Mass Effect 2 is a Action role-playing game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. The game is a sequel to Mass Effect, and the second game of the series. The game was released on PC and Xbox 360 in January 2010, and on PlayStation 3 on 18 January 2011.
After the events of the original game, Commander Shepard is killed in an ambush by a mysterious alien species called the Collectors. Shepard is revived two years after the attack by a pro-human extremist organization called Cerberus, and is tasked with finding out more about the Collectors and why they are abducting entire human colonies. Shepard must recruit and gain the loyalty of a diverse team in order to accomplish what seems to be a suicide mission. Many elements and locations from Mass Effect return, in addition to ones new to the series.
A critical and commercial success, Mass Effect 2 had shipped over two million copies worldwide within a week of release, and has also received highly favorable reviews. It is ranked third on the Xbox 360 according to GameRankings, and is, overall, the fourteenth best reviewed game of all time. The game holds over 30 perfect scores and has an average of 94 and 96 for the PC and Xbox 360 on Metacritic respectively.
A "Prelude to E3" developer diary was released on 15 May 2009. The developers confirmed that the combat system has been upgraded, with everything from the feel of the combat to the A.I. being improved, including realistic damage modeling and downed enemies still continuing to crawl and fight. New to the series is a heavy weapons system that will allow players to "kill [somebody] a thousand times" over. The tone of the game is similar to that of the Wild West, featuring warlords and crime gangs.
Mass Effect 2 also features regenerating health as its primary health mechanic, instead of the ability to heal with "medi-gel" as in the first game. However, "medi-gel" is still used to revive downed allies. In addition, weapons now use ammunition and no longer rely on the overheat system of the first game. This system is functionally identical to the ammunition systems of other third-person shooters, but instead of having differing ammunition types for different weapons, the heat sinks used are universal across most standard weapons.
The characters in Mass Effect 2 are more detailed not only graphically, but technically. In the original Mass Effect, Commander Shepard only had 20 animations for cover, while in Mass Effect 2, the character has over 200. The world is also more in-depth in this installment; uncharted worlds, which the player could explore for "cheap thrills" in the first game, are now smaller but much more detailed.
The camera positioning for conversations with A.I. characters has also been improved; the previously static camera now moves around to provide "a much needed cinematic touch." Another new feature during conversations is a context-sensitive interrupt system: in addition to Renegade and Paragon dialogue options, Shepard is able to interrupt the dialogue when prompted to do so with on-screen controls, again along Paragon or Renegade paths.
The M35 Mako is not included for planetary exploration in Mass Effect 2. Instead, a Kodiak drop shuttle, which the player cannot directly pilot, transports the player to areas of immediate interest. A new pilotable vehicle called the Hammerhead was later released via downloadable content pack and is stated by project director Casey Hudson to be more user-friendly.
Slow moving elevators, which disguised loading times in the first game, have been removed entirely, replaced by loading screens.
Unlike Mass Effect, in which there were dozens of different weapons grouped into four weapon types, there are now nineteen different weapons divided into 6 types. The grenades from the first game do not make a reappearance, but have been replaced by the new heavy weapons. Sub-machine guns make up another new weapon class. Characters are now able to use any weapon their class is trained for at full effect, meaning the player is no longer required or able to invest in weapon skills. However, it is possible to research damage upgrades, increased ammo capacity, accuracy, and other upgrades, which differ by weapon type. Armor skills have also been removed and there are no longer class restrictions on armor. Instead, armor is controlled through purchases of upgrades or individual components and is applied piecemeal, with different armor components providing different bonuses to damage, health, and other skills.
This plot summary describes a non-linear game. The chronology of major events may differ. Mass Effect 2 begins in 2183, weeks after the ending of Mass Effect. On patrol to locate and destroy any remaining geth, the Normandy and its commanding officer, Commander Shepard, are attacked by an unknown starship. The ship inflicts heavy damage on the Normandy and the crew is forced to evacuate. Joker, the helmsman of the ship, continues piloting and Shepard is forced to rescue him. Before Shepard can board an escape pod with Joker, another attack by the enemy ship separates Shepard from the pod, forcing the Commander to launch the escape pod to save Joker. A subsequent explosion blows Shepard away from the ship and debris slices through Shepard's suit, causing the Commander to die in the vacuum whilst entering a nearby planet's atmosphere.
With the help of Liara T'Soni, one of Shepard's former associates who survived the attack on the Normandy, Shepard's corpse is retrieved by Cerberus, an extremist pro-human organization. Over the course of two years, attempts are made to bring Shepard back to life via the Lazarus Project. Shepard awakens in 2185 aboard a Cerberus space station that is under attack. After Shepard aids Cerberus agents Jacob Taylor and Miranda Lawson, Shepard is granted an audience with the Illusive Man, who explains that Shepard was revived and 'upgraded' so that the Commander could investigate and combat a new threat. Entire populations of human colonies are disappearing. The Illusive Man believes this is the work of Shepard's old enemies, the Reapers, a race of sentient machines that periodically harvest all intelligent life in the galaxy once civilization reaches a certain point.
Shepard, along with Jacob and Miranda, is sent to investigate a recently attacked colony known as Freedom's Progress. While exploring the colony, they encounter Tali, one of Shepard's former squad members, and discover that a mysterious insect-like species known as Collectors were behind the attack and are responsible for abductions at other human colonies. The Collectors live beyond the Omega-4 Relay, a mass relay with a grim history; no non-Collector ship that has ever passed through the Omega-4 Relay has ever returned. The Illusive Man places Shepard in command of the Normandy SR-2, a more advanced and upgraded frigate modeled after the original Normandy equipped with an onboard A.I. known as EDI (Enhanced Defense Intelligence). With the Illusive Man's guidance, Shepard sets out to recruit a team of highly trained specialists for what is assumed to be a suicide mission.
The Illusive Man initially provides Shepard with dossiers regarding potential recruits: a salarian scientist, a mysterious vigilante named Archangel, a krogan warlord, and a powerful but unstable biotic. The salarian, Dr. Mordin Solus, is found on Omega, working to stop a plague engineered by the Collectors and spread by gangs of Vorcha. Archangel is also found on Omega, and is discovered to be Garrus Vakarian, one of Shepard's previous squad members. The krogan warlord, Okeer, is found attempting to create the perfect krogan through unethical genetic research. Okeer is killed by attacking Blue Suns mercenaries, but he leaves his creation, Grunt, in Shepard's care. The biotic, Jack, is revealed to be a woman also known as "Subject Zero." Cerberus arranges for her to be purchased from the prison holding her; Shepard travels to the prison ship, but is betrayed by the warden, who attempts to capture Shepard for a bounty. Shepard escapes and rescues Jack, who joins the team. If the player has purchased the relevant downloadable content, The Illusive Man will also have dossiers on Zaeed Massani, a veteran mercenary, and Kasumi Goto, a master thief, which Shepard picks up on Omega and the Citadel respectively.
The Illusive Man reveals that a human colony known as Horizon, is under Collector attack, and dispatches the team to save the colony. He notes that one of Shepard's surviving crew members, either Kaidan Alenko or Ashley Williams depending on who the player sacrificed on Virmire in the first game, is stationed at the colony. Shepard arrives and battles the Collectors in an attempt to save the colony. The Commander stops the Collector attack by re-activating the colony's defense batteries forcing the Collectors to flee on their ship. Shepard saves only half of the colonists, the Collectors abduct the rest. Shepard then reunites with the former team member, who leaves feeling betrayed by Shepard working for Cerberus.
It is later revealed on the Normandy that the Illusive Man leaked a tip about Shepard being alive to the Alliance and that the Collectors intercepted this message indicating that the Collectors have a personal interest in Shepard. Shepard is also provided with additional dossiers on more potential recruits: an asari Justicar, a drell assassin, and Tali. The Justicar, Samara, joins the team after Shepard investigates the Eclipse mercenary group and its involvement in a murder. The drell assassin, Thane Krios is in the midst of an assassination mission. Learning of Thane's next target, Shepard finds Thane, who dispatches his target and joins the team. Tali is found in the outer rim of the galaxy, running a scientific survey that comes under geth attack. After she is rescued from an immense geth force, Tali joins Shepard.
The Illusive Man contacts Shepard again after intercepting a turian emergency transmission, claiming a turian battle group engaged and disabled a Collector ship before being destroyed. Believing valuable information could be learned from the Collector ship, Shepard and his/her team locate the ship. Inside the ship, Shepard learns that the Collectors were originally captured Protheans that were indoctrinated and genetically altered to become slaves of the Reapers. The Collectors that Shepard has encountered are under the direct control of a Reaper named Harbinger. With EDI's help, Shepard locates information on how to bypass the Omega-4 relay, but the derelict ship turns out to be a Collector trap, and Shepard and his team are forced to battle back to the shuttle and escape before the Collectors can destroy the Normandy. In the aftermath of the mission, relations between Shepard and the Illusive Man are strained after Shepard finds out that the Illusive Man knowingly sent the Normandy crew into a trap.
Later on the Normandy, the Illusive Man reveals that the Omega-4 relay - beyond which lies the Collector base - requires Reaper technology for the Normandy to safely navigate through it. Cerberus has located a derelict Reaper, disabled millions of years beforehand, and has sent a science team to recover the device - an IFF transponder. Upon boarding the ship, the derelict vessel puts up kinetic barriers preventing the team from departing the ship. Shepard later discovers that the Cerberus science team members have been killed and transformed into Husks. While battling through swarms of husks, Shepard encounters a friendly geth that saves Shepard from an ambush by several husks. Shepard later recovers the IFF and salvages the geth which is attacked and disabled by the husks. In order to escape the ship, Shepard destroys the reaper's Mass Effect core taking down the kinetic barriers but also destroying the ship. Shepard may turn the geth over to Cerberus or activate it. If activated, the geth adopts the name Legion and joins the team. Shepard departs with the recruited members on a shuttle towards their next mission as the Normandy prepares the IFF for testing. However, after the IFF is activated, it emits a tracking signal and the Collectors are able to locate and board the Normandy. Joker is forced to give control of the ship to EDI - a potentially dangerous move. Gaining control of the ship, EDI pilots the Normandy away from the Collectors and rids the ship of all enemies, but the entire crew barring Joker is taken by the Collectors. Shepard's hand is forced - Shepard can either complete secondary missions and sacrifice the Normandy's crew, or immediately go through the Omega-4 relay to rescue them.
After traveling through the relay, the game may proceed in different ways. Depending on whether Shepard enters the Omega-4 relay quickly, has upgraded parts of the Normandy, and has earned the loyalty of team members, any combination of crew and team may survive the final mission, which ultimately influences Shepard's fate. After entering the relay, the Normandy enters a massive debris field littered with the wrecks of ancient starships that tried to navigate the Omega-4 relay. After a fight with the debris field's automated defenses, the Normandy encounters and ultimately destroys the Collector cruiser. The shockwave from the explosion, disables the Normandy and forces the ship to crash land on the Collector station. After boarding the station, Shepard and the team fight their way towards the center of the base eventually encountering the Normandy crew and the abducted human colonists. If Shepard delayed entering the Omega-4 relay, the Normandy crew will be harvested by the Collectors and Shepard will only manage to save a few of the human colonists. After rescuing the colonists and crew, Shepard continues to proceed to the large central chamber in the middle of the base and discovers that the Collectors have been constructing a new Reaper, made from the genetic material of the abducted humans and fused with the advanced technology of the Reapers. EDI postulates that the Reapers may be facilitating the Reaper equivalent of reproduction but remains unsure as to the Reapers' true motives. Shepard targets the weak points of the machine, which is in the early stages of construction, and it falls deep into the station core.
The Illusive Man then contacts the team and suggests keeping the station intact insisting that any information garnered will be valuable in the coming war against the Reapers and may provide new insight into their motives and capabilities. Shepard may choose to destroy the station completely by overloading its reactor, or use a radiation pulse to kill the remaining Collectors while leaving the station intact thus allowing Cerberus to take control of the station. Regardless of the choice, Shepard orders the team to evacuate to the Normandy. However, before Shepard can escape, the Human-Reaper larva manages to climb back up from the depths of the station and attempts to stop Shepard from destroying the station. However, the Commander manages to destroy the Reaper after a tense battle. As Shepard escapes the station, Harbinger claims that the team has only delayed the inevitable and that humanity now has the full attention of the Reapers. Shepard is then assisted onto the Normandy by any surviving team members. If all team members are killed, Shepard will attempt to board the Normandy, but falls to his/her death after telling Joker to warn the Illusive Man. Depending on whether Shepard destroyed or preserved the Collector base, the Illusive Man will be displeased or pleased, respectively, with Shepard's actions with Shepard having the opportunity to cut the Illusive Man off and vowing to find a way to stop the Reapers with or without the Illusive Man's help. Later, while the ship is being repaired Shepard or Joker is seen standing over the caskets of the dead team members should the team have suffered casualties. Otherwise, Shepard is silently greeted by his teammates and crew. In dark space, a Reaper (presumably Harbinger) is seen awakening from hibernation. As it awakens, the dark void surrounding the Reaper is illuminated by hundreds or thousands of Reapers. The final scene shows the Reaper fleet descending upon the Milky Way galaxy, setting the stage for Mass Effect 3.
- Commander Shepard - The main protagonist of the first game, Shepard is killed during the opening sequences of Mass Effect 2 and is later resurrected by the pro-human organization, Cerberus. Shepard is sent on a mission to hunt down the Collectors, who have been abducting whole human colonies and are suspected to be working for the Reapers.
- Illusive Man - The ruthless and mysterious leader of the Cerberus organization, the Illusive Man is responsible for the funding of Project Lazarus - the revival of Commander Shepard. Little is known about the Illusive Man, except that he is apparently extremely wealthy. He forms an alliance with Shepard, providing guidance throughout the game as Shepard investigates the disappearance of several human colonies.
- Grunt - A prototype krogan super-soldier, he is the brainchild of the krogan Warlord, Okeer. Bred and programmed with the memories and skills of various powerful krogan and having undergone extensive genetic engineering, Grunt is considered the most "perfect" example of the krogan species. However, he has no clan and little knowledge of krogan customs and tradition, leaving nothing to act upon except his instincts to fight.
- Mordin Solus - A brilliant salarian scientist, yet also a competent soldier due to his membership in the Salarian Special Tasks Group earlier in his life, Mordin Solus is found on Omega and possesses a hyperactive and eccentric personality. Mordin believes in acting in the best interests of the galaxy; his scientific work is governed by strong moral standards and unquestionable respect for all forms of life.
- Samara - An asari Justicar, Samara is highly skilled in her use of biotics. A member of a highly respected and feared monastic order, Samara has forsworn all possessions and family to fight for absolute justice. She is on a quest to track down her elusive daughter Morinth, who has been killing innocents for hundreds of years by burning out their nervous systems through sexual intercourse.
- Jacob Taylor - Jacob Taylor is a former Alliance soldier with biotic abilities. He joined Cerberus after viewing the bureaucracy of the Alliance as hampering the ability of humanity to survive. Taylor is highly respectful of Shepard due to their shared background in the military. Thirteen years before, he had cut ties with his father, who was a First Officer of a lost spaceship, the Hugo Gernsback.
- Miranda Lawson - Genetically modified to perfection by her father, Miranda Lawson is the top Cerberus agent on board the Normandy and Shepard's second in command. Driven and devoted to the Cerberus cause, she is often viewed as cold and callous by other Cerberus agents. Providing military and tactical support, Lawson also acts as the liaison for the Illusive Man.
- Thane Krios - A drell assassin who is dying of a lung disease exclusive to his species, Thane Krios joins the team in an attempt to provide a purpose to his life and atone for his past actions. An expert assassin, he also possesses powerful close-combat biotics. His wife was murdered many years ago by batarians in an attempt to trap him. This forced him to withdraw from his son, Kolyat, an event that still haunts him.
- Jack/Subject Zero - The product of a Cerberus experiment to enhance human biotic ability, Jack carries a hostile personality that is the result of the torture and captivity she endured while she was imprisoned at a remote Cerberus outpost during her childhood. She later escaped and became involved in crime, murder, and religious cults, all in an attempt to gain an identity. She was later captured and imprisoned aboard the prison station Purgatory, where Shepard recruits her upon escaping captivity.
- Tali'Zorah vas Neema/Normandy - Tali'Zorah vas Neema returns to the Normandy after a scientific study goes horribly awry and most of her team is taken out by geth. She joins Shepard once he rescues her from the assaulting geth force. She was later charged with treason by the quarian Admiralty Board for smuggling active geth for her father.
- Garrus Vakarian - After the Normandy was destroyed, Garrus Vakarian went on to pursue a life of vigilantism. He made his way to the Omega space station, which is riddled with criminal syndicates, and earned the alias Archangel after sabotaging various criminal organizations. When Shepard finds him, Garrus is holed up in his base as three crime syndicates send waves of mercenaries to kill him. During the final onslaught he is injured by an attack from a gunship, leaving him with facial scars and damaged armor.
- Legion - During a mission to recover an IFF transponder aboard a derelict Reaper, Shepard encounters a lone and damaged geth. This geth assists Shepard by eliminating several enemies and allowing Shepard to access the core of the ship, but is knocked inactive by several husks shortly afterwards. Upon destroying the Reaper core, Shepard brings the inactive geth to the Normandy with the option of sending the geth to Cerberus for research or reactivating it. If reactivated, the geth claims to be the first pure geth that Shepard has encountered, stating that all previous geth were "heretics" who supported the Reapers. As the Geth is not an individual persona and has a physical body that contains multiple runtimes, it identifies itself simply as geth until EDI decides to give it the name, Legion.
- Zaeed Massani - One of two DLC party members, Zaeed Massani is considered to be the most ruthless and prolific bounty hunter in the known galaxy. He joins the Normandy's crew for the large payment in credits he would be receiving from the Illusive Man. Massani is secretly the co-founder of the Blue Suns mercenary organization, betrayed by his partner twenty years ago. You must have activated the Cerberus Network in order to get Massani.
- Kasumi Goto - The best thief in the galaxy, Kasumi Goto joins Shepard's team in return for his assistance in stealing a "graybox" - a hard drive encrypted through use of one's memories - that belonged to her former partner and lover. She is the second downloadable party member, sold separately from the game for $7 USD.
- Liara T'soni - The daughter of Matriarch Benezia, a former crewmate from the Normandy, and a very powerful Biotic. Liara T'soni, is on a mission to defeat the Shadow Broker and save her friend. Shepard can help her by purchasing the DLC "Lair of the Shadow Broker" for 800 Microsoft points on the Xbox 360, or 800 Bioware points for PC.
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