I tried to post this yesterday, but the blog's back end mysteriously ate all my words so I gave up in a huff. I believe it to be the machinations of Loki, the Norse trickster god, and villain of children's picturebook Thor #606, written by Karen Gillan and on sale now in all good Early Learning Centres. Anyway - like half the world I've been making first inroads into Mass Effect 2 this week. As I played the first game on -hisssss! - 360 rather than PC, I was resigned to not being able to import my old character. But Bioware mentioned there'd be a KOTOR 2-esque mechanic in which a few conversational choices established what I'd done in ME1 and made ME2's status quo broadly reflect it.
They changed their minds. At the point where I'm pretty sure this conversation would have happened (an interview to check the [this word is spoiler-censored] Shepherd's got all their marbles), I was instead simply told what had happened. It wasn't what had happened. ME1 spoilers below, so skip right to the end if you've not finished that yet.
Wrex and Ashely were dead. The council was dead. That's not what I'd done. I wasn't a happy space bunny. Instead of any choice system, the game had just presumed I'd made certain decisions, and ones that, broadly, made me a bit of a bastard. Perhaps that's best in terms of simply getting on with the game for people who didn't play/finish ME1, but it's a nasty thing to do to loyalists who couldn't access their old saves for one reason or another.
I played through an hour or so more, but my heart wasn't in it. Particularly, I wanted big'n'mopey alien bruiser Wrex in my party, but in this enforced new reality that wasn't possible. Fortunately, during a casual browse of our forums I spotted Alexander Norris' link to the ME Savegame Repository. Which is what it sounds like - a growing collection of saves from the first game, ready for importing into ME2. Pretty much any Shepherd derivation you can think of is in there - paragon, renegade, mixed, male, female, romanced Kaiden, romanced Ashley, romanced Liara, romanced no-one (that's me - I find videogame sex/snogging scenes so ludicrous and unconvincing that it can be hard to take the game seriously after seeing one, so generally avoid them), killed Wrex, saved Wrex, killed the council, saved the council, and dozens of similar decisions.
I probably couldn't find an exact match, but close enough to make ME2's reality match up with how I'd left off in ME1. It worked like a charm - and ME2 still gave me the option to alter appearance and class, so I wasn't lumped with someone I didn't like the look of. I started the game over (the only frustration being that I wasn't allowed to skip the very lengthy introduction), and now I'm much happier with my Shepherdess.
If you didn't play ME1 and intend to play ME2, it's worth observing that importing a high-level ME1 savegame grants you a ton of cash and XP bonuses. I'm not entirely sure how fair this is - it meant my character was pretty much instantly level 4. I didn't feel overpowered, but I suspect the clean slate may be a better option for ME newcomers.
Anyway, have a browse of the repository, and even submit your own save to it, if you think it covers a Shepherd not already in there.