Mass Effect 2 – “Another for the Masses”

Gears keep turning.  Four years after its launch, “Gears of War” remains the template, the archetype, the defining game by which all  revolve around. In this mere second in video-games’ development time, there have been dozens of video-games that have borrowed, stolen, or downright mimicked the original “Gears of War”. One would think it was high time someone said enough, but no, the Gears keep turning. What originally seemed like an innocent, pleasing, ostensively dumb military action game, has now become one of the most harmful influences on the industry. When even a critically acclaimed and commercially successful company such as Bioware has to adapt its own model and genre to fit the conceptions of what is now deemed popular… you start wondering where this is all gonna lead the industry. Point being: “Mass Effect 2”, like so many others, is a straight up “Gears of War” clone. Worse even, one that adds nothing to that tiresome template. And it’s not just Gear’s combat that was appropriated, but also the comic-book aesthetic, that gray smudge of shattered beauty. Most of the “Mass Effect” universe now feels drab and life-less, lacking color and contrast, as if the whole thing had been attacked by a de-coloration ray.  It doesn’t help that the ambient space-music soundtrack reads like a desperate, uninspired attempt to emulate Jarre and Vangelis: a flat succession of ominous  keyboard choruses with no climax or fanfarre. Admittedly, the idea was to make the mood darker and more somber, “The Empire strikes Back” of videogames as they say, but “Mass Effect 2” has none of the heart or aesthetic beauty of the one good “Star Wars” episode.


Sure, beneath the frantic shooting and the insipid sight-seeing there is still a Bioware roleplay to be found, but even that seems a poor repetition of things of gone by. There is simply nothing in the game’s architecture that wasn’t present in the original “Knights of the Old Republic”…  a 7-year-old game. It’s all cleaner and streamlined, denoting a heavy investment (by EA) in terms of polish and user-friendliness, but we couldn’t care less whether a dreary old game is polished or not… it is still a dreary old game. Which is what “Mass Effect 2” really feels like: a has-been trying to look cool for the younger crowd, by wearing trendy new garments. And whilst we appreciate “Mass Effect’s”  new tricks – especially the cinematic aesthetic in character interaction – it’s depressing to see it come to no avail. The plot and characters promise intrigue and plot-twists, delving into cool sci-fi pop-references left and right, but (saving minor episodes) all they can deliver is a never-ending no-thrills ride, with no dramatic insight or thematic depth to speak of. Even “Mass Effect’s” sole redeeming factor – the notion of scale of its universe, brought upon by exploration of each planet – has been duped for a ridiculously boring mini-game which you’re constantly forced to play. All in all, the only minute pleasure to be had in “Mass Effect 2” lies precisely in its “Gears of War” combat… and we’ve all played that many many many times before. It’s not even fun anymore.

score: 2/5

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  • Comments (5)
    • ruicraveirinha
    • June 2nd, 2010

    A propos: the new Harry Potter game is also a Gears of War clone.

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows-part-1-hands-on

    … yeah…. that’s just swell.

  1. I don’t find the aesthetics of ME2 desaturated. A lot of the levels are really colourful, the ones that aren’t are usually desaturated to reflect overtones of corruption and evil.

    “There is simply nothing in the game’s architecture that wasn’t present in the original “Knights of the Old Republic”… a 7-year-old game.”

    You are obviously only thinking about the architecture in terms of game-play, not game design (two very different things). Knights of the Old Republic doesn’t have well written characters, it doesn’t have a deep-seeded emotional connection with the characters.

    The actual combat strategy of Gears of War, is the same as every Shooter. Take cover and catch your enemies out of cover, the only unique combat technique in Gears of War is the movement (too rudimentary to claim respective creative rights to).

    By the way, I’m sure the guys at Epic wouldn’t mind this. Yes, they are commercial developers and want to compete with other companies, but as part of the game developement community (expanding medium) they would be happy that their ideas are good enough for others to consider and build upon that strong idea. That’s what it’s all about, sharing with the community. The only resentment comes from fanboys like you.

    By the way by the way, when I write a review I don’t allow a fanboy grudge get in the way spotting positive points. Really where the hell are the positive points?

    • ruicraveirinha
    • December 25th, 2010

    Just because I don’t think there are good points doesn’t mean it’s fanboy ‘whatever’. Just as the fact that you liked a game which I feel isn’t even worth me writing these characters won’t make me call you silly internet names.

  2. @ruicraveirinha

    I probably should have read up on what this site is about before I read up on this one. Some random WordPress tag surfing.
    At first this sounded like a rant against this game for being a rip-off of a game you like. After reading up on the other articles, I see your point now.

    “silly internet names”; WOOT let’s go play s0m3 VIDYA!

  3. By the way, if you ask me the plot sort of demands a different game-play genre.

    http://segmentedreality.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/heroic-icons-commander-shepard-part-4/

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