delta an edge in his search for Eleanor. My new favorite is ‘scout’ which allows Delta to leave his body and scout an area for enemies and use plasmids undetected. Rapture is still as haunting as ever, thanks to a powerful art style, well placed sound effects and music scores. You never know what horrors or ambushes are around every corner (even with scout). Of course the Little Sister harvesting missions will keep players on their toes; once you put her down get the ADAM got to protect her and all costs. It’s like one sided capture the flag; accept with freaks throwing fireballs at you.

Speaking of which, the multiplayer, I got to say not a strong point of the game.

I’ll give them credit for trying to give it somewhat of a story and relevance to the plot of the main series; but all the cool stuff you can do in the single player doesn’t quite work as well (or the same) in the multiplayer. Plus it can be laggy and there are weapons and plasmids balancing issues that make the whole experience irritating.

I’m glad to say that this is the second sequel this year to do their series justice; playing a Big Daddy in the single game was fun, playing a cracked up splicer in the buggy multiplayer was a lot less fun. But like Terminator 3 and Terminator Salvation I’m just going ignore it and place focus where it belongs. Sadly I must come up for air, because the weatherman said there’s a Heavy Rain in the forecast for tomorrow. Stay tuned.

BioShock 2 gets a Gold Score.

Transformers: Generation 0 Trifecta

Three for the price of one, two teaser trailers and Transformers: Generation 0 episode #1. ARMADA sends its regards.

True BackLash’s Top 10 Commercials of Super Bowl XLIV

For my first video under Armada, what better than to start with the commercials that made me laugh during the Super Bowl.