Mass Effect 2 (2010)

Mass Effect 2 (2010)

55 ratings
Comprehensive Weapon Guide (DLC Included)
By Razo
Advanced weapon strategy guide for Mass Effect 2™, exploring class synergies and weapon viability for high difficulty gameplay.
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Introduction
Welcome to a Mass Effect 2 weapon guide, as if Steam doesn't have enough of them. This guide is designed for those seeking guidance on which weapons are the best suited for their personal playstyle/builds. Before we get started, there are a couple of things this guide assumes about you as a player:

  • You're playing this game on a difficulty that has additional defenses. However, most of the strategies in this guide are still applicable for lower difficulties.
  • You're decent at shooting games and can line up a couple of headshots.
  • You understand that all of the weapons are viable in their own way and that subjectivity plays a huge role in deciding what weapon you want to use.
  • This guide is not objective fact, you can still beat the game on Insanity difficulty by only using the starting pistol.

We got that all covered? Alright!
Assault Rifles
Assault rifles are the bread and butter of any weapon class. Excelling in mid-range skirmishes, they do solid damage, have relatively good range and are very ammo efficient.

M-8 Avenger
Availability: Start of the game
Class Synergy: Soldier
Power Level: Average ★★

The M-8 Avenger is the first usable assault rifle in the game, boasting a pretty high firerate, relatively low kick and low damage. The ideal playstyle with this weapon would be to burst fire in mid-to-long ranges while going full automatic in close encounters. Due to its low damage output, it's best to have a decent ammo power slapped on to it for more consistency.

This weapon is better used by Soldiers who have a massive array of ammo types and Adrenaline Rush to take advantage of this weapons high firerate. It isn't a surprise that the first few missions of ME2 introduce you to a vastly superior assault rifle, making this weapon very short lived in most playthroughs.

M-15 Vindicator
Availability: Dossier: Archangel
Class Synergy: All classes
Power Level: High ★★★★

Speak of the devil, we're at the M-15 Vindicator. The Vindicator is truly the posterboy of assault rifles in this game, packaged with high accuracy and very low recoil. Be sure to always aim for the head with this weapon.

Unfortunately, not everything in this world is perfect. The Vindicator has a low magazine size alongside a low ammo reserve, degrading its usability in long firefights. Fortunately, you can compensate this downside pretty easily by primarily using your powers to soften enemies up or switching weapons when it's not needed. Overall, the Vindicator is very flexible and dependable regardless of Shepard's class.

Geth Pulse Rifle
Availability: Dossier: Tali (only on Hardcore and Insanity)
Class Synergy: Vanguard
Power Level: Average ★★

There isn't much to be said about the Geth Pulse Rifle, it's extremely accurate with a high firerate, has low impact/armor damage, but is very effective against shields. The class that benefits the most from a shield shredding weapon would be Vanguard, who has a difficult time softening up shields without squadmates. But generally, this weapon just does too little damage to actually be effective on higher difficulties.

M-76 Revenant
Availability: Collector Ship
Class Synergy: Soldier
Power Level: High (with Adrenaline Rush) ★★★★

Despite being a special assault rifle, this weapon isn't amazing in all situations. In fact, this weapon is pretty crappy unless you're using Adrenaline Rush to mitigate its massive recoil. But oh boy when you do use Adrenaline Rush... this weapon becomes an absolute beast.

Without Adrenaline Rush to compensate for the recoil, it's pretty difficult to use in most firefights. A recommended strategy with this weapon would be to switch weapons while Adrenaline Rush is on cooldown. Alternatively, you can burst fire with this weapon as long as you don't hold down the fire button.

Collector Assault Rifle
Availability: DLC
Class Synergy: All classes
Power Level: Average ★★

Not much to be said about the Collector Assault Rifle, it's a decent alternative to the M-8 Avenger, but it doesn't have the accuracy to compete with other high-tier assault rifles like the Vindicator or Mattock. It has a low spread which can give it some niche use for aggressive playstyles.

M-96 Mattock
Availability: DLC
Class Synergy: Soldier, Infiltrator, Vanguard
Power Level: Very High ★★★★★

The Mattock is debatably the best assault rifle in the game. Insane accuracy, insane damage and a firerate that fires as fast as you can pull the trigger. In many aspects, it's very similar to the Vindicator in the fact that it's a very accurate skirmishing assault rifle. This rifle is hilariously overpowered when combined with Soldier's Adrenaline Rush, allowing you to dump an entire magazine in under a second.

The drawback with this gun is its magazine size and reserve ammo, which are noticeably lower than the Vindicator. Due to its low ammo capacity, this weapon works best when used by the hybrid classes like Vanguard and Infiltrator, who can reliably fall back upon their shotgun or sniper rifle. Classes like Adept, Engineer and Sentinel can still use the Mattock, but you will need be careful with your ammo reserves.
Shotguns
Due to ME2's cover-dependent gameplay, there are certain situations where shotguns feel like they don't belong in the game. It is for that reason that many people gravitate to using shotguns. They turn the tables on what is traditionally supposed to be a slow-paced action RPG and make it into a risky game of close quarters combat.

M-23 Katana
Availability: Start of the game
Class Synergy: Infiltrator, Vanguard
Power Level: Low ★

The Katana seems to be following its namesake, weak and not reliable. Despite doing a good chunk of damage this weapon is outclassed by every other shotgun on this list, making it obsolete right out of the box. Because of its slow firerate, it synergizes well with classes who possess quick escape mechanisms like Infiltrator and Vanguard.

M-27 Scimitar
Availability: Dossier: The Justicar
Class Synergy: Soldier, Vanguard, Sentinel
Power Level: Very High ★★★★★

The Scimitar is a massive step up from its older sibling, the Katana. Boasting a high firerate and magazine size, this shotgun prefers a hyper-aggressive user who disregards the existence of cover.

This auto-shotty can be absolutely devastating when combined with the Soldier's Adrenaline Rush, allowing you to unload all of your stacked up damage onto an enemy. The Scimitar is also effective when used by Vanguards due to Biotic Charge giving Shepard an easy escape tool to continue chaining kills. Sentinels can also be extremely effective with this weapon so long as they keep their Tech Armor cooldowns on a close watch. The Scimitar isn't particularly recommended for the other pure classes (Adept, Engineer) or Infiltrators. Infiltrators benefits more from slow firing, high impact shotguns while pure classes prefer to stay in cover. Overall, a very fun and effective weapon that will introduce you to new ways to play ME2.

M-300 Claymore
Availability: Collector Ship
Class Synergy: Vanguard
Power Level: Above average ★★★

I probably angered the vocal fanbase this weapon has by simply calling it "above average", but it honestly isn't as good as people think it is. The main crux with this weapon is the fact that it has only one shell in the magazine before it has to reload. This means that you will be constantly reloading between shots while engaging in close-combat fights, making it a very risky weapon to use. Even with its high damage, the Claymore can't hit most of the damage breakpoints to one-shot most goons in this game, making it more of a hindrance than a blessing.

I'd only recommend this for Vanguards as this pairs up well with Biotic Charge. However, Vanguards would still benefit more from acquiring assault rifle or sniper rifle training instead.

M-22 Eviscerator
Availability: DLC
Class Synergy: Infiltrator, Vanguard, Sentinel
Power Level: High ★★★★

One of the best shotguns in the game, the Eviscerator does massive damage while also having low spread. The weapon shares similarities with the Katana by being a slow firerate shotgun, but with only 3 shells in the magazine. This weapon is surprisingly effective when wielded by Infiltrators, as it suits their assassination playstyle very well. Compared to the Scimitar you have to be more smart and methodical while using the Eviscerator. Needless to say, this weapon synergizes well with Vanguard's Biotic Charge and Sentinel's ability to tank with Tech Armor.

Geth Plasma Shotgun
Availability: DLC
Class Synergy: All classes
Power Level: Very High ★★★★★

Arguably the best shotty in the game, the Geth Plasma Shotgun functions in a unique fashion where you can charge up your shots, giving you a tighter spread and additional damage. It has a decent firerate when not charging shots, however ammo consumption is a major issue with this gun, be wary of your reserves during firefights.

The shotgun also does additional damage versus shields and barriers, making it an appropriate choice for Vanguards who have a tough time dealing with shielded enemies. Using AP, Warp or Incendiary ammo should compensate for the armor penetration.

The GPS also has unique interactions with Infiltrator's Tactical Cloak. Charging the gun while invisible will break your Cloak. However, if you charge the gun before using your Tactical Cloak, you can still retain invisibility while holding in the shot. Not only that, but releasing your charged shot won't break invisibility, allowing you to fire off another shot.
Sniper Rifles
Sniper Rifles are an amazing bunch of weapons varying from sh*t-tier to god-tier. In a game where maps are designed like glorified shooting galleries, this weapon type absolutely shines.

M-92 Mantis
Availability: Start of the game
Class Synergy: Infiltrator
Power Level: High ★★★★

No joke, the first sniper rifle you get is one of the best weapons in the game. It's bolt-action but does massive damage, hitting all of the damage breakpoints with a clean headshot even on Insanity difficulty. With the AP upgrade this thing can also take down massive boss enemies with ease, though not as stylishly as the Widow.

The main reason this weapon is amazing for Infiltrators is because it's good enough. Instead of picking up the M-98 Widow you could instead broaden up your playstyle by picking up a shotgun or assault rifle on the Collector ship. I didn't feel the need to express this for any other weapon in this guide, however, I felt like the Mantis needed a bit of love due to how underrated it is compared to its sister, the M-98 Widow.

M-97 Viper
Availability: Dossier: The Assassin
Class Synergy: All classes except Infiltrator
Power Level: High ★★★★

It's better to treat this weapon as a scoped rifle rather than a one-shot-one-kill sniper. Because the weapon doesn't do a lot of burst damage, it's less effective when paired together with Infiltrator's Tactical Cloak. Despite that, it's still a great weapon that can easily compete with some of the more powerful assault rifles.

It's somewhat ammo efficient and can be safely used for most sustained firefights, making it a great choice for pure classes like Adept and Engineer who like to sit at the back and methodically combo their powers. Furthermore, Soldier's Adrenaline Rush makes rapidly stacking headshots with this weapon easier, allowing you to get more value out of the damage boost.

M-98 Widow
Availability: Collector Ship
Class Synergy: Soldier, Infiltrator
Power Level: Very High ★★★★★

The Widow has a massive cult following for a good reason. Have you ever wanted a portable railgun strapped to your back? Well, the M-98 Widow exists for that sole purpose. It's basically the Mantis but with higher penetration and damage, allowing it to one-shot most enemies even on Insanity. Despite being the most badass weapon in this category there isn't much to talk about that hasn't already been said. High damage, lots of headshots, lots of dead bodies.

The M-98 Widow is obviously amazing for Infiltrators, but Soldier gets to pick this weapon up too. This is important because Soldier already has the Vindicator/Mattock, allowing you to pair two amazing assault rifles with an amazing sniper rifle. Add in the Scimitar into the mix and the Soldier turns into a true one-man-army. In my opinion, this is the best Collector Ship weapon that Soldiers can take.

Be warned though, the Widow will have diminishing returns the higher up the difficulty you go, so don't be too shocked when it stops one-shotting some enemy types.

M-29 Incisor
Availability: DLC
Class Synergy: All classes NO ONE
Power Level: Dumpster fire

Burst fire sniper rifle. Low ammo. You see where this is going? Yeah this thing sucks, don't jeopardize your mission by taking this paperweight with you.

However, there is a slight caveat to this weapon that makes it unique from the other sniper rifles. Because squadmates don't have to worry about recoil or ammo, this weapon becomes devastating when used by squadmates like Garrus or Thane.

Submachine Guns
Submachine guns are extremely unique in the fact that they broaden up many different playstyles that range from passive to extremely aggressive. There are only two submachine guns in the base game, another one is DLC.

M-4 Shuriken
Availability: Start of the game
Class Synergy: All classes except Soldier
Power Level: Above average ★★★

The Shuriken is a pretty powerful weapon despite being a starter weapon. When the fire button is held down, it fires in bursts. When the fire button is tapped quickly, it will fire full auto. The accuracy on the weapon isn't great, making it better for aggressive close-range gameplay. While it's serviceable from mid-range it's astoundingly more effective when you're literally at hugging distance from an enemy. Combine this weapon with a powerful ammo type and you'll be shredding anything that gets close to you.

M-9 Tempest
Availability: Dossier: Tali
Class Synergy: All classes except Soldier
Power Level: High ★★★★

The Tempest is similar to the Shuriken in many ways. Tapping the fire button will do a 5 round burst, which is effective in mid-range. But up close, this weapon will devastate most enemies due to its very high firerate. In many aspects it's a straight upgrade to the Shuriken, but not by a large margin. The Tempest also has a low armor penetration rate, which makes it better suited versus enemies with shields and barriers. You can compensate for the armor penetration with AP ammo or Warp/Incendiary ammo, making it a competent sidearm.

M-12 Locust
Availability: Kasumi: Stealing Memory (DLC)
Class Synergy: All classes except Soldier
Power Level: High ★★★★

The Locust is an extremely powerful SMG. Low recoil, high accuracy and relatively high damage for the SMG class. Compared to the Tempest it has a lower firerate which makes it worse for close range, but the accuracy is so high that it turns the Locust into a mini assault rifle. This makes the Locust an insane sidearm for mid-range and long-range skirmishes.

The Locust also trades some shield penetration for armor penetration, further cementing its role as a mini assault rifle. If your build lacks range, then this weapon is the perfect way to compensate for it.
Heavy Pistols
Every class in the game owns a heavy pistol, compared to submachine guns they offer very little variety despite also having only three weapons. They offer decent range, decent damage and decent ammo efficiency.

NOTE: It won't be until ME3 when we see heavy pistols really shine into the spotlight. They're not good enough to be used by themselves which really brings them down a notch in ME2. They're decent as a situation tech tool.
Ex: Using Cryo Ammo on a high impact pistol like the Carnifex will allow you to slowly freeze unprotected enemies with one shot. Due to the pistol's low draw time you can use it as a temporary freeze gun.

M-3 Predator
Availability: Start of the game
Class Synergy: All classes
Power Level: Low ★

The first weapon you ever touch in the game, unsurprisingly, not that good. Compared to the other pistols in its class it has more ammo and a faster firerate. It deals with shields and barriers a bit better than the other pistols but it's not that big of a game changer to warrant using the Predator outside of the first few missions.

M-6 Carnifex
Availability: Dossier: The Professor
Class Synergy: All classes
Power Level: Above average ★★★

Not much to say about the Carnifex, it does more damage than the Predator and is more effective against armor. Decent sidearm if you run out of ammo.

M-5 Phalanx
Availability: DLC
Class Synergy: All classes
Power Level: Above average ★★★

The Phalanx is probably the only interesting pistol in the heavy pistol category. It has pinpoint accuracy and uses a laser sight instead of a crosshair. Compared to the Carnifex it has higher damage but a lower firerate. Pretty good sidearm for people who want to snipe from cover. Consistent headshots are advised.
Heavy Weapons
!!SCREW THEM ALL, USE THE NUKE LAUNCHER!!

On a serious note, I won't be going over heavy weapons as in-depth as I would want to, some of these weapons aren't really worth talking about due to how little impact they deliver compared to most normal weapons. The heavy weapons in this game are unofficially divided into two tiers.

Heavy hitting, massive damage dealers that aren't ammo efficient and will drain your reserves like crazy:
  • M-920 Cain
  • M-490 Blackstorm
  • Arc Projector
  • M-100 Grenade Launcher
  • ML-77 Missile Launcher
... and weapons designed for frequent usage:
  • Collector Particle Beam
  • M-451 Firestorm
  • M-622 Avalanche

Pro tip: The ones I personally like the most are the M-920 Cain, Arc Projector and Collector Particle Beam. The rest are pretty underpowered in my opinion.

Despite all this I wouldn't factor heavy weapons into your strategy, as they aren't as essential as normal weapons and normal powers. If you feel like your playstyle benefits from any of these weapons then go ahead, use them, however I'll just use whatever looks good on my back.
Resolution
Originally posted by Garrus Vakarian:
I love this rifle.

Thanks for reading this guide! Hopefully the knowledge passed on here shall help you have a more enjoyable ME2 playthrough!

Be sure to leave feedback in the comments.
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19 Comments
Andreas444 May 4 @ 2:41pm 
As for me personally,for Vanguard as that's my favorite class my loadout is Mattock,Claymore,Tempest. As I use some weapons from ME3 as a mod to give the game more variety,I also have the Paladin pistol,but that's mostly for cutscenes and as a last resort gun. I hated that the game by default has so little when it comes to variety in weapons.
And cause I hate the starter weapons in general (excluding the Mantis,I like that one).
Razo  [author] May 4 @ 12:05pm 
Thanks. I've played around with save editors before to give myself Collector Ship weapons on different classes, and I have to agree, Revenant on Vanguard is quite an effective combo. The recoil on the gun doesn't really matter when you're up close and personal lol. Another fun unintended combo is Claymore shotty + Infiltrator. The damage boost you get with Tactical Cloak makes it really strong. Would recommend!
Andreas444 May 3 @ 2:27am 
I love reading this guide,for messing around,I gave myself the Revenant as a Vanguard,combined with Biotic Charge,it deletes goons immediately,I can see why now that specific rifle is not available for Vanguards.
N7_Shadow Jun 18, 2021 @ 9:59pm 
Of course, that's only ME3, not ME2.
N7_Shadow Jun 18, 2021 @ 9:58pm 
@Esarathon Aranthel...try the Acolyte with damage increasing barrel...not headshot or penetration mods. Add extended mag for 5 shots before reload. Maybe switch mag for melee attachment and use it for melee also. It's the single best gun in the game for striping shields and barriers. great against mechs and geth also. Think about it...how much do you actually use your pistol? Since I switched to that, I use it all the time. Even on Insanity, it takes out generators with one shot. Takes the shields off turrets with one shot. Same for Centurians, and Engineers, and the Cerberus Snipers, etc... Only the tougher enemies may need more shots. Also stuns most NPCs so long as they have red bars.
Razo  [author] Jun 14, 2021 @ 10:01am 
Thanks for the feedback. Glad you had fun reading the write-ups. As for the Revenant, I don't think it's a bad weapon, it just has a different playstyle compared to the Mattock and Vindicator. It's more like an SMG on crack, or a bulked up M-8 Avenger. You have to treat the Revenant like a shotgun and run n' gun with it. The only problem is that running n' gunning is pretty dangerous in higher difficulties, and most of the time I would rather have something like a Scimitar instead of the Revenant for close-combat.

When it comes to NPC weapons, I didn't really touch on it outside of the Incisor because I still don't fully understand how the squadmate AI works in this game despite playing for hundreds of hours. Sometimes they're extremely helpful by toggling their aimbot, sometimes they just fire at nothing and pretend like they're helping. But I've noticed that the sniper-wielding squadmates tend to do a lot of work with the Incisor, so I just pointed it out.
Esarathon Aranthel Jun 12, 2021 @ 5:56pm 
Can't talk to the NPC weapons, but I will say as a soldier on Insanity I've been running
Widow, Mattock, Geth Shotgun, Carnifex, Cain

I must say, the effectiveness of the Mattock combined with adrenaline rush cannot be overstated. Regular mooks I can take down with four or five shots, making it efficient despite it's relatively low ammo capacity. Combined with sporadic use of the Widow and my shotgun and I rarely if ever truly run into ammo problems.

I tried the Revenant when I got to the collector ship, but disliked it for the terrible accuracy. I didn't think of using it with adrenaline rush, I might go back and do that at some point just to see how good it is.

On the whole, if I had thought of making a guide like this, I can't say I would have rated anything differently. It was fun reading through your breakdowns of each weapon, thanks for taking the time to put this together.
N7_Shadow Jun 3, 2021 @ 7:24pm 
Incisor Sniper Rifle, you said it...amazing in the hands of NPCs.

That's the only thing missing from the rest of the guide. Sometimes a weapon that isn't the best choice for you, is the best choice for the NPCs, and sometimes the weapon that's the best choice for you, is a bad choice for the NPCs.

Would love to see NPC recommendation added to each weapon.

The Revenant is best used by a Vanguard, but it's not possible. Odd that the class that could really use it, can't get it. Sucks that choosing training, doesn't allow buying it later. I didn't want the Claymore for my Vanguard, so I took the sniper training. Would be nice to get to play with the Widow. If I could get the Revenant, I would maybe take the AR training. It's strength is up close, so it would allow for more aggressive biotic rushes, especially with ammo abilities added into the mix.
Yer ABCs Apr 15, 2021 @ 7:16pm 
I'm an Infiltrator on average. With DLC, I run the Mantis, Mattock, Locust, Phalanx, and Cain.
Mantis is good for one shotting the weaker enemies that need picking off.
I use the Locust for mid and close range battles aiming for the head only.
The Phalanx is like a mini sniper rifle and I love it. It's my backup should the Mantis run out.
Come on, the Cain is a nuke.
Finally, the Mattock. My favorite weapon in Mass Effect. Looks like an M16 because of the railing and complies with my insane trigger finger. I use it as much as possible. Every other weapon is a backup.
With mods, I switched out the Mantis for the Widow, but the DLC stuff wasn't there. Still figuring that one out :/
Steel Bear Dec 28, 2020 @ 2:42pm 
Thank you