Tech: Mass Effect, second time around
I reviewed Mass Effect some time ago, and the slow summer months represent a golden time to more fully explore the game's secrets. Unlike a lot of RPGs, Mass Effect gives you a lot of reasons to go through the game a second time.
First, the game offers a "Hardcore" level of difficulty that actually makes combat exciting instead of a chore. Even the tutorial mission offered a challenge - the sentry drones that offered pinprick attacks in Normal difficulty were suddenly very potent, meaning I had to take cover and pay attention even in the very first combat encounter.
Second, the dialogue and plot change quite a bit on subsequent run-throughs. My first Commander Shepard was a badass, take-no-prisoners female survivor with a ruthless streak. She was skilled in use of the sniper rifle and the various tech skills. This time, I'm going for a grizzled male Shepard who usually tries to help people and protect civilians. For this second run, I've made him a Vanguard, who combines close-quarters shotgun mastery with potent pseduo-magical attacks.
Finally, BioWare is set on releasing downloadable episodes for the game, the first of which was only released a few months ago. At $5, it only offers maybe an hour and a half of gameplay, but it's still another mission to complete: