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First up is a short preview on Gamereactor:
While character development and story progression are good enough reasons to be joyful two tedious elements of the first game that have been put under the microscope with a view to being revamped are the bug ridden tech glitches and mind numbing elevator rides that were used as an alternative to loading screens. Instead the elevator scenes will now be replaced by '˜interesting visuals and information.'
The combat which fundamentally remains the same has been tweaked to include target based damage. So in the heat of the action, instead of simply pointing and unloading on an enemy, you can inflict critical damage by shooting at the head or taking out limbs to affect the target's mobility.
Followed by a second preview on TeamXbox:
Without wanting to give away any obvious spoilers, we'll say that one particular decision in Mass Effect was explored in Muzyka's talk. If you chose to go in one direction in the first game, when you get to a particular point in the sequel, you'll find yourself lauded as a hero and receive a great welcome. Hitting that same point after loading a save game where you chose to go in the other direction in the original ME, you'll find that these same people now vilify you as an enemy of their people.
Another preview comes at us from VideoGamer:
Shepard meets the Illusive Man, but not face to face. She's scanned in by some kind of virtual projection device, and displayed as an image wherever The Illusive Man calls home. Shepard's been "upgraded", it turns out. The Illusive Man explains the dire situation humankind finds itself in. He wants Shepard to join Cerberus - an organisation she battled against in the first game - and investigate. Shepard, somewhat reluctantly, agrees. Cerberus, after all, saved her life.
Her first stop is a Terminus System human colony called Freedom's Progress, which has already experienced an attack. Now a level two Infiltrator, skill points are available. Do I improve Disruptor Ammo, which rips through shields and synthetics, or Tactical Cloak, which allows her to disappear for a short period of time? What about Operative, which improves her overall abilities? Choices. choices.
And yet another preview is up at Straight.com:
Importing a saved game brings in your Commander Shepard character from Mass Effect 1. You'll have a chance to make adjustments to physical features, and you'll be given an opportunity to re-select the class for your specific Shepard.
That decision was made, Hudson said, because the improvements made to Mass Effect 2, which include a new combat system, have made the different classes play much differently. (Being a Vanguard in Mass Effect 1 is a radically different experience than being a Vanguard in Mass Effect 2,) Norman said.
Moving on, there's an interview with producer Adrien Cho on CVG:
What would you say other BioWare series can learn from Mass Effect 2?
Cho: The joy of doing a sequel is improving upon the things you set forth, keeping all of the important elements there but refining the areas where it could be stronger.
All BioWare games focus on good storytelling, that goes without saying. Mass Effect the series leans more towards combat. In the first one we delivered something and we really felt we could improve the combat with the experience in this one, without removing any of the elements that made the first one great.
We knew we had a limited amount of resources, a set time limit and we wanted to hit all the areas that we had criticisms for and make sure that we answered them. People said, 'Mass Effect is a great game but it had long load elevators'. We wanted to address every single thing so... I'm not going to say shut up our critics, but it'd leave no room to deny that this is an amazing game.
And another interview with Mr. Cho on Strategy Informer:
Strategy Informer: Bioware has a lot of projects going on at the moment: You've just finished Dragon Age, you're working on the Star Wars MMO, and of course there's Mass Effect. What core principles do you draw on from all three to help improve the creative process in general?
Adrien Cho: That actually goes back to our founders. You know the mantra for all Bioware games is that it has to be the best story driven experience possible. That's great because not matter who you are, either a writer, artist, designer, etc... you know exactly what you're striving to do. Everything else is kind of gravy after that, and each project brings with it different flavours - so Dragon Age obviously is the fantasy element, and Star Wars is the more grand space opera, and then we've got Mass Effect which is more grounded in pure science fiction. It's a really good question actually because you sometimes forget the backbone of projects like these.
Then we head over to GameSpot for some coverage of the game during their latest "On The Spot" show (at the 27:19 mark), to Gamasutra for an opinion piece on "sexualization" in video games (with the Mass Effect franchise referenced), and to Burn360 for a skin-heavy "The Women of Mass Effect 2" gallery feature.