So I finished ME1 and started up ME2. Just like before, there was an initial stumbling-around phase where I get used to the new controls and systems, and then everything starts to just feel way better than the original did. Combat is no longer about making their bars go down faster than yours; I am forced to aim, pick the right targets, use the right weapons, and take advantage of my teammates’ abilities, which you don’t really need to do much of in ME1.
I will say that I do miss the RPG elements of ME1 more than I did the first time I played through these games. I still find a lot of ME1’s weapon and upgrade system extraordinarily tedious, but I think that ME2’s relative lack of customizability isn’t any better. Honestly, I think the problem is that the guns and abilities in both games simply lack personality–which is a failing of both the FPS and RPG elements of the series.
I’m playing through as a soldier this time, since I played as a Vanguard in my first run. I like the tanky, in-your-face classes. Vanguard was perfect for this since they have that one ability that basically Psycho Crushers you into the heat of battle, shields charged and shotgun at the ready. Soldier, by comparison, is a bit more straightforward. Find cover, activate bullet time, use appropriate gun/ammo combo. Use squad abilities as necessarily. It’s entertaining enough, but there’s no soul to it. Just a handful of standard boring guns.
You know who made some great fucking guns? Bungie, back in the Marathon days. DOOM‘s weapons basically differed in a few predictable ways–you had the rate of fire, or you had area of effect, with damage more or less related to ammo scarcity. Marathon‘s weapons each had their own personality. Akimbo pistols for long range, akimbo shotguns for close range, finesse charged shots with the Fusion Pistol and spray-and-pray with the Assault Rifle and Grenade Launcher. Those were some fine guns.