So, my first playthrough on normal difficulty was very thorough. I’ve picked a male (Infiltrator class), took the “good guy” approach (“We have to save the galaxy! – Wait, what’s that, old lady? Your kitten is trapped in this death maze? We’ll help!”), also did pretty much every sidequest I could find, landed on every rock available, and ended up spending 34 hours or so. Hey, my char even had freaky, slightly awkward (in the build-up) alien sex with that endlessly blabbering blueberry. Dynomite.
The second time around I rolled a female (Soldier class) and played the whole game on hardcore difficulty in a “I have a job to do, get out of my way” kind of way. Short-tempered, gun-in-your-face attitude, not afraid to leave a crater. In short, for the most part I tried to play it like time actually mattered. This time I clocked in ~14 hours. And this time, my leading lady ended up ripping the clothes off one of her male subordinates. Oh, and she had freaky, surprising lesbian alien sex with some random NPC, without meaning to.
The game’s not without flaws, tho. The sidequests on the planets are a wee bit repetitive. There are some rather frequent framerate drops and “Halo 2”-style texture pop-in issues after the loading screens. Background noises were sometimes awfully quiet, and it was really, really hard to make them out, which made some surroundings appear a bit sterile in the aural department. The squad NPC pathfinding took a short break from time to time, making me run back to show one of my compadres how to walk around the car. Oh, and Bioware? My wife asks whether for ME2 you could add some more samples to enemy NPCs, I think if she has to hear “I will destroy you!” or “Go! Go! Go!” one more time, she’ll be going postal.
But ultimately, in my book, it’s really a great game. Hey, it’s mostly “Knights of the Old Republic”, albeit with a lot of changes! It might not perfect, but it comes close. The player char’s gender does make a difference every now and then. I liked the majority of the voice acting, the stories and side-quests were mostly laid out well, and the presentation was usually top notch. Especially the last 1-2 hours were mighty fine. Cinematical, even. Wonderful, wonderful build up of tension.
All in all I’ve spent around 50-60 hours on Mass Effect, and enjoyed those. I recommend it.