Stayed up late enough last night to make myself a wreck today, but I beat Mass Effect 2 again, this time arranging things so that everybody survived the suicide mission at the end. No big problem, except that this must have been like the third-and-a-halfth time I did Tali's loyalty mission. Ooh man, I don't want to see any more Quarian admirals for a while.
So let's take a more high-level view of this...
Favorite mission: Lot of choices here. The story missions were all solid. Character recruitment missions were generally pretty great. The loyalty missions were pretty varied, frequently mixing things up with different gameplay styles. I'll call out a few I particularly liked:
Thane's recruitment mission, where you find yourself charging through an under-construction skyscraper full of bad guys; it's just a super-solid combat mission in an interesting environment with the added bonus of a) rescuing some poor Salarians trapped in the skyscraper and b) seeing one of the more aggravating NPCs from Mass Effect 1 get her just desserts at the end of it.
Tali's recruitment mission. Pretty straightforward, but they mix it up with the sunlight gimmick -- Haestrom's sun is dying, and the radiation will fry you if you get out of the shadows for too long. Plus it obviously has Tali in it, always a plus. And also Kal'Reegar, who was my favorite minor character.
Grunt's loyalty mission is just pure fun, and the dialog with the Krogan shaman is hilarious.
One of the Uncharted Worlds side missions has you investigating a derelict human spaceship that somehow managed to wedge itself into the side of a cliff on a distant planet. As you creep across the enormous wreck trying to get to the bridge, the entire thing is creaking and tilting and threatening to tumble into the chasm at any moment. It's a completely non-combat mission, too -- just Shepard and this scary, scary spaceship. In general I applaud the non-combat missions in ME2. Not every problem in the universe should be solved by shooting some guys.
The Reaper IFF story mission was great for mixing up the standard Mass Effect cover-based combat. Instead, you get swarmed by space zombies. Cover ain't going to help you here, so there's a lot of panicky running around and AOE spamming. And flamethrowering! Good times.
Favorite squadmates: I can't pick. I love them all. I was frankly surprised that the squadmates I was most skeptical of -- Miranda, Grunt, and Jack -- I ended up liking just as much as the rest (in fact, Miranda became my default third character.) Way to character development, Bioware.
Other things: Let's see...
Paragon/Renegade interrupts in conversations are the best thing ever.
The "simplified" RPG systems, like the loot and more limited level up points, are okay. I do kind of wish you got the opportunity to tweak out your weapons and inventory a little more, though -- essentially you can just get one or two improved weapons through the game and a minimal number of armor pieces, and that's it. While obviously the huge piles of vendor trash in ME1 weren't the right way to go, there's room to restore a bit of depth here.
For some reason I really like the hacking minigame. It takes seconds to do and it looks so cool.
I do miss the Mako. Yes, I know Mako driving was broken in so many ways, but the concept of driving a rover across the surface of a distant, unexplored planet is something I love so much that I'm willing to put up with a lot of brokenness to get it. Plus, it allowed the designers to really mix up the scale of environments -- in ME2, everything is pretty much around the corner from everything else because you have to walk everywhere, but if you can jump in the car and personally drive somewhere it does a lot to sell the environments as real places. Besides, can you do this, the most awesome moment in all of ME1, without a vehicle? I think not. Supposedly one of the upcoming DLC packs will have a new driveable tank in it. I shall cautiously hope this points the way to the return of large environments in ME3.
I am studiously neutral on the topic of mineral scanning. Coulda been better, coulda been worse. I do think it needs to be clearly gotten across that if you don't happen to need any minerals right now you don't need to do any scanning, and there's way more minerals in the galaxy than you'd need to build every single upgrade in the game. So there's no real pressure to spend more than a few minutes on it here and there.
I would have liked to see more interaction between the squadmates. Besides straightening out a few disagreements (Miranda/Jack, Tali/Legion), the odd cutscene before story missions, and a scattering of dialog in-mission for particular squad combinations, you really don't get to see them chatting with each other very much. That's one thing those infamous elevators in ME1 were good for!
Speculation time for ME3: Half the story of ME3 will be Shepard having to rally all the different galactic powers to cooperate against the Reapers. Tali will become an Admiral; come on, they might have well have put that one on a giant neon sign. The dark energy problem affecting Haestrom's sun -- and at least one uncharted world side mission, if you pay close attention -- will turn out to be connected to the Reapers somehow. And how is Shepard going to somehow defeat that fleet of thousands of huge immortal mechanical horrors heading for the Milky Way?
I haven't the faintest idea. Worrisome. But I'll bet you they're going to head for Earth first. Isn't it always the way?