Mass Effect 2 Coming to Xbox 360, Windows in "Early 2010"

A lot of you really, truly dug Bioware's Mass Effect. I didn't. That is, I didn't dig it as enthusiastically. In fact I scored it 60 points on PC World's 100 point scale, which translates as "slightly better than average." Not a bad score. Certainly not a negative review. Regardless, it incited 1,823 "no" votes against just 202 "yes" votes in our admittedly easily skewed thumbs-up-or-down recommendation system.

The lone response reads as follows:

The reviewer is clearly a person who despises RPGs. [W]ould he rather Bioware had skipped the story elements completely and put all their resources into making Mass Effect yet another Halo 3 clone? Why such a person is allowed to review a game in a genre he so clearly dislikes is beyond me.

Warning, dead horse about to be flogged: I realize some readers can't reconcile a 50% to a C average, and that even then some gamers endorse conventional graduate rules, i.e. anything below an A-minus equals "fail," but it doesn't make that response any less dead wrong. Since we use the absolute scale, a 50 is our median, i.e. neither better than average nor substandard.

I don't expect that defense to sway the emphatically entrenched, but if you're more open-minded, it's worth recalling the next time you see a 60 or 70 percent, before spooling up invective about a reviewer despising something. "Despise" is one of those extreme-end censorious descriptors reserved for execrable games like American McGee's Bad Day L.A. or Custer's Revenge. On a 100 point scale, "despising" would actually be a flat 0, or at best, a highly generous 10.

For the record, I love computer RPGs. Have since the days of Ultima and The Bard's Tale and SSI's Gold Box series. They're actually my favorite genre, which may explain my tepid response to Mass Effect. The latter's not a bad game, but I'm also not entirely convinced it's an RPG (to level set, I think a game like Bioware's Baldur's Gate 2 is).

Oh, Mass Effect's got character stats you can tinker with, and panels stacked to the hilt with source lore. But it's all structured like window dressing around an inflexible and mediocre story interspersed with clumsy third-person shooter sections (compare with the works of real masters like Gene Wolfe or China Mieville or Iain M. Banks, and why shouldn't we expect as much?).

Here's how I described some of that in my review: Mass Effect...talky sections unfold like dull, flat sine waves, punctuated by sawtooth-style segments of manic action. On the one hand, the system's been nicely refined to allow more natural pacing by letting you choose a conversational approach before someone else finishes speaking. But it's still like playing the weird descendent of an old choose-your-own-adventure book, with spurts of action inelegantly sandwiched between exhaustive dialogue trees that don't change the game to speak of. Smoothly paced or no, your conversations don't shape your experience in Mass Effect so much as shuffle you along like a weirdly glib FedEx operative.

I won't reiterate my laundry list of supplementary issues. Everyone knows about the poky elevators and general mission bugs. No one seems to have minded the monotonous dialogue or inelastic story with its superficially "alternative" endings. And I guess we're supposed to blink past the offensively generic planet-side reconnoitering, even if the Mario Bros vehicle-jumping shtick was downright shameful.

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