This book is the second edition of a game that came out in the nineties, and it's rather fascinating to see a game in which the default group the player characters belong to is based on Blackwater, the world's pre-eminent mercenary company. It's difficult to assess this book as a result. In the aftermath of the disastrous involvement of mercenaries in the Iraq War, it seems odd to have them as the heroes of an RPG. In the Iraq War, mercenaries like those depicted in Millennium's End stole from the government, robbed the populace they were there to protect, were implicated in multiple murders and their general incompetence at even handling support operations was legendary and has resulted in lawsuits for the negligent deaths of US soldiers.
But at the time this game was written in the mid-90s, we didn't know any of that stuff about how Blackwater (or BlackEagle, as it is called here) would actually perform in real circumstances. I imagine the shock of ME players recognizing their characters when reading the news about the CIA hiring Blackwater for illegal assassinations or about Congressional investigations into millions of misappropriated funds.
So I have a difficult time writing this review. How can I look back at a game whose primary dramatic premise, that this mercenary company is a force for good in the world and is effective at protecting America, has been tested and not just discredited but completely collapsed? Perhaps it is best to look at ME as a bit of alternate history - a "what if the PR guys were right" scenario, in addition to the other changes to the timeline of the 90s. You can go a long way with the conservative view of the world on the brink of collapse barely held back by free marketeers with guns, and many of the technothrillers created in the 90s have that political point of view. Perhaps it's inherent to the genre and I'm overthinking it. C'est la vie.
The system is a straightforward percentile system. Although character creation is a very detailed process, there are excellent "example characters" that show their work effectively. Combat is also extremely detailed, with a hit location system and an impairment system to describe the impacts of injury. It's, by design, a quite deadly combat system. I would expect several casualties, especially early in the game as players get used to the system. This is not exactly in line with the technothriller roots of the game.
There's a scenario in the main book, "The Thanatos Factor", involving a secret chemical weapons research facility. A detailed "what came before" section makes it very interesting for GMs who like to have a lot of investigative detail in their games. I can't escape the niggling feeling reading it that the player characters, given what we know now, would be more likely to be openly hired by the chemical weapons developers than anyone else in the scenario...Nevertheless as a scenario it's well-detailed, has a cool handout, I like the characters and the setup.
Still, there are plenty of oddities here too. Different ratings for base attributes for males and females. Bookmarks that are mostly useless - "Chap1", "Chap2" and so on, though there is a well-marked link directly to the character creation sheet. There's a highly detailed equipment section that doesn't seem to mesh with the GM advice of keeping things moving and dramatic.
In the end, ME is a largely well-produced game targeting a particular kind of story from a particular time period. There just aren't many games out there doing detailed, deadly combats of this sort anymore. If that's what you're after, ME will give you what you want. And as a window into a past that's gone, it's exemplary. I can't think of another game that has gone through the change that ME has gone through just by virtue of time passing. I just don't think time has been kind to it. I will do my best to be kinder.