Mass Effect 2 Update - Unraveling the Mystery of Shepard

After going hands-on with the first hour of Mass Effect 2, we see why Commander Shepard was presumed dead.

The original teaser trailer for Mass Effect 2 cast a great big blanket of uncertainty on the status of Commander Shepard leading into this sequel. Whether he's alive and well or was truly "killed in action" as that video would have you believe was the big question at the time. But that was back in February, and since then we've seen a veritable flood of screenshots, videos, and advance demos showing what's either a living, breathing Shepard going about his business, or a startlingly accurate wax model. At any rate, after recently playing the first hour or so of Mass Effect 2, we can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that Shepard is back. Sort of.

Aside from being one of the more incredible scenes we've seen in a game all year, the first 10 minutes of Mass Effect 2 serve as an explanation for why Shepard would be presumed dead. This introductory sequence is really something else, so we won't spoil the details of it for you. But suffice it to say that something goes horribly wrong on the Normandy, and Shepard finds himself in a medical bay waking up to a group of faces he doesn't recognize. It turns out that Shepard's wounds have been mended by none other than the staunchly pro-human Cerberus Corporation from the first game. After some interrogating and a desperate escape from this medical station, Shepard meets with the leader of Cerberus, a shadowy figure dubbed the Illusive Man, voiced by Martin Sheen.

The conversation between Shepard and the Illusive Man is a tense and rocky one, but after some convincing, Shepard agrees to begin working for Cerberus. After all, he essentially owes his life to the company and its miraculous knack for medical science. (Exactly how Cerberus saved Shepard is still up in the air--the game strongly hints at some inorganic medical augmentations. Case in point: his scars glow a bright orange.) And thus begins Mass Effect 2's overarching story: Shephard must assemble the best team he can in order to accomplish the potentially humanity-saving, potentially suicidal mission that the Illusive Man has laid out for him. The Illusive Man has furnished Shepard with a list of some of the best talent in the universe, and much of the game will see you venturing into deep corners of space to recruit these guns for hire. They'll add to a squad already consisting of the two Cerberus employees you meet at the very beginning, the biotics expert Jacob and the so-cute-she-must-be-a-love-interest Miranda.

Jacob Taylor (right) is the first squadmate you'll have in your party.

Along the way, however, you'll encounter a number of familiar faces from the original game. What's most interesting is how prior story choices affect these reunions. Much has been made about the ability to import your save file from Mass Effect, but until now, BioWare hadn't been very forthcoming with details on this feature. After a bit of prodding, here's what BioWare was willing to tell us: The save file that you import carries over the story choices you made in the original game; provides specific boosts to your combat abilities without maintaining your old skill levels; and keeps the same gender while providing a chance for you to redesign your character's appearance.

The one example shown--we'll try to avoid spoilers here--involved a squad member whom you had a potentially deadly altercation with in the original game. If the altercation went south and the character died, you'll inevitably visit this person's homeworld and receive a cold greeting from his people, making your diplomatic quest that much harder. More importantly, though, that person will be completely absent from Mass Effect 2. But if you imported a save file from a game where you managed to smooth things over with this person, you willl receive a warm welcome and he'll be both alive and accommodating to your quest.

That's one of the big, attention-grabbing features from Mass Effect 2, but our time with the game wasn't without its little discoveries. One of these is the new armor customization system that lets you take any of the armor you find in the game and alter the look of it down to its colors and finish. There's also a post-mission recap screen that gives you a better sense of how you've progressed if you were too focused on combat to notice your various pickups and upgrades. The screen gives a plot summary of the mission you just completed, the new weapons you acquired, how many credits you found, any new skills and levels gained, and other details. There are also a number of new minigames used to unlock safes and bypass security systems that require quite a bit more mental acumen than the Simon Says-style games from Mass Effect.

Tali is one of the familiar faces you'll run into early in Mass Effect 2.

We could go on about how quickly Mass Effect 2 picks up and the new faces you'll meet early on, but we don't want to give away too much. All you need to know is that the end of our demo came much too soon. It looks like BioWare has made good on its promise to deliver a darker, more engrossing game than the original, and one that has minimized its predecessor's technical gaffes. We'll need to wait to see how two of the biggest flaws from the original game play out--inventory management and vehicle control--but we're optimistic about Mass Effect 2 just the same. While you wait for more coverage, be sure to check out our other previews of Mass Effect 2.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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201 comments
Yanduan
Yanduan

I'm a bit late for this great game. just finished the first ME. Can't wait to play the sequel and reveal the mystery of Shepard. ME2 I'm coming... grow taller naturally

FatalFist
FatalFist

cmon we ALREADY knew that Shepard was either presumed dead/or realy dead at some time......

Creedom
Creedom

OMG NO SPOILER ALERT? WTF?!

Creedom
Creedom

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Creedom
Creedom

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

NinoSwaG
NinoSwaG

@BriceFoo Yeah it's a huge spoiler but it's still underwraps as of how he is brought back to life and why his scars glow and all of that stuff. So it's just a minor spoiler and it wont matter to much.

BriceFoo
BriceFoo

wow couldnt they have least said spoiler alert at the beginning. I didnt want to know shepard dies at the beginning. man im pissed.

NinoSwaG
NinoSwaG

@donsnypa Yeah it's Wrex. They pretty much hinted towards it.

donsnypa
donsnypa

@NinoSwaG wrex the undernaught ?

soulhunter91
soulhunter91

lol, im only playing this because Tali is back, -drools- tali...

02050muh
02050muh

haha...who cares about the box art..but i agree with Skargamer. It is...ugly!

Skargamer
Skargamer

the box art looks very similar to another game i seen...

NinoSwaG
NinoSwaG

@NECROMONGER223 Yeah I hated it at first myself. It took playing it 2 years later for me to actually like it. I guess at the time i was into run and gun games and really didn't feel like looking for people. You gotta admit sometimes going around looking for specific people gets a little tedious and boring but overall a great game. I can't wait for this one....it's been the slowest 2 weeks ever!

NinoSwaG
NinoSwaG

Crap I can't remember which character smoothed things over with "that person...." I gotta play again now. lol

02050muh
02050muh

wow! customize the looks in campaign.. huhu...in shooter genre? must buy it!

NECROMONGER223
NECROMONGER223

ive beaten it 3 times and still going i hated it at first but now i love it

jlevin860
jlevin860

i'm playing the first one right now. it is EPIC. this will be one of my top 5 games of 2010 for sure.

alcaclarke
alcaclarke

This is the big boy of video games. I have never been so excited for a game in all my life. Well other than Bioshock 2 and further down the line... Elder Scrolls 5 & Fallout 4

b33zy
b33zy

ohhh CHYEH! cant wait :D

lonewolves4
lonewolves4

rgarrow923 they are talking about wrex

pmo5010
pmo5010

super pumped for this!

rgarrow923
rgarrow923

can someone tell me who they are talking about its been a long time since ive played mass effect cant remember if i killed him or not please pm or put spoiler tags

hibikino
hibikino

oh I can't wait to play this game!!

MacenKrace
MacenKrace

I hope the PC version will be able to load old saves. Also I do hope it will be better ported than the last one.

flexappeal
flexappeal

Finally started playing ME1 after replacing my stolen xbox 2 years ago. Wow all I can say is I'm impressed so far. I can't wait to finish this agme and move on to ME2. Bioware really has a knack for creating great rpg's. Just wanna add that I recently finished Dragon Age and would love to play more of this game as well. Bioware you rock! Lol

Vaultboy-101
Vaultboy-101

At the end of the first game it states that your previous game has been finished and is available for replay. So this states that it is aware of the choices you have made.

houserocka
houserocka

ME1 was top class imo,i can only imagine how good this will be.i want it NOW!!

kaynchen
kaynchen

So the beginning will be kinda like Saints Row II? It's getting old, but I think I could accept this cliché one more time just for ME2.

thehorror2
thehorror2

I think the game keeps some data of each profile that finishes the game. It at least keeps the data on appearance and skills (as evidenced by new game+), so why not the various choices you made during the story?

samuraimaster
samuraimaster

They keep mentioning how you can import your save files, which carries over the decisions you made in the story, but what about the fact that you can only save right before the end of the game? Doesn't that mean the decisions you make after you beat Saren don't carry over? You can only save after the ending if you start a new game, but wouldn't that reset all the decisions you made? I'd really like to know

JohnisGodd
JohnisGodd

I played trough Mass effect 6 times. Each person chose different interactions with characters and quests so it should prove to be interesting just how different these files play in numba 2.

CMakaCreative
CMakaCreative

That interview movie has such a major spoiler but I guess it isn't too bad since it all happens early in the game. That was something I didn't want to know until I played the game. Guess I can at least look forward to seeing it unravel in front of my eyes. Don't watch the interveiw clip if you don't want the story to be spoiled.

topsemag55
topsemag55

Can't wait to download my pre-order.:)

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

Love the universe, Love the character design, Love the game, cant wait.

vetookie
vetookie

WHY CAN'T I PLAY THIS NOW!

s_vv
s_vv

looks like another masterpiece from Bioware...

Jock9
Jock9

Looking forward to ME2, I have the original and Dragon Age so definately cannot wait.

konii-chan
konii-chan

This is going to be the first game in 2010 I'll buy. I totally agree - we should boykott games who are expensive and actually only made for online-gaming and have maybe 6hours of single action. At least those should be cheaper. However, ME2 will be worth the money bc it will have plenty of hours to play, nice graphics and a good story.

marblemason1
marblemason1

The original Mass Effect was a well needed breath of fresh air. I'm sick and tired of paying top dollar for a game that has 6 hours of single player action. I've been playing the original Mass effect for two weeks now and love it! Let's hope this develops into a gaming industry trend. I won't buy COD Modern Warfare2 because I'm sick paying through the nose for games designed primarily for on-line gamers. I will be buying Mass Effect 2!

flexappeal
flexappeal

I can't begin to describe how excited I am for this game. I missed out playing the first mass effect 2 years ago because my home was burgalrized and my 360 was among the items that were stolen from my home. But this past Xmas, my wife bought me another 360 and I I finally got the chance to play through the first game. If part 1 is that good thus far.... Part 2 will probably blow me away!!!!

dark_stapler
dark_stapler

the game sort of suck a tiny bit because you have to relode and buy ammo 4 the guns

GotRustyB
GotRustyB

Aghhh. I can't wait any longer!!! Its so close... 3 weeks is just to long. :(

BigStik
BigStik

i just got the first one, have to hurry up and finish it for this one...

grey_fox1984
grey_fox1984

I just finished Dragon Age and i REALLY hope that a similar "import save" feature shows up in the sequel. I want to battle my darkspawn child that i knocked Morrigan up with!

SuperB56
SuperB56

I didn't realize that this game can import your choices from the first game, I like the first one, and nothing is going to stop me from getting this game too.