Regardless of my ammo concerns, the new armor and equipment upgrade system sounds really interesting. Rather than slapping on a pre-made suit, you'll now be able to build your armor piecemeal. That's because the armor is modular - different parts will provide different bonuses, and you can mix and match as you like. Also, equipment can be augmented through research. You can actually invest in research projects now that will yield new technology that can be used by your crew to give them boons to specific skills. The modular armor and upgrade system should make acquiring and developing loot much more addictive.
Character progression in Mass Effect 2 is now wholly keyed to powers, of which, there are tons more. A couple of the new powers discussed were that of "Charge" for Vanguards and "Pull" for Adepts. Charge allows you to get up in an enemy's grill and press the advantage. This power eventually turns into Bullrush, which at max level will actually slow down time. The Pull skill for Adepts starts out by allowing players to pull certain enemies toward your team to gang up on them. As you max out the skill, Adepts will eventually be able to pull them from any angle, allowing you to use the environment to your advantage (i.e., throwing fools over bridge railings or into electrical conduit). In all there will be six classes to choose from: three that concentrate on combat, biotics, or tech, and another three that are hybrids. Each of the classes will have access to unique powers, and existing crew member characters can retrain in different classes to give them a new line of progression going forward.
The original Mass Effect featured an enormous galaxy to explore. Unfortunately, many of the planets weren't that interesting. This time, the team has worked hard on making system exploration a lot more compelling. For example, the galaxy map has been improved to give players a better sense of what they're actually doing - now the Normandy will essentially move to investigate. Also, a new set of planet mini-games for collecting resources and picking up radio signals will lead the team into new side objectives called N7 Missions. These extra missions are specifically made for Commander Shepard, and the rewards and side plots will tie back into the mainline narrative. In general, planets have been made a lot more interesting and varied, and exploring them will also be a lot more fun because of a completely revamped vehicle. The Mako from the original game has been tweaked in a few secret ways that Hudson was not willing to reveal, but he's excited about how it has changed planet exploration for the better.
Also, rather than being tied to just one hub, The Citadel, players will be able to explore Omega. Omega is sort of The Citadel's antithesis. Instead of being the idyllic seat of galactic power, Omega is the Mos Eisley of the galaxy. In other words, it's the lawless, gang-ridden home of the galaxy's scum and villainy. In addition to a new major hub, players will also get to tramp around the Asari and Krogan homeworlds of Illyum and T'chonko (spellings were not clarified, sorry), respectively. Hudson made it clear that the depth and breadth of the narrative and setting are far more expansive.
Finally, DLC in Mass Effect 2 will likely be very limited, due to what you can read in the following spoiler:
There is a very high probability that Commander Shepard, the crew, and the Normandy will not make it through the game alive. The entire plot of Mass Effect 2 culminates in a massive suicide mission; that's why you'll spend the entirety of the game cruising the galaxy looking for recruits. Depending on how well you get on with your crew, how loyal they are to you, and what decisions you've made throughout the game, you may or may not survive. Hudson has indicated that unlike Mass Effect, if your character's end game is death, you will not be able to go back and continue achievement hunting. While this will undoubtedly turn off a lot of "munchkins", the fact that BioWare is including real consequences to your actions should give Mass Effect 2 a cutting edge.
However things turn out by the end of the game, players will undoubtedly have an amazing time with Mass Effect 2. Best of all, the story is so malleable depending on your decisions that replayability will be very high. What's more, Mass Effect 2 is the dark second act of a scheduled trilogy, so we can expect even more outstanding action in the stunning conclusion of the "Shepard Saga".
CCC Editor / News Director