The galaxy is being threatened by a race of life-hating machines and only one person can stop them from obliterating humanity.

The galaxy is being threatened by a race of life-hating machines and only one person can stop them from obliterating humanity.

The only problem? Our savior, Commander Shepard, dies in the first few minutes of this sequel. Well, sorta.

Mass Effect 2 continues the critically praised sci-fi epic. Unlike many game sequels, though, which merely advance the story, the developers fixed just about every problem fans and reviewers had with the first edition while also working to carry forward the player's choices and experiences.

You play as Shepard, who has been resurrected to investigate a new threat: Entire human colonies are being abducted without a trace.

Along the way, Shepard will recruit a new team of companions, each with their own dark past, and attempt to gain their loyalty for a potential suicide mission that could save humankind.

Fans of the first game can return to this universe with knowledge that all the tough decisions made in the 50 hours of Mass Effect gameplay are carried over and change your experience in Mass Effect 2.

The continuity is really quite remarkable, though only those already invested in the title will be impressed as old acquaintances from the first game pop up during the sequel's lengthy story.

At its heart, Mass Effect is a role-playing game, but thanks to some considerable tweaking by the developer, the sequel plays more like Gears of War or any other excellent third-person shooter. Sure, there are still skills and leveling-up involved, but it doesn't feel like statistics have much to do with the results during combat when you're aiming your laser gun at the head of a robotic foe.

Players looking for a pure action experience, however, should realize that this game has a lot of story and a lot of dialogue. The way the game changes is based on a player's dialogue decisions, so don't try to skip through those interactions.

While it's too early to claim any "game of the year" candidates, it is likely that Mass Effect 2 will be a contender as 2010's best even after Halo: Reach, God of War III and BioShock 2 arrive.