For some peculiar reason Far Cry 2 seems to be my yearly fall season hobby. I grabbed my first trophies back in September 2009 but somehow lost interest. The flame was rekindled in November 2010 but a game-killing bug put a stop to that. One more time, from the beginning, and this time it looks like I might actually finish the damn thing. As for side activities (collecting diamonds and audio tapes, recruiting other foreign mercenaries, and dealing with miscellaneous assassinations), I no longer couldn't be arsed but this time around Jackal – the arms dealer maestro practically behind the entire civil war – is most definitely going to pay.
Not much to add to what I've said before. The game still looks criminally gorgeous and the vast playing area is full of joyous freedom in terms of achieving and traveling. On the other hand there's the same problem as in Just Cause 2; it's a big lot offering preciously little in versatility. Both the main and side missions are always just a simple matter of killing everything that moves under any given pretext. The way to achieve that is, of course, up to the player but there are only so many creative ways to deal with gun-toting hoodlums. And I still can't quite fathom how some AK-47 wielding goon wearing nothing but a T-shirt and khaki shorts can take a heavy machinegun burst at point blank range and still manage to get up... Please!
This is getting interesting. After 26 hours I've completed Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel twice. I was first served a tragic, most touching bad ending and after reloading an earlier save, one normal ending that wasn't particularly happy either. Neither counts as a proper completion as I think the way to the true endings makes up the entire last fourth of the game. Thus off to NG+ to give it another go. Thankfully it is possible to restart the adventure from the middle, so there's not excessive amounts of repetition to wade through. Money and experience naturally carry over as well.
And sure enough, I'm still interested in at least one playthrough to reach a proper ending – Qoga has improved at least that much since my last entry of nothing but whine! The storyline about three factions vying for power is a bit too complicated and gimmicky but there's a commendable amount of quality drama and proper bosses towards the end. It's still yet another story about the end of the world but that's easy to dismiss when contemplating how to save Saki and Finnel from their unfortunate fates.
If anything, Qoga should take itself more seriously. When it's mostly about goofiness and pointless dialogue, it's hard to adjust to the proper wavelength when things get tough or the plot thickens. It's always a joy to read good scripts but Qoga's characters simply talk way too much without actually saying much anything at all. Oh well, at least the game mechanics are sound and even the arcade fights are more than just spamming the attack button; melee attacks usually dish out damage in tens whereas a suitably excited and stripped Reyvateil can punish enemies with song magic causing up to six digit damage. Muahahaha :P
I'm still on the fence on this one. It's fairly ugly and ungainly, and being able to draw enjoyment from it is directly proportional to how much one can stand anime. Compared to the best of JRPGs, Qoga is almost pathetic but yet it has that elusive something. Perhaps it's Gust's inexplicable charm? Have to investigate further.
SaDa's residence has once again been all about plenty of swearing and near-tossing of controllers (too expensive to take an actual interest in) as Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit made a comeback from last July's letdowns in order to entertain a couple of trivial weekday evenings. Even after a noticeable break, it's still (relatively speaking) such a pile of organic matter that the only thing driving me forward is my perverse dedication of trying to cut back on unfinished games. After 19 hours I've managed a distinction on all 48 police challenges and as for the 60 of the opposition, nearly a third of those are in the bag as well. Fun? Not at all.
The longer I play, the more I realize the presence of the worst rubber band slingshot lottery implementation ever. If one doesn't adapt an entirely douchebag approach, everything seems pretty irrelevant. Races are practically almost always won by a second whereas busting a lone racer can take either a minute or five, mostly depending on the mood of the game. A fugitive can plough 160mph into a roadblock and still keep on going should the player fail to be there to deliver that final blow.
Crash the left siderail and it usually means crashing the right one as well (and vice versa) as the cars are more akin to tugboats. If spikes are dropped, the radio is polite enough to warn that "we've detected spikes on the road" but one usually hears just "we'v..." before getting acquainted with them up close and personal. This list would be endless but it's irrelevant. Despite everything, it's quite effortless to make progress and once I'm done with the rest of the challenges, I'm ready to burn the game in any pagan ritual of any imaginable cult.
Role-playing during the week isn't a good idea. At least not with Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel it isn't. After a little over 18 scantily clad hours, I have conquered two of its four phases and the game is starting to burst at its seams. After a fairly promising start Gust has overwhelmed me with such an insane amount of new characters, dialogue, and nonsensical cyberbabble that trying to play it after a workday is a good way to fall asleep within an hour or two. Convoluted and tedious, even if some light is slowly shed on everyone's shady history and motives.
Qoga's pacing is all over the place. Storytelling consists of overly lengthy discussions full of pretentious technology terms, constantly weakening humor, almost cringeworthy bad ecchi, and sudden-yet-not-shocking surprises one after another. In between these moments people come and go as they please and most of the time the next goal is simply running to retrieve whichever lost lamb back to the main party. A couple of paltry cutscenes and boss fights don't help the situation in the slightest.
At least making progress is a breeze, mostly thanks to an encounter bar. When in field, every random encounter depletes that bar until it's empty, after which there will be no fighting at all. This makes dungeon scouring and treasure hunting a lot more appealing whereas grinding only requires a brief visit somewhere else in order to refill the encounter bar. There's another unexpected bonus to limiting the fights, though. When a battle starts, my console has frozen thrice already. Three times out of a couple of hundred isn't much but regular saving is still a very good idea.
For collectors and completionists Qoga is a veritable treasure trove. Getting to know the Reyvateils and diving ever deeper into their minds requires not only points thriftily awarded from fights but also a whole lot of conversational topics. Some of them are provided automatically as the story develops whereas the rest have to be found, bought, or synthesized all around the game world. A regular Don Juan approach doesn't work as there are eight possible alternative endings. I wish I have enough motivation to see one.
Whaddya know, it's all about attitude! Despite the level of challenge, I found myself yearning back to the tire smoke reeking streets of San Francisco and thus began the postgame of Driver: San Francisco. Looks like a little break was in order as all the remaining, repetitious and too difficult side missions suddenly felt sufficiently fresh and with a little extra effort (and okay, lightweight internet consultation ^^;) most manageable. Seven hours of additional toiling and everything in the single player campaign is now bagged and tagged. Yay!
Looks like it has been another busy weekend, this time thanks to Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel. Hope in the badly ravaged world of Ar Ciel lies in the hands of the preciously few singing and praying maidens known as Reyvateils. Aoto, an orphaned 17-year-old boy leads a mundane life in Blue Canyon Hamlet when one day he accidentally ends up saving one such songstress from the clutches of the merciless military might of Clustania. The helpless girl, Saki, suffers from partial amnesia but remembers where she's from and Aoto, together with his childhood friend, Tatsumi, decides to get her there safely.
It doesn't take long for the party to meet Finnel, a clumsy mascot girl of a bistro in a nearby town. She's a Reyvateil as well and driven by her own obscure motives, she decides to tag along. It doesn't take long for Aoto to get drawn into a grand adventure full of mysteries, dangers, and a whole lot of fan service. Reyvateils' prowess in combat, as he soon learns, depends on how much skin they show and diving into their minds – intimacy-wise an act comparable to sex – is required to hone that prowess even further (^_^;)
So, there's oogles of ecchi but is there a game behind all that? Based on a little over 13 hours, there actually seems to be. Qoga is a massive bundle of anime clichés but somewhat surprisingly it handles them in an energetic and genuinely amusing fashion. On its base the game is a straighforward JRPG. There's dungeons to navigate, treasure chests to loot, towns to shop in, and plenty of dialogue to wade through. Random fights are realtime Tales-esque arcade bouts. Up to three melee fighters are always supported by a single Reyvateil staying in the back and requiring protection. Physical attacks (preferably in synch with her singing) raise tension that can be purged into stripping all the way to underwear. This is rewarded with various status boosts and increased damage dealing potential.
Outside combat is all about following the storyline and synthesizing new gear and special moves from ingredients gathered from the battlefield. Regular diving into the psyche of the Reyvateils also plays a key role. In the girls' subconsciousness it is possible to recruit several chibi spirits to bolster their range of available skills. It's also a place to solve uncertainties and fears they might have. From the depths of the mind comes forth plenty of raucous comedy and even touching drama. It looks like a pretty promising love triangle between Aoto, Saki, and Finnel but I'm quite certain things will get a lot more complicated as I plough forward.
Tech-wise Qoga is fairly uninspiring. Character models are impervious to lighting conditions and look somewhat pasted on in many of the game's cutscenes. Even their animation is rather weak. The graphics are HD, sure, but forgetting resolution worship it feels like a PS2 game. Gust's musics department, however, has once again done an excellent job and there's a wide variety of compositions to accompany each mood. Opening the case, I was happy to see that a soundtrack CD comes with every copy of the game. As for voice acting, it's probably enough to say that as well as the dub, original Japanese audio is also available (≧▽≦)/
So far Qoga has been a positive surprise. On one hand it's just a huge pile of the same old stuff the Land of the Rising Sun has produced for decades but on the other it keeps itself together most amicably. Or to put it another way, boredom hasn't kicked in and the story progresses with a good tempo.
Progress was made in anticipated schedule and in honor of the weekend, Duke has once again saved the world and (literally, of course) pissed the main villain in the eye. On normal difficulty the single player campaign lasted a decent 12 hours and while Duke Nukem Forever isn't even remotely close to the quality of its 1996 predecessor, developers Triptych and Gearbox have still done a good job salvaging an ancient shooter from its eternal limbo. Sadly the best parts ended up being in the middle. Oxygen deprived diving sections and hordes of them accursed octabrains were overrepresented towards the end and they were just as annoying as back in the 90's.
The long development time is most evident in trying too hard and trying to shoe in every imaginable idea ever brought up. Standard firefights, puzzles, and Duke's corny oneliners are where the game truly shines but thanks to excessive monkeying around the overall experience is badly dispersed and full of one trick feature ponies. All enjoyment stems from achieving a steady flow and while that is ever so often present for a brief moment, every adrenaline-filled confontration is soon followed with pointless goofing around.
I still stand by my initial impressions from last Wednesday, though. As far as gameplay and fun go, Duke Nukem Forever was most enjoyable, at least for those who are shy of serious first person shooters and grew up back in the Duke Nukem 3D times. There were a few overly sadistic spots (be forever damned, Octaking!) to prevent a re-run on anything harder than normal but I'm eventually quite likely going to improve my initial 61% trophy haul – the game really is fun and original enough to warrant another go even as-is.
Additional bonus points for impressive post-game extras! There's a shedload of concept art, screenshots, photos, and videos throughout the entire development cycle and a bunch of good old cheats thrown in for good measure. Even if the game felt a bit random on whole, it was most baffling to witness everything it was imagined to be during those 14 years :D
Still, no rest for the wicked. New entries have arrived from here and there to steal their place in the queue. For third person action I'm counting on both Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and X-Blades. Idiotic mistakes can be blamed on Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Trilogy. I used to remember why it needed to be avoided, then forgot, and here I stand :( HD remakes of the first three Splinter Cell games would be awesome, sure, but despite excessive criticism from gamers, Ubisoft still hasn't patched them to have an option to invert the camera Y-axis. Whatever anyone's preference in the matter, it's utterly pointless trying to teach your brain to adapt an alternative approach with stuff like this. Damn it.
Also, one soundtrack, bonus DVD, and art book enhanced Dark Souls Limited Edition mostly because it was still cheap(-esque) and as a cherry on top, a veritable contender for the oddest title of the year, Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel. It sort of smells like JRPGing this weekend but let's sleep it over.
Duke Nukem Forever has now aged to a little over eight hours and sure enough – it gets better as it goes. Playing deadly lead tag in vast areas against enemies served in pleasant quantities is jolly good shooting fun, and taking on massive battlelord bosses made me grin like a lunatic. Even if the journey is pretty straightforward, making progress is constantly interrupted with nice little puzzles for which the game provides no help at all, instead relying on the player to figure them out. Refreshing!
On the downside, there are trivial minigames, random treasure hunts, and driving sections in Duke's gas-guzzling monster truck. None of those provide much in terms of actual entertainment. The worst part, though, are the loading times. Little breaks between different areas is understandable but it's incredibly annoying having to watch the loading screen for a good half a minute after each death.
Still, bygones be bygones and foward, ho – there should still be about a third left to go.
Three hours of entertainment this evening were dedicated to Duke Nukem Forever. It's picking up pace quite nicely even if it's obviously ambivalent as well. Critics and Annoyed Gamers™ apparently expected it to be some sort of a messianic homecoming and when it wasn't (gee whiz, who would've thought!?), there was much weeping, gnashing of teeth, and shredding the game to bits. Sure, it's not brilliant or anything but it feels like sheer frustration triumphed over calm objectivity.
Twelve years after Duke's previous appearance the outer space invaders return to Earth with vengeance, aiming to once again abduct all of our women. Hence America's most chauvinistic national hero has to stop resting on his laurels and kick some serious alien ass. And what the heck, since when did raucous testosterone filled action need a deeper storyline, anyway? Lock and load, it's time to have fun!
...except guns aren't exactly there for a good hour or so. The story kicks in with the speed of an anemic sloth and makes Duke run from point A to B, crawl in narrow places and participate in all sorts of pointless, lukewarm mini games. Back in the golden years of Duke, interactive surroundings were neat and impressive but in this age and day, glorifying such triviality is rather silly.
When Duke finally gets his hands on his trusty shotgun, everything is twice as fun already. It's a pity that he's a bit of a wuss, though. The health meter, disguised as his ego, takes heavy punishment even from stock enemies even on normal difficulty. When berserk pig cops home in with deadly speed and accuracy, our self-absorbed, yet lovable asshole suddenly turns into a cowering chicken running around and retreating like crazy just to throw a hasty shot or two towards the enemy. Rather embarrassing.
It all seems to get better by the minute. Sure, the game both looks and plays crude but in a way it also feels appropriate. Duke is still Duke and this one definitely has more whiff of traditional Playing and Fun than, say, all them self-conceited, dramatic, and awfully serious modern military shooters. If Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard was, despite its technical shortcomings, a most excellent third person shooter parody then Duke Nukem Forever could very well achieve the same in first person.
Somewhat surprisingly Driver: San Francisco didn't manage to entertain that long and I wrapped it up around 15 hours or so. Granted, I still have about a quarter of the game's 140 vehicles to buy, there's plenty of side challenges to complete in post-game, and trophy-wise I'm not even halfway done. Achieving all that would probably take at least twice as much but a small break is still in order.
The biggest annoyance of Driver is that it's nearly everything but still not quite perfect. Cruising around Fog City is incredibly enjoyable but it would be even more so if there wasn't quite as much traffic or if the muscle cars would have a bit more grip. Rush hour zigzagging, most notably on faster vehicles, feels more like work than fun, and satisfying sideway drifts mostly happen by accident. Especially on gravel the cars handle like on ice.
There's plenty of content in the game but the side challenges in particular get rather repetitious. The plotline in turn is just a loosely coupled collection of simple little missions that fail to convey an exciting or even a moderately sensible story. The potential is there but as whole the game is "only" a huge pile of all sorts of brief odds and ends.
That's not to say the pile wouldn't be an entertaining one. It gets special praise not only for its humor and an outgoing soundtrack but its in car view in particular. The feeling of speed is tangible, jumps make Tanner feel recoil from the steering wheel, and in the tightest turns he spins it a good one and a half rounds. It looks so tight and awesome that I never even used any other view.
I'm quite certain to return to this one but perhaps just for Sunday cruising. Some of the remaining challenges already whiffed a little bit of good old Reflections in terms of the frustration gauge growing exponentially :P
Three more hours and another couple of chapters of Driver: San Francisco have been tackled. The final stretch seems to be right around the corner but there's still loads of optional stuff to do. Some of the neatest of those are related to movie tokens spread around the city, usually hidden in side alleys and at the end of massive jumps. Collecting ten of those is rewarded with a chase scene from a classic movie including the likes of The French Connection, The Cannonball Run, Gone in 60 Seconds, The Blues Brothers, and – naturally – Bullitt. During these missions both the background music and all the vehicles change to reflect the appropriate time and a subtle film grain effect further heightens the overall atmosphere. Brilliant!
I'm also quite delighted that the series' difficulty level has been toned down a little. Reflections, the developing studio, is almost notorious for their frustratingly hard games but they finally seem to have found some sort of balance. Sure, there are still some missions in which an excessive number of law enforcement units make playing a living hell (six or seven simultaneous kamikaze patrols with a serious ramming fetish is not even remotely fun or even playable) but for most parts the game progresses with a good flow. The level of challenge certainly rises towards the end but I'm still quite confident on dealing with it.
I also peeked at the online but there the game transforms into pure ADHD rumble. Beginners are only given two simple modes of tag and slipstreaming an AI controlled vehicle. Thanks to boosting and shifting, however, even those modes are nothing but pure chaos. The extremely heavy San Francisco traffic is occasionally a slight problem even on single player but when it's combined with a bunch of humans constantly ramming each other and shifting like crazy, the end result is just plain deranged. Other modes could be unlocked via more online experience but I'm once again convinced of being too old for that shit :D
Gaming during the week has been mostly random stints of Miku and GT5 but I suppose I've already rambled enough about them. Today was finally a day to give the newcomers a chance and it looks like the next few days are going to be all about Driver: San Francisco. This time its gruff hero detective and wheelman without an equal, John Tanner, sets off in a most peculiar fashion. The bad boy of the previous game, Charles Jericho, manages to break out of prison and a tight chase between him and Tanner leaves the latter getting caught up in an accident resulting in comatose.
The game certainly isn't about watching the ceiling from a hospital bed, though. In his dreams, Tanner realizes he's capable of soaring above San Francisco like a bird and possessing any of the city's numerous motorists. Weird beyond belief, sure, but who keeps count if such supernatural abilities can bring Jericho back behind the bars. Together with his partner, Tobias Jones, Tanner ends up burning a whole lot of rubber on the streets and alleyways of the city, not giving a rat's ass whether it's just a dream or reality.
I have to admit that it's a bonkers storyline but the game mechanics behind it work wonders! The city is a decent-sized sandbox in which all the coolest car chases come alive. When a V8 growls, the radio stations are all about funk, and all corners can be tackled in sweet powerslides, the endpoint of a smile lies somewhere around the butt region. Aside from missions carrying on the storyline, the game is chock-full of side missions all about stunts, speed, and ordinary racing.
Thanks to Tanner's extraordinary skills, navigating the city is a veritable jubilee of easiness and quickness while random chats with the passengers suddenly getting a new driver are quite amusing. That's not the sole benefit of "shifting", though, as most persistent pursuers can be dealt with simply by briefly hopping onto an oncoming truck and aiming it at the said troublemaker :P
I've enjoyed the first ten hours of the game at 100mph without the slightest hint of boredom and based on the trophies rewarded for each completed chapter, I'm not even halfway done yet. More later but as for now, this one's definitely turning out to be a sleeper hit of 2011!
Life still does a pretty good job in getting in the way of gaming, so blog updates remain sparse... Just the same, continuation to the recent Trails in the Sky, at least according to Siliconera, seems to be hitting the obvious hurdle of a lack of customers. As rabid a fanbase as we JRPG lovers are, we simply don't seem strong enough. Glad to hear Xseed and Falcom still have hope but this is really starting to feel like fighting a losing battle. In a way, I kind of hope Japanese developers would tell their story in a single game rather than extend them like this. Either that or enough balls from a western studio to deliver the entire package, no matter what. A story forsaken halway through is – in any culture – just plain sad :(
This week has been full of floundering and impulse gaming. James Bond 007: Blood Stone, for example, got its second chance. Last February I lamented the game's mediocrity and lack of comfortable challenge. Brimming with confidence I decided to give it a go on the hardest 007 difficulty level and while big boys don't cry, it's apparently quite easy to get them cursing like a sailor. A walk in the park it no longer was.
Additional challenge didn't make the experience more enjoyable as it underlined the game's weaknesses. On that difficulty Bond drops after a couple of hits, usually just one. That's an annoying handicap already. After every big skirmish, however, the game just loves to throw in a surprise guy or two, solely designed to save the terrorists' day. On easier difficulties it's still possible to react to them but on hardest they're all about learning by dying and being sent back to the beginning of that original, big and time-consuming confontration. Boo.
I ended up having the best time blatantly abusing the game engine. Most scenarios expect the player to run to a certain defense point which is then swarmed by dozens of spawning enemies. Triggering those moments and then backtracking as fast as possible often made it a breeze to get through such nightmarish engagements, sniping helpless opponents from a considerable distance. Also, Bond's uncanny ability to shoot through corners while aiming helped quite a few times. Despite employing all these dirty tricks, this playthrough took nine hours rather than the previous five.
The game's not entirely hopeless, though. On occasion sneaking behind waist-high walls, pulling off stealth kills while avoiding direct firefight was fairly enjoyable. It's not Uncharted by a mile but perhaps vaguely, briefly, if thinking openly, etc. at least even the tiniest bit similar.
Feelings of accomplishment were also served by Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Dreamy Theater 2nd on which I really did manage to perfectly complete all the songs of the first game on easy. Time taken at that point: 25 hours. I should naturally now do the same on normal but that is most definitely not going to be an active objective. I humored myself trying to tackle one of the harder songs on normal but after missing 10% of its 650+ notes, my chances of success are minuscule at best. Challenging oneself can be fun but there's a limit to everything (^_^;)
Game orders found their way home throughout the week. Zavvi surprised me by being able to deliver Dead Space 2 Collector's Edition that they advertised for a couple of days for less than the vanilla version. Then it just disappeared and nothing happened in two weeks. Yet, it's now here and less than €20 for a game, its soundtrack and a postcard in a nice three-part cardboard case felt like a pretty good deal. The game disc even contains the rail shooter Dead Space: Extraction, so I suppose it's finally time to setup Move as well.
Amazon briefly had Duke Nukem Forever on sale for about €10, so it's time to see whether the game is truly as atrocious as everyone says (＾▽＾) From there I also grabbed Dungeon Siege III Limited Edition, although I doubt a vanilla version even exists. The "extra" on that one is simply a code to download four in-game items. Ridiculously weak especially when compared to my third Amazon purchase; Driver: San Francisco Collector Pack. Game, big map/poster, a comic book, and a metallic, highly detailed 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T. The second best special edition this year!
Lastly PS3 owners too now have a chance to experience the psychedelic world of Child of Eden. Grabbed it from Play.com not just because it was cheap but because they sweetened the deal with a neat T-shirt.
And still some news of the good kind, courtesy of Sega. Ryū ga Gotoku: Of the End, published in Japan last June, will see daylight in the west under the name Yakuza: Dead Souls. Kiryu and co. will once again run through the streets and side alleys of Kamurocho but instead of having to deal with street punks, organized crime, and corrupt politicians they're up against zombies. It looks like an extremely radical change of pace and not necessarily in a good way (^_^;) Oh well, let's see in March and I'd wager most Yakuza fans will still at least give it a chance. I sure will!
Aside from having sci-fi fun, the Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Dreamy Theater 2nd front remains active as well. I've now perfectly completed all songs of the second game on easy but much to my surprise, it didn't yield a trophy. It should have. Investigating the matter further, I realized that all perfect performance trophies are exclusive for the songs of the first game. Darn it :D Oh well, let's give them a go, then. I'm still not infected with trophy whoring but rhythm gaming on this one has been frequent enough (22 hours and counting) to warrant a few artificial challenges to keep the interest up :)
All is once again temporarily well in the universe, thanks to Shepard and his team members who, somewhat surprisingly, even managed to stay alive through it all. In other words, Mass Effect 2 has now been played through and sheesh, what a fantastic sci-fi adventure it turned out to be! Granted, having to deal with enigmatic and almighty aliens hell-bent on genocide of all life is hackneyed beyond belief but then again, when has the second part of any trilogy managed to tell a good story of its own?
The game universe itself, though, is overwhelmingly gorgeus and vibrant. The developers have scripted in an incredible amount of side missions, interludes, lore, and overheard discussions. It's not exactly anything new compared to the first game but this sequel seems to contain everything twofold, if not more. The scale of it all is perhaps getting a little too pompous and overly ambitious but the level of immersion provided is quite convincing.
To put that in terms of time, a straightforward playthrough probably wouldn't last longer than 10-15 hours whereas mine took 36, simply because I wanted to experience it all. Gathering Shepard's twelve-man team took awhile, especially as each has a special mission shedding some light into their pasts and motives. An equal share of time was spent charting galaxies and scanning planets. This was rewarded with occasional side missions requiring a landing party as well as materials needed to enhance weapons, gear, and skills.
The biggest time sink, however, was just idling by on space stations, listening to commercials, news, and NPC chatter. The events of the first game were cleverly and unexpectedly addressed on countless occasions which alone is fan service at its best. What makes it pure ecstacy is the way Mass Effect 2 skillfully adapts to the decisions made before. I'm having a hard time imagining just how much additional scripting is needed to create that kind of symbiosis but the outcome is phenomenal!
I hope the conclusion of the trilogy won't spread out quite this much and that the missions themselves would be more varied, even if there would be less of them. This one relied a bit too heavily on linear action all about gunning down everyone, at most hacking a few safes and terminals on the way. I'm not saying it wouldn't have been entertaining but having gobbled everything up, it got somewhat repetitive towards the end. Also: way too many "dramatic" moments of people pointing guns at each other :D
Still, the third game is most likely going to be a launch day purchase, come early March next year. A splendid performance, Bioware!