Review: Mass Effect 2 (PS3)

Posted: February 1, 2011 in PS3, Reviews
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Mass Effect 2 PS3 Review

The Popular Series Warps to PS3

Mass Effect 2. After a year of accolades on the PC and Xbox 360, it has finally come to the PS3. And after spending two weeks and around 50 hours with the game (many of which were very long sessions), I can easily say that I’ll join the chorus in praise.

My first question upon playing was, having not experienced the first game, would it be able to pull me in? Did I need to be aware of the Mass Effect universe beforehand? Even with the interactive backstory (detailed in my previous article) and in-game Codex, I did indeed feel a little lost at first. However, I soon acclimated to the setting and its stunningly diverse worlds.

As a quick overview, the game essentially consists of exploration and character interaction segments intermixed with some combat missions which play out as a third person shooter (although you are able to pause to activate a power, switch weapons or command your squad). If you’re expecting a shooter with the fluid run-and-gun mechanics of Vanquish or Uncharted, you’ll probably need some time to adjust. While still fast-paced, the combat in Mass Effect 2 is more strategic than typical shooters. Depending on the character class, the game will play very differently. I did my first playthrough as a Soldier (who can slow down time to take careful aim or switch ammo types) and am starting my second as an Adept (capable of using biotic powers to do cool things like throw people around). As you gain experience you can level up your character’s powers, eventually getting a choice to evolve a given power.

But combat is only half the battle – the character interaction and storytelling is unusually meaty, and you almost always have a say in what direction your conversation flows. The dialogue (and the choices offered) is extensive, and most of it is superbly written.

A conversation in Mass Effect 2In Space, Everyone Can Hear You Talk

But the conversation wouldn’t be much without interesting people to talk to. Luckily, the game is packed to the brim with great characters, and each member of your ragtag bunch of misfits has a distinct personality. The cast includes motormouthed scientist Mordin, gossipy master thief Kasumi, hard-bitten bounty hunter Zaeed, tank-spawned walking tank Grunt, the volatile and acerbic Subject Zero, and my personal favorite (and chosen romance), the socially awkward Quarian engineer Tali’zorah. This is just a sampling of your squadmates (I didn’t include them all), and beyond that there are plenty of other fascinating characters you’ll run into. Most prominently, your boss/benefactor of sorts, the Illusive Man, your pilot and your ship’s AI.

In addition to these aspects of the game, there are also exploration and recovery missions in a repulsorcraft, mining resources from planets, hacking computers, and a car chase. There’s a good variety to break up the shooting and dialogue.

Character customization is excellent – and this is important, because the default male Shepard is, in my opinion, incredibly dorky looking. However, I was able to create a character I was satisfied with in both male and female forms, and the game offers you the ability to customize your armor as well, right down to color and individual pieces (I personalized mine as blood red to imitate Crusader‘s Silencer). Backstory and reputation are all a matter of choice. And I like this.

An Intergalactic Journey

Robotic Enemy in Mass Effect 2The places you’ll visit are numerous and diverse, ranging from ship graveyards, to Blade Runner-esque cities, to prison ships. Most of them are superbly detailed and rendered. Unfortunately, it seems some areas weren’t optimized for the PS3 hardware as well as others, and in one case the backgrounds and skies were badly pixelated, which seemed very off, considering the otherwise high level of polish in the environments. Indeed, the game contains a few graphical glitches – lighting will flicker without sources changing (mostly on closeups), characters will sometimes disappear from a frame (rare, but noticeable), and in one of the Hammerhead missions the ground looks as pixelated as a PlayStation 1 game. However, the game has only been out for two weeks and I’d be surprised if these problems weren’t fixed by a patch within the month.

While galaxy-spanning epics aren’t particularly new in gaming, the fact that this is a character and story driven action-RPG as opposed to a strategy game like StarCraft or Sins of A Solar Empire offers a scope that is pretty much unheard of. You’ll be saving the galaxy and exploring it while assuming direct control of the hero. And I appreciate that it mostly takes a hard science fiction approach rather than a Star Wars science-fantasy approach. I would say this is (for me at least) the most well thought-out and involving science fiction setting in gaming since the Wing Commander series.

The PlayStation 3 edition includes the three DLC packs from the 360 and PC versions on the disc, adding considerable value to the package. The great thing is, the three DLC packs – Overlord, Kasumi, and Lair of the Shadow Broker – are all excellent. There isn’t a dud in the bunch, and Lair of the Shadow Broker in particular is brilliant (spoken with David Tennant’s voice and inflection.). Each of them adds depth and intrigue to an already involving game.

Combat on Cerberus Station in Mass Effect 2The game also includes some bonus weapons and armor, although I found this to be mostly novelty items, as you can’t customize the extra armors and the Arc Projector just isn’t my kind of weapon (not when there’s a particle beam and a mini-nuke launcher, anyway). In addition, the medieval-futuristic Dragon Blood armor (which is a pretty shameless plug for BioWare’s other series Dragon Age) looks remarkably silly and out of place. At the very least I’d like to change the paint job. I would guess that if you already own the 360 or PC version, there’s no reason to double dip; the content (from what I’ve been told) isn’t anything new or exclusive.

The Final Verdict

I thoroughly enjoyed Mass Effect 2 and can see why it’s so beloved. After my first playthrough I was ready to jump right back in – there are plenty of missions I skipped the first time around. I’m going to end up checking out the original game as soon as I get my new PC built, and I can’t wait to see what BioWare has in store for the third one. If there’s any doubt in your mind as to whether this game has its place in your PS3 library, have no doubt. It’s well worth the time and money.

BNBGAMING Mark of Excellence Award

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