Insanity is the best way to play Mass Effect 2. No, I’m not full of male bravado and fist pumping, but I feel the insanity difficulty enhances everything about Mass Effect 2. Commander Shepard is described as the only soldier fit to successfully lead a suicide mission against an insurmountable enemy. On lower difficulty settings there is never a feeling of danger or risk. The enemies hardly put up a fight. Shepard becomes a school yard bully. The kid who follows the poor Blue Suns Mercenary to the bathroom, informs the entire school yard, and convinces everyone to throw wet toilet paper at him while he does his business in the stall. The insanity setting brings more to the Mass Effect 2 experience than roided enemies and a crippled protagonist.
Dangers of the Universe
The Mass Effect Universe plays up all of Shepard’s enemies. Blue Suns, Eclipses, Blood Pack, Geth, and Collectors, they are out to get me and I should always shoot first and ask questions later. On lower difficulty settings, it’s hard to sense real danger from any of these enemies. The Krogan are hyped up to be a race that is incredibly hard to kill. I ran up to Krogans and punched them in the face until they died. It was horrible; my Shepard was running around punching week old test tube babies in the face. These were the most durable race in the galaxy? Nothing feels dangerous, the Universe presented feels false.
Mass Effect 2 feels like it is devoid of any primary antagonist. There was no Vegeta to my Shepard. The closest enemies are The Illusive Man and Harbinger. On lower difficulty settings, Harbinger is about as unstoppable as a road cone. Truth, I didn’t know Harbinger was an enemy on Normal and Veteran. He died as quick as the other Collectors, didn’t know he was there. The insanity Harbinger came down and reconstructed my Shepard into an unrecognizable mess. He takes over Collectors close to death saving them from the killing blow gives them full barriers and armor more than any other enemy. He could knock me out of cover, set me on fire, and shoot me with a collector particle beam, at the same time. He forced me to constantly out maneuver him and quickly kill all the Collectors so I could deal with him. When Harbinger came, he felt like a real threat to me and my party.
The Insanity difficulty debunks any theory Mass Effect 2 is not RPGy enough. On the lower difficulty settings I would run in and recreate scenes from the latest Rambo movie. Insanity enemies never stop firing and have a bucket of endless ammo. This forces me to take a tactical approach for each encounter. But the only situation that almost forced me to give up my insanity playthrough was a specific encounter with the Collectors. The part where the Collectors ambush you from incoming platforms backed with a Scion in the far back. Until this point, I rarely died, it seemed cheap and frustrating. I put the game down and tried it the next day. As an engineer I have the Combat Drone ability and the important mechanic about the drone is it can be summoned anywhere I point my crosshairs. So, I summoned my combat drone into an empty space that prevented the invading platforms from landing. This caused a glitch in the game where the Collectors could not hit me, but I could hit them. That’s right; I broke the game to get past a point on Insanity. Was it cheap? Probably, but I felt like my Shepard figured out an impossible situation and the insanity mode encouraged me to try extreme measures.
Give it a Try
My suggestion of everyone should try Mass Effect 2 on insanity is serious. When I finished an encounter and built my characters to specifically kill certain enemies I felt like the whole package had come together. The increase in difficulty gave me a real sense of danger and risk in the game. It made the suicide mission feel real. The Collectors and heavy mechs felt like imposing enemies that feel like there’s no way of winning. Trust me, it doesn’t take that long. My insanity playthrough was 12 hours, saved the entire crew, no one died, and I felt like a complete badass. This isn’t me pumping my fist, flashing the jersey, screaming, “EFF YEAH EFF YEAH!” I feel the insanity difficulty in Mass Effect 2 has given me a better appreciation for the game.