Mass Effect 2 - An Import-ant Message
Despite having put my goody-two-shoes Paragon Shepherd to bed approximately 18 months ago, the strength of Mass Effect's cinematic experience has kept the memories of malevolent robots, sexy alien chicks and identical warehouses at the front of my mind. Perhaps because of this, I've been excited for the arrival of Mass Effect 2 in the same way that I look forwards to instalments of epic movie franchises, such as Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter and the Indiana Jones Trilogy (yes, I said trilogy).
To me, the appeal of the franchise is that the gameplay experience is there to act as a vehicle for a story that is perhaps not so easily told through a more passive medium. Luckily, I managed to fight the urge to put on my beret and consider the post-modernist ramifications of blurring media boundaries by remembering there was a good chance I'd see some hot alien boobies in the next few hours.
Before even considering such trivial components of the game such as gameplay, graphics or plot however, I was faced with a couple of potential hurdles that have been very publicly debated since the the release of the original, namely the Cerberus Network and Character Importing.
First things first, on booting up the game I was immediately prompted to enter a code to enable the Cerberus Network, which in essence is a thinly veiled attempt to jazz up the industry's recent backlash against the pre-owned market. As someone who doesn't mind paying that little bit more to avoid owning a disc smeared with an unknown bodily fluid and who hates lining retailer pockets even more than publishers, I have no quibble with the inclusion of one-use codes with new games. This is especially true for Mass Effect 2 as the content delivery system has been integrated seamlessly into the game's menu system. My only is gripe was that it felt like Cerberus was deliberately attempting to delay a quick dive into the action through snail's pace downloads and content descriptions that take a frustratingly long time to automatically scroll the text down. However as I was attempting to play on the first night the game was out in the UK, I'm willing to overlook these minor misdemeanours as server load issues.
Once the console was loaded up with all the goodies Bio-Ware had to offer, I was faced with the decision I had been dreading for literally over a year. Do you want to import a character from Mass Effect?
The majority of my concerns were based around how the importer would handle data from characters with New Game+ saves. My worst case scenario was that my angelic Paragon Shepherd would have been overwritten by the baby-feasting murder-monster from my unfinished second playthrough. However, my worries were unfounded as the import process turned out to be as slick as an oiled up weasel. Only characters with completed playthroughs are available for selection and before the import is finalised, you're treated to a quick synopsis of what important choice you made in the first game are going to be carried through.
After a prolonged loading screen in which I was sure the game had crashed, I took part in an emotional reunion with my Shepherd and was treated to the introduction movie, featuring the obligatory late title card. All in all I have been impressed in the manner that Bio-Ware have integrated their tools into the game considering all the potential pitfalls that have been deliberated and dissected across Internetville in the previous few months and can only hope it's an early indicator of the polish on the rest of the game.
Luckily, the weekend now looms ahead, ready to catch me with its splendiferous golden arms and I hope much of the next couple of days will be spent getting to grips with the game and seeing if the experience is as most reviews say it is.