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Mass Good

Mass Effect 2

Bioware is one of my favorite video game developers. The first Mass Effect is a big part of that. That game, though surely flawed, was among my favorites back in 2007. Set in a universe somewhere between Star Trek and Star Wars, Mass Effect delivered an amazing fusion of RPG and third person shooter gameplay that seemed tailor-made for me. But it had it’s problems: inventory management was clunky, the combat wasn’t quite there and planetary exploration was more of a pain than it should have been. That Bioware could fix all those issues and improve on everything else is an amazing feat, and the reason why Mass Effect 2 is one of the best games I’ve ever played.

Once again, you step into the ambiguous shoes of Commander Shepherd. You are still free to make the commander exactly how you want, male or female, saint or jackass, master of weapons or skilled biotic. Or you can continue as your Shep from the first game, carrying over all the decisions you made, but giving you the freedom to change your appearance or class. That is definitely the way to go, since the story of the first game has significant ramifications all the way through the second, and it is really cool when you know you were the one to make those calls.

The first game’s trademark conversation wheel is back and used greatly. The cast of characters are great and I never grew weary of all the talking. Bioware’s added an interrupt feature, which lets Shepherd, well, interrupt people. It’s pretty sweet. Paragon options are usually pretty cool, instead of turning Shepherd into some sort of whiny bitch. Renegade options seem to be awesome too. The rest of the RPG mechanics have been streamlined. They’ve done away with weapon skills and the majority of passive traits, characters only have a few skills for you to level and it’s easy to figure out. There’s no more inventory either, just an upgrade system that is also very straightforward. Don’t worry, you can still customize Shepherd’s armor, and with a lot more flexibility than I would have expected. For example, I played through the majority of the game with the commander wearing golden pimp armor.

The combat system has been massively upgraded. The framerate is smooth. The guns feel unique. There is ammo, but it’s not that big a deal. Most importantly, Bioware made shooting dudes fun. The controls are tight enough now that the combat is just as good as any other modern cover-based shooter. But when you throw in all the crazy combat, biotic, and tech skills you and your party have, you have some of the most entertaining gunplay I’ve seen.

The worst part of Mass Effect was going to planets and exploring them in the Mako. It was boring, clunky, and felt like a waste of time. Well, that’s gone. Now you just scan planets. Most of the time, you’ll end up finding a bunch of minerals you can use for upgrades. Every once in a while, you’ll find a side mission. When that happens, you shuttle down to that exact spot and take care of business. No aimless driving around. Great.

That’s Mass Effect 2 for you. Everything is great. It’s hard for me to find flaw in a title this good. I guess you could argue that the final story mission is a little disappointing, since it does a lot of setting up for Mass Effect 3, but it works really well with the rougher tone of the game. To think that Bioware could put out a game this good just a couple months after putting out the great Dragon Age: Origins is amazing. That’s why I can’t wait for The Old Republic, Mass Effect 3 and whatever else they’ve got cooking. Bioware is an outstanding studio.


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  62. Apple now has Rhapsody as an app, which is a great start, but it is currently hampered by the inability to store locally on your iPod, and has a dismal 64kbps bit rate. If this changes, then it will somewhat negate this advantage for the Zune, but the 10 songs per month will still be a big plus in Zune Pass’ favor.

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  70. This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like ‘Mixview’ that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you’re listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of “neighbors” will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune “Social” is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.

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  75. If you’re still on the fence: grab your favorite earphones, head down to a Best Buy and ask to plug them into a Zune then an iPod and see which one sounds better to you, and which interface makes you smile more. Then you’ll know which is right for you.

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  79. Hands down, Apple’s app store wins by a mile. It’s a huge selection of all sorts of apps vs a rather sad selection of a handful for Zune. Microsoft has plans, especially in the realm of games, but I’m not sure I’d want to bet on the future if this aspect is important to you. The iPod is a much better choice in that case.

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