Posts Tagged ‘mass effect 2’

Mass Effect 2 Arrival DLC Review

Return of the Shepard

An Alliance agent has been captured in Batarian space. Admiral Hackett contacts Shepard with a mission: Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the spy?

Such is the setup for Mass Effect 2‘s latest (and reportedly, last) downloadable content mission. The mission, like the other DLCs, can be accessed from whatever point you’re playing from as with the other three DLCs. So far, Mass Effect 2‘s DLC missions have ranged from great to greater than great. While Arrival is probably the least of the DLCs, lacking the style of  Stolen Memories, the scope and moral decisions of Overlord, or the…well, let’s just say the Shadow Broker DLC was awesome, and Arrival is less awesome, but by no means bad.

Mass Effect 2 - ArrivalThe DLC’s first half (I’ll take care not to spoil the story, as it’s supposed to tie into Mass Effect 3) offers a few opportunities to take different paths, allowing you to slip by guards stealthily if you so choose. While there are no Deus Ex-style sneak attacks, I enjoyed being given a fresh option to not take the Rambo approach to infiltration. In any case, it’s still the same great Mass Effect 2 gameplay it’s always been- the same game I’ve liked enough to spend 60+ hours on. The second half doesn’t involve any sneaking around (as everyone is alerted to your presence early on).

The biggest problem to me, and definitely the biggest blow to the mission is that it’s a solo mission. The best part about BioWare’s games, to me at least, is the characters. The only recurring character that appears in the mission is Joker, and he has no lines. So all your favorite characters – Garrus, Tali, Mordin and the rest of your ragtag band all sit this one out. Now, I’m sure this was probably due to the fact that it would cost quite a bit to get the cast together (although I’m sure they’ll all be together again for Mass Effect 3 anyway…) and it’s probably easier to write. But like I said, a Mass Effect mission just feels so dry without its characters. It just feels like it’s missing something without the character interaction.

The lack of team play aside, Mass Effect 2 – Arrival  is not a bad deal for seven bucks. I clocked in about an hour and a half of gameplay. There are no new arms or armor, but you can pick up a couple of upgrades and some credits, ammo and resources. The main point, I think, is to thread the game with Mass Effect 3. However, we’ll have to wait a few months to find out how successful the threading is, and until then, what’s better than a fresh ME2 mission?

BNBGAMING Recommended Award

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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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Like many PS3 owners, before I jumped into Mass Effect 2, I had no real experience with the Mass Effect universe. BioWare and EA were nice enough to include an interactive comic (which is downloaded along with the Cerberus Network pack you download with the code provided in the game’s case), dubbed Mass Effect: Genesis, so that we don’t charge in completely lost.

Mass Effect: Genesis is essentially a recap of the events of the first Mass Effect game retold in comic form. There are two versions- one for a male player character, and one for the female character. It allows you to make some of the major decisions, and they carry over into the game as if you’d imported a save file.

It’s worth noting though, that you need to pay attention. Mass Effect: Genesis is best described as a crash course in the story of the first game. The narration moves pretty fast with no option to pause or recap. The only time the narrative stops is at each of the decision points. There’s also little clarification on any of the information you receive, so you may wish to spend a little time consulting the in-game encyclopedia (the Codex, in the pause menu), as I had to.

However, in spite of its fast pace, it was a nice introduction that helps you feel less ‘lost’, which was my biggest complaint about the demo. While you’re still obviously not going to be as immediately immersed as someone who’s played the first, it’s nice to know that we aren’t left out in the cold.

In addition, I like to think of this as sort of a ‘character creation’ segment. Not a lot of RPGs give you the option to choose your backstory. While your options are pretty limited, I do like how the choices I made have so far come into play. It’s reminiscent of the lifepath character generation method used in the old Traveller tabletop role playing game (a game which incidentally also takes place in a classic Space-Opera setting). Perhaps we’ll see more of this kind of thing in future games – and not just in games where players may be missing out on a previous game. It’s not a bad way to involve the player in a new universe and let them assimilate into it quickly.

Now granted, I recognize that it’s not a perfect substitute for playing the original – which I’ll be doing as soon as I get my new PC built – but it allows newbies to jump into the universe without feeling too out of place. I picture it as a bit of an extended Star Wars opening crawl.

Share Your Thoughts: For those who played the original and have also experienced Mass Effect: Genesis, what do you think of it? A good way to get new players acquainted with the setting, or a poor substitute for having the original game available?