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.

Game Preview – Games to look for in 2010

Well ladies and gentlemen of the gaming universe it finally happened, we’ve officially entered into the future – its 2010 baby! I, for one, couldn’t be anymore excited but my only concern with it is what do I call this era now? The ten’s? Oh well, that’s another question for another time; you’re here for games after all, and games you will receive. This year we have the return of old favorites in sequel form and new interesting titles that will premiering as well. Sad to say, we as gamers won’t get much of a break in ot’10 (I’m still on Dragon Age like blood crazy fiend, never mind all its DLCs that came out of no where), but I’m not complaining – bring in on. Here are some of the games I (and by proxy you all) will be looking forward to:

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Mass Effect 2: [Releases 1/26/10]

BioWare’s science fiction masterpiece of 2007 is not only coming on strong with this high anticipated sequel but early in the year as well. The story picks up where the first one left off; Commander Shepard saving the galaxy from a horde of mechanized monsters. After that you would think he’s take a vacation, but ever the stoic hero he heads off to the stars for his next impossible mission; and boy did he find it. This time around there new weapons, new characters, new locals, new combat system, whole nine. Players of the first game also have the added bonus of importing their character as well as the choices they made to the second game, now who said you can’t take it with you. This spacey sojourn should be all that and then some.

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Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars [Releases 1/26/10]

I love my Wii, I really do. And it has some really impressive titles, but even I must admit that it doesn’t get all the premium titles it should. Well fellow Wii owners Wiijoice because now the shoe is on the other foot; meaning the latest in the Capcom VS fighting series, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, is only going to be available on the Wii console. This time around it mixes the familiar of capcom (Zero, Viewtiful Joe, Ryu, etc) with the unfamiliar of Tatsunoko (Golden Lightan, Ken the Eagle, Dorombo Gang, etc) and they all fight each other in of-the-wall, impossible ways for no apparent reason. Just the way I likes’ it, and being a Wii exclusive only adds to the appeal for the title. The only drawback I can really see with the game right now is the fact it will be released on the same day as Mass Effect 2, and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle.

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No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle [Releases 1/26/10]

We are Travis Touchdown, and he is us. Every one of us that could buy a beam sword on eBay and hunt down and destroy the world’s deadliest assassins with awesome wrestling moves and wild charisma – would. Well he’s back and so are his — (wait for it) ‘desperate struggles’; but feel bad for the opposition people because this time it’s personal for Travis.

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BioShock 2: [Releases 2/9/10]

And you thought it was over, didn’t you? Don’t worry, so did I. Not that I’m ungrateful mind you; I look forward to once again dive under the sea, infiltrate Rapture and mix it up with enemies that are a combination of X-Men mutants and meth addicts. However this time around players get to roll as one the most imposing forces in the game; a big daddy – actually the first big daddy. While he traverses what remains of the fallen utopia, players will discover the many mysteries that persist there that didn’t end with Ryan.

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Heavy Rain: [Releases 2/23/10]

There is a killer; cold and calculating, call Origami. The Origami Killer has killed many and will kill again unless someone steps forward. In Heavy Rain players take up four characters with the task of stopping the Origami Killer. What makes this game unique is that it is done in the style of a choose your own adventure flavor with an added twitch element. Players must think fast and choose their reactions well because a bad choice will get a character killed, permanently… So what will you choose?

– Be scared and run away.

– Be intimatdated because it’s not a FPS.

– Be excited and count the days until the game launches

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Battlefield Bad Company 2: [Releases 3/2/10]

Now I’m torn about this game, I loved the single player experience where it follows (through the eyes of the rookie of course) the misadventures of B(ad) Company taking down enemies in the name of Uncle Sam and a personal payday of gold bricks. What I didn’t like was the multiplayer which was clusterfreak ‘o failure; though I’m sure people will disagree with me. Regardless BBC:2 is coming out soon so that means a strong militaristic FPS in the vain of the Battlefield series. It boasts new maps, vehicle combat, building destruction, different play modes, and the like. Which is fine and all, but I hope B company return is just as detail oriented as the rest otherwise I’ll be really disappointed. But to its credit, it is really good looking.

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Final Fantasy XIII (That’s 13, if anyone’s wondering) [Releases 3/9/10]

In general I like the Final Fantasy series (FF 8, 11 and 12, not so much) but I’m not quite the rabid fanboy some are; so finding out this game was only a couple of months away from launch was a bit of a shock. Also I know next to nothing about the story, and the characters don’t quite interest me either to speak plainly. Despite all of this however, FFXIII still makes my list because I would be a fool to ignore it. I just hope it will have some substance under that hi-def style, we’ll see soon.

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Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening [Releases 3/16/10]

Dragon Age owns me. I love this game, so much so that I’ve filled up all my required characters slots – and people that’s never happened to me before. There’s just so much to see, do, and experience I can’t decide which record to stick with. It only got worst when I’ve obtained the DLCs (I’m still waiting for Return to Ostagar), now I’ve come to find out they’re releasing this expansion pack. BioWare – for all that’s good, please stop making dynamite content so rapidly. I’m already behind in my other games thanks to you (who got time for modern warfare when darkspawns’ about), now with Awakening I won’t be eating either – thanks a lot.

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God of War III: [Releases 3/16/10]

This is the 3rd in a rather blood and hedonistic series of games. Kratos, one ashy brotha, isn’t just satisfied with iceing the god of war but now he’s after the king baby – Zeus. Over his head, not with an army of PO’ed titans on his side (for now); and of course is Kratos armed with the most power weapons in the mythical grecian world. Sadly, a fully-powered Kratos doesn’t last very long in the sequels. Worry not, with Kratos’ luck something bigger and badder is always located in the nearest enemies’ skull.

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Just Cause 2: [Releases 3/23/10]

Rico Rodriguez is back; grappling hook, parachute and all. I’ll admit the first game was pretty corny; even for a video game, but fun, no question. I think this game will be more realistic (by video game standards at least) this time around, but don’t quote me on that. Even if it’s not however; I’ll still look forward to all the frantic ways I can sky jack a fighter plane and how best to turn it loose on the 3rd world country (mwa ha ha).

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Splinter Cell: Conviction [Releases 4/1/10]

Ah poor Sam Fisher, things seems to go bad to worse for the man; his daughter dies in a hit-n-run and since the last game (Double Agent) he becomes public enemy number one. However Fisher ain’t the kind of guy who goes quietly into the night, now that’s he out of a job he’s going to use all that military bad-asslery to find his daughter’s killer and have a little ‘chat’. But if you don’t think this too won’t tie into some secret conspiracy to take over through the government, you’re crazy.

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Super Street Fighter IV [Releases 4/27/2010]

One of the happiest resent memories I have is when Street Fighter IV came out and showed the world how a fighter is supposed to be. It had it all: awesome characters, impressive modes, passable story, and killer online play. I didn’t think it could get any better but I was wrong. With the coming of Super Street Fighter IV not only will players get all of classic IV’s excellence but added (and much appreciated) characters, new finishers, online modes and more. My fingers throb with anticipation, shinku hadoken!

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Alan Wake: [Releases 5/18/2010]

Writers, has this ever happen to you: You are one the best writers in the country, but have contracted massive writer’s block for over two years. So you and your wife decide to take trip into the country for some R&R and reconnect to riting –er writing. Well next thing you know wifee’ gone and weird shiza is going down at the town you were staying at. Now the strangest thing is that everything that’s happing now follows a book you wrote – only you don’t remember writing it. Never happened to you, you say? It will this April.

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Red Dead Redemption: [Releases 5/18/2010]

I love the future (2010, duh) but sometimes I long for a simpler time; where all a man needed to settle a disagreement was to shoot someone in the face. Ok, not in real life, but in games definitely. Well here comes Red Dead Redemption to help cure me of my modern life-itis is by taking me (other players with the same affliction) to the wildest of the west. Be a lone ranger righting wrongs, an outlaw causing chaos or something in between. Just bring a six-shooter, your trusty steed, and your best Clint Eastwood impression because you’ll need them partner.

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Crackdown 2: [Releases 7/6/2010]

Ok, so you play a nameless authoritarian peacekeeper that lays the smack on thugs, mutates and anything that looks at you cross-eyed. Using conventional weapons, vehicles and — of course SUPERPOWERS! Pick up MACK trucks and throw them at anyone you don’t like, chase down the fastest car – on foot, leap tall building – that’s sort da thing. It’s because of this that made the first Crackdown a breakout hit (well that, and the ending). I have no doubt that the sequel is going to be just as good, if not completely awesome.

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Alpha Protocol: [Releases 6/1/10]

James Bond (not the new one), Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne (a lot of JB’s here.) or whatever your spy/infiltrator of choice players can now put them all to shame and blaze your own trail of daring-do behind the scenes in Alpha Protocol the espionage rpg. Take up the mantle of Michael Thorton, an agent tasked with the job of finding out who downed an airliner with a U.S. missile and how to stop them from doing it again. From there it’s all up to you; be direct, be stealthy, be a user, be abuser, follow orders or don’t – just complete the mission.

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Dead Rising 2: [Releases 8/31/10]

This game should be called ‘Zombies – and how to kill them 2’. This time around you don’t play as a journalist in a mall, more rather a motocross champ in Las Ve—er, I mean ‘Fortune City’. Gambling and zombie murder? Sign me up.

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Halo Reach [Releases 9/1/10]

Ladies and Gentlemen: if there’s one thing I hate in the entire world its prequels. Hate it in movies and I hate it in games; they’re cop-outs to the fans and they don’t push the story forward – just stagnates them. However since in this case its Halo we’re talking about I’ll ignore it, for now (but they’re pushing it – see ODST). Fortunately every new full Halo game makes the series better in one way or another, especially in the multiplayer arena. So odds are we’re all in for a lot of long nights, shouting obscenities, to people we don’t even know this fall.

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Epic Mickey [Releases 11/1/10]

Mario and Mickey Mouse; the two icons people should know whether they’re 8 or 80. Mario keeps himself busy but Mickey not so much, that changes November. Epic Mickey, brought to you by Warren Spector, will destroy any and all preconceptions of the mouse you thought you knew. Somehow Mickey destroyed the cartoon world Yen Sid (the wizard from fantasia) created for retired Disney characters including Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the ‘original’ Disney mascot. Well now it’s up to the mega mouse and his magical brush to set things right… Or not. This game’s going to be one for the ages.