Quick Thoughts on… Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2

This post contains spoilers.

After a month of devout playing, I finally finished Mass Effect 2. One word sums up my thoughts: WOW.

Seriously, this has undoubtedly become one of my favorite games from this generation. Mass Effect 2 builds upon and improves its predecessor in every way imaginable.

Gone are the tedious Mako driving sessions, weird graphical glitches and framerate issues. The occasionally shaky combat has been drastically improved, with a better covering system and more intelligent squad AI. The inventory system has also been revamped, and there are far less items to have to worry about (a good thing).

The game’s structure is tried-and-true, but it works oh so well. The game plays out in simple fashion: Shephard is brought back to life and sent on a “suicide mission” to defeat the evil Collectors who are hellbent on destroying humanity. In order to increase the chances of surviving this epic mission, Shephard is given the task of recruiting several team members and later gaining their loyalty. It’s a long process, but it always feels like you’re working toward something BIG. I felt like I needed to do absolutely everything I could in the game to secure my chances of defeating the Collectors.

It paid off.

With a full and loyal crew, I successfully destroyed the Collector base and made it with the entire squad in tact. It was an intense mission and one hell of a way to close the game.

Mass Effect 2

I made a few changes to my Shephard character this time around. I tweaked his appearance, changed his class (from soldier to vanguard) and swapped romantic partners. My love interest from ME1, Liara, was not willing or able to join the Normandy again (at least it appeared that way), so I went after the wild biotic convict Jack. I have already heard spoilers about her character arc, unfortunately, but it will be interesting to see how that develops in the third game.

Now I am at a crossroads. Do I start up Mass Effect 3 immediately or do I look into picking up ME2’s DLC? Or maybe I’ll take a break from Mass Effect entirely, at least for a little while. I made the mistake of buying ME2 used, so I would have to cough up the $15 for the Cerberus Pass. Is it worth it? Are there any pieces of DLC that I absolutely have to play?

Either way, I am pretty excited to play the conclusion. I just don’t want to get burnt out on Mass Effect at the same time.

My rating for Mass Effect 2: 10/10, easily.

Quick Reviews: Detour [1945], Ghost Dog [1999], Series 7 [2001], The Secret World of Arrietty [2010], Mass Effect [2007]

This has been an unexpectedly busy month, but I still found time to do a new batch of mini-reviews:

MOVIES

Detour [1945]
Detour [1945]
This short Film Noir (runtime: 68 minutes) has gained a lot of respect over the years, and rightfully so. Tom Neal stars as Al, a piano musician who decides to hitchhike from New York City to Hollywood in order to meet up with his starry-eyed dame. Along the way, he gets a ride from a well-off bookie in a convertible. This is where shit hits the fan. While taking a turn driving, Al pulls over to put up the top during a rainstorm. It is at this time that he notices the bookie has passed out, and upon opening the car door, his new friend falls out and hits his head on a rock. Al freaks out, takes his wallet and car, and continues on to Hollywood. He meets the femme fatale of the film, Vera (Ann Savage), and boy is she a cold-hearted woman! She is easily one of the nastiest women I have seen in a noir, and poor Al just can’t catch a break. It’s amazing just how much plot was able to get crammed into this brief film, and it is worthy of its praise as one of the more underrated Film Noirs. I could have done without the tacked-on final scene, but this is an enjoyably dark and gritty way to spend an hour. 8/10

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai [1999]
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai [1999]
Talk about an unorthodox badass. Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) is an inner-city self-trained samurai, a guy who acts as a hitman and lives in a pigeon coop. His best friend is an immigrant who doesn’t speak a lick of English. Ghost Dog is a weird dude, but he is lethal with a weapon, and he isn’t afraid of anyone despite getting tangled up in some nasty mafia business. This Jim Jarmusch film is a little slow in spots, but its odd humor (i.e. an old mob gangster belting out some Flava Flav jams) and killer RZA-curated soundtrack work greatly in its favor. 7.5/10

Series 7: The Contenders
Series 7: The Contenders [2001]
This dark satire of reality TV is equal parts Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. The concept is that six contestants are chosen via a ‘random’ lottery, with the ultimate goal being to kill off the other participants and remain the last person standing. Director Daniel Minahan, a former reality TV producer himself, does a terrific job making the movie feel like an extended marathon of an actual reality show, complete with Will Arnett as the narrator. The movie has a cool premise, and the production fits the theme perfectly, but it never really digs into anything meaningful. Yeah, reality TV sucks, and it’s fun to bash it, but the spoof could have had more of a bite to it. Still, an enjoyable enough movie, and a mindless way to spend 87 minutes. 6/10

The Secret World of Arrietty [2010]
The Secret World of Arrietty [2010]
Studio Ghibli’s latest feature is a somber and melancholy affair, yet remains charming at the same time. Arrietty (voiced by Bridgit Mendler) is a “borrower”, a little person who lives under the floorboards of a house with her parents (voiced by real-life couple Amy Poehler and Will Arnett). They make a living by borrowing unneeded supplies from the human beings (i.e. sugar cubes, tissue paper, etc.). Arrietty forms an unlikely friendship with a young terminally ill human boy, Shawn (David Henrie), but these types of interactions are risky for the borrowers, who could lose everything if discovered. The plot plays with our curiosity, but its slow-moving pace may not fare well with young children, and it takes too long to get to the meat of the story. The animation is gorgeous, as expected, but the soundtrack is just cheesy and feels out of place. Arrietty is a decent movie, but does not compare to the high marks previously set by Studio Ghibli. 7/10

VIDEO GAMES

Mass Effect [Xbox 360, 2007]
Mass Effect [Xbox 360, 2007]
After starting and stopping my campaign a couple times, I finally sat down and played through the entirety of Mass Effect. Yeah, I am quite a few years late to the party, but better late than never. This sci-fi action/RPG epic was a lot of fun, though it started off slow as hell. It wasn’t until I left the Citadel, the huge political space station, that the game picked up. I became hooked once I was able to explore the galaxy and began visiting untouched planets. Driving the Mako vehicle was a bit of a chore, to put it mildly, but the rewards of new side quests and items made it worth it. It was a lot of fun to explore character relationships (I romanced Liara) and make an effort to either be “good” or “bad” (I opted for Paragon until the very end — let’s just say I wasn’t a fan of the Citadel). Mass Effect isn’t a perfect game by any means — the freezing and drops in frame rate were especially annoying — but the great story made this a fun experience anyway. Can’t wait to play through the rest of the trilogy. 8/10

Have you guys seen any of these movies or played this video game? What do you think of them?