The Good: Much needed improvements work well, amazing visuals and audio, superb story, new additions are excellent, great length
The Bad: Feels a little too familiar for vets, some redundant elements, no co-op, it ends
BioWare have to be some of the most talented beings on the face of the planet because these guys can just pull whole new cultures, religions, and universes out of their ass like it was yesterday's dinner. Mass Effect has a rich amazing universe attached to it with believable races, characters, religion, culture, and it feels like a whole alternate universe that could exist. Mass Effect 2 expands on this for fans of the original (yeah don't play it unless you played the first...seriously). Not only is this just a direct sequel, but all your actions from the original game effect the outcome of this one...amazing. Mass Effect 2 has Command Shepard being remade as a machine almost after the Normandy gets destroyed by Collectors. Cerberus fixes you up for the over 2 years and now you have to rebuild your team, find your previous one, and stop the Collectors from destroying the human race and working with the Reapers.
Mass Effect 2 has so many changes that were much needed and the game just feels tighter, more fluent, and action packed. Action is the key word here since a lot of the mundane RPG elements were stripped. To get an idea of what was improved I'll start with squad management. Instead of finding armor for each type of race and maintaining every stat of that armor and the character you no longer manage your teams armor just yours. You also no longer have to go find armor like the original. Armor can be bought from world markets and you equip each piece in your cabin on the Normandy 2. You can even change the color and scheme of the armor as well as your casual clothes. This is great and I love it becasue micromanaging armor in the first game was a real pain.
The same goes for weapons. You no longer have to find and add each element to every weapon like ammo types, and add-ons because those are now gone as well. Instead you find weapons during missions or in markets. You can equip them via a loadout and the same goes for your squad.
Let's take about the radial menus here. You get three ammo types: Cryo, incinerate, and disruptor. Each can be used for certain enemies. Your powers are activated here too but you can now map them to buttons. When shooting weapons you now longer have a "heat guage" but actual ammo. The weapons draw heat to a "clip" which is discharged once it gets too hot. If you run out of these clips your weapons won't fire thus solving that annoying heat meter crap from the first game. This helps the game feel like a solid shooter instead of a game that doesn't know if its an action game or straight RPG.
The shooting and fighting in the game is now really solid and you just feel so powerful will all these guns at your disposal. You can upgrade everything (including your ship and this has outcomes during the last mission) by finding research projects while on missions. This solves all the RPG elements from the last game so it feels like a solid shooter. Don't get too upset there are still RPG elements, but they are only in upgrading your team mates and yourself. Instead of upgrading every single element such as each ammo type, every biotic type, this and that you only have about 4-6 traits you upgrade. This includes your main character's ability, biotic or ammo types, and any other special skill. Each one can be upgrading up to level four and after that you get a choice between two special bonus perks. This makes the leveling feel more solid, fluid, and more resourceful.
Another great improvment is the galaxy map navigation. No longer are you just a cursor floating around the map, but you actually move your ship. When you are outside solar systems traveling in dead space on the map you use fuel, but the biggest improvement is no more excavating resources via the stupid rover vehicle. In fact all vehicle control has been stripped from the game. Instead you use a scanner on unexplored planets and when the controller vibrates you will see your meter spike over a certain guage. This will be one of the five resources used to upgrade things in the game. While is sounds more repetitive its nice to break up the action of the game and get some down time.
If those don't sound like enough of an improvement how about the story? The story is still as epic and emotionally engrossing as the first if not more so. There are a couple of new races added such as the vorcha, drell, and Batarians. There are new characters that you can recruit and they are all as loveable and memorable as the first game. Of course all your old pals return, but what my favorite part about the game, that isn't in any other, is how your original save carries over.
If you had a relationship with a previous mate you will see that in the game, savings and killing certain characters in the past will pop up in the sequel reflecting certain outcomes of missions, if you chose the renegade or paragon path reflects off your character with red scars and reddened eyes if your were a bad ass. You truly feel like you were dead for two years and all your choices in your past came back to haunt you. It's a mind trip and is really makes you that much more involved in the story. Every choice you take during dialogs trees effects what you do, and BioWare are masters of this.
The only reason why this one scores lower than the original is because most of this has been seen in the original and isn't anything new for vets of Mass Effect. The new additions just keep the score really high, but doesn't give us that new feeling. With improved graphics and the same amazing voice acting Mass Effect 2 will keep fans buys for a good 25-30 hours, but watch what you do because it will effect your outcome in Mass Effect 3.
BUYING A NEW COPY: Will grant you access to a free content update that's normally $15 for free. This includes a new character, Zaeed, and two other missions that involve the crash of the Normandy. While this update is not worth $15 buying a new copy makes you feel like you're truly getting your money's worth.