Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
Words can't describe how awed I was the first time I drank in the view from the massive, mostly-lawless asteroid world of Omega, nor the futuristic, suspended city of Illium, both teeming with detail and JJ Abrams' Star Trek-style lens flares, but tonally about as different as worlds can get. With the exception of the bizarrely low-res (we're talking massive squares of color here) textures during the exploration bits of the Overlord missions, this is a game with incredibly impressive facial animation and textures. All the various alien races have their own look and feel, and there's simply no way to praise this game's visuals enough -- particularly the entirety of the Shadow Broker's varied locales.
The same goes for the audio, performed ably by both Mark Meer as the male Shepard and Jennifer "Female Voice for Everything Ever" Hale. Despite what feels like tens of thousands of lines of dialogue, both have their own takes on Shepard, and they make for wonderfully different experiences that I encourage everyone to try out. Moreover, the voice acting for all the characters is absolutely fantastic, ranging from being serenaded by a clipped, ultra-speedy scientist to a gruff, paced mercenary, with plenty in between. It's a testament to the voice cast that the appearance of bigger names like Seth Green (who has, frankly, the best lines in the game, and his character Joker, continues to be my favorite) and Martin Sheen is only icing on the cake. The voices really are that great.
And then there's the music. What feels like dozens of hours spent exploring one of the major areas and listening to the opening music of the first game will mean Jack Wall's Mass Effect 2 soundtrack can't possibly have the same kind of emotional resonance (even if it was his stuff I really liked so much). Nevertheless, it really is good stuff, ranging from melancholy to driving (try not to jump out of your seat during the final assault) to fear-inducing to euphoric, and absolutely, perfectly sets the tone of the myriad worlds you'll explore over the course of dozens of hours of gameplay.
If there's a single complaint I can make about Mass Effect 2 -- even the downloadable version -- it's that the load times can be, frankly, excruciating. This is particularly apparent when navigating the various decks of your ship, the Normandy, where the crew is scattered across at least three floors for most of the game, but traveling just about anywhere in the game with a game means watching upwards of 30 seconds of loading at a time, and it can be tiring -- especially given how many loading screens there are.
I've just 2300 or so words gushing about everything from my love of space to the best DLC seen thus far in video games, but the bottom line is this: if you do not buy Mass Effect 2, you're missing out on a game so good that it could (and honestly should) be in contention for Game of the Year again, a year after it already took so many high honors. It is, without a doubt, the deepest, most inviting world created thus far, going farther and growing more expansive than almost any medium available. It's immensely replayable, offers a story and characters that are all genuinely interesting and... just stop reading this and go buy the game already, will ya?