Posts Tagged ‘Mass Effect’

Mass Effect 3's Alternate Endings

In the past few weeks, there has been quite the kerfluffle raised about Mass Effect 3‘s disappointing endings. Or ending, really, as there isn’t a huge variation in the execution from one to the next. BioWare may be changing it, but that is really beside the point here. The following are merely some possible endings thought up for the trilogy: some silly, some sciencey, and some blatantly ripped off from other media. May contain spoilers. Enjoy.

Everyone Laughs

The final battle has ended. Shepard and crew head to Rannoch to help Tali build her new beachfront house, which is roughly the size of a typical sitcom set. During their off hours, they hang out at the new geth-run coffee shop, Consensus. In addition to romantic entanglements and other shenanigans, they also have to deal with Shepard’s “old buddy” Saren Arterius, the clumsy indoctrinated rogue Spectre. Of course, Saren’s zany schemes never pan out, and the epilogue ends with Shepard and friends laughing, freeze-framing, and cutting to credits.

Mass Effect 3's Alternate EndingsXenophile Extraordinaire

Shepard and Harbinger meet for the final showdown, but things go a bit differently than expected. Rather than find the belly of the Reaper stuffed with the makings of husks and alien tech, Shepard finds it softly lit, with some 1970s Earth-funk playing on its biomechanical speakers. Harbinger bellows out to Shepard, “You have assumed direct control…of my heart.” Shepard then proceeds to add another notch to his interspecies sexual relations belt, distracting Harbinger from giving orders to the Reaper fleet, ending with a mighty white-hot burst of energy into Harbinger’s core. And then the fleet opens fire. Shepard emerges from the wreckage, dusts his armor off, and says, “All in all, I still prefer asari.”

Always A Bigger Cuttlefish

From deep beneath the Pacific Ocean, the Great Old One Cthulhu wakes up with a throbbing headache. Wondering what the annoying, repeating “BWOM” sounds are, he rises out of R’Lyeh and marches along the ocean floor until he reaches dry land. He grabs a chunk of skyscraper and chucks it at the nearest Reaper destroyer.

“Can you keep it down? I’m trying to sleep!”

And he notices, then, that the Reapers have borrowed features of the tentacle-faced Old One’s visage in their own design. Naturally, he doesn’t take kindly to these deep space berserkers attempting to cramp his style, and thus begins the galaxy’s most sanity-destroying bro-down, which leads to the Reapers heading off to find another galaxy. One with really good therapists.

Humanity returns to Earth without a fight. Of course, they are promptly driven insane and devoured, 1D3 at a time.

Mass Effect 3's Alternate Endings

Tangent Universe Crossover

The final battle looks hopeless. Shepard sits on the bridge of the Normandy, waiting for Hackett to give the order. The fleet warps in… to find a massing of identical Normandy SR-2s waiting. Each is helmed by a different Commander Shepard, almost all of whom look completely different from one another. Some are male, some are female. Some have scars, some are fresh-faced. But they’ve done it. They’ve brought an unstoppable army. After all, if one could take down Reapers on his own, a whole army of them could do even more.

The side effects of an army of Commander Shepards after the Reaper defeat, however, are quite grim. Reporters with broken jaws fill emergency rooms, endorsements from myriad Shepards drown out all other sounds, and the small number of remaining batarians in the galaxy are mysteriously murdered within a week. Citizens of the Milky Way are driven insane by being asked the same questions repeatedly by the Shepards. Shepards begin ignoring their teammates and crossbreeding with each other. Soon, the human race has diminished and the Shepards are their own evolutionary branch, ruling the galaxy with an iron fist.

Leaving a lone scholar to wonder: would it have been so bad to let the Reapers kill us?

Mass Effect 3's Alternate EndingsMass-ive Attack

Rather than push their collective resources into construction of an unproven Prothean artifact which, for all they know, is just as likely to house an AI running on insane troll logic rather than being a weapon to kill the Reapers, the people of the galaxy focus on repurposing an already available asset: the mass relays. Fitting them with the finest radio telescopes available as gunsights and readying ship-sized chunks of inert mass as ammunition and then repositioning each one so that the shots intercept a Reaper vessel, the coalition attacks the Reapers in the Sol system with their new network of oversized railguns. While they are unable to hit every Reaper, they manage to make enough of a dent that taking back Earth proves to be much easier than previously imagined.

The Venus Gambit

The salarian STG lives by the mantra of “fight smarter, not harder”. Therefore, they concoct a plan to lead the Reapers over Earth into a trap: Have one or two fleets engage at long range from just outside the orbit of Venus; the distraction fleets draw the reapers close to the planet (well known in astronomy for its inhospitable environment and corrosive atmosphere; the exceptionally solid Russian Venera probe lasted 23 minutes on its surface).

Following this distraction, the second battle group would flank the Reaper fleet, pushing them into the acidic atmosphere. Those Reapers lucky enough to make it out would be easy pickings for the combined fleet. With the smallest number of casualties possible, this is the proposed “happy” ending.

Bookends

After arguing with Anderson and the Illusive Man, Shepard limps down to where he would meet the Catalyst…only to find a shattered mess of holographic chunks on the floor and a lone turian changing the heatsink in his shotgun. Shepard gets closer, to recognize the Spectre that was supposed to evaluate him.

“Nihlus? Aren’t you…Aren’t you dead?”

“I was only mostly dead.”

“How did you get here…I mean, before me and everything?”

“Don’t you ever listen? I said I move faster on my own.”

Nihlus steps forward and asks if Shepard has a way out planned.

“You made it here. I think you’re gonna make a great Spectre, Shepard.”

Shepard shakes his head with a smile. “Man, we have a lot of catching up to do.”

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All Good Things Must Come to an End

Right from the beginning, the stakes are impossibly high. Earth and its allies are under siege from the Reapers, and once again the galaxy calls on the talents of Commander Shepard, the first human Spectre, and survivor of numerous encounters with the genocidal machines from deep space. Failure means the end of all sentient space-faring species in the galaxy. This time, Shepard is tasked with much more than the usual “put together a ragtag team of misfits and save the galaxy” – this time the mission involves uniting the galaxy’s civilizations against the Reapers, a task made difficult when many of them are at each others’ throats for wrongs in the past.

The gameplay is further refined from its last iteration, offering improved combat and new elements to deepen the experience and draw you further into the climactic battle for known space. In addition to talking to people normally or striking up romances, you also can solve numerous disputes between pairs of people, as well as bringing information or items to characters. This does two things: firstly, your good deeds as well as your Paragon/Renegade scores stack into your Reputation score; secondly, in addition to these factors, the game keeps track of your “War Assets”, the mass of forces you’ll have available for your final push against the Reapers. Obtaining new War Assets is a major focus of the game, comprising everything from fleets, to bands of pirates that have thrown in, and more.

Reaper in Mass Effect 3

The Reapers have come from dark space, and they *really* mean business.

The combat is heightened in both speed and intensity from the previous game. There are numerous new weapons, attacks, and moves you can use. Weapon mods are back, allowing you to add scopes, extended barrels, and piercing mods to your favorite firearm.  Each class can be developed in different ways; for example, an Adept can develop their Shockwave attack to fire in a wider path or a longer one, or can use a shorter attack that does more damage. Or, let’s say you’re playing an Engineer and upgrading your combat drone – you can choose to give it short-range stun attacks or long range missiles. In addition, you have the much-talked about “Heavy Melee” attacks, which vary from Omni-tool blades with technical classes and Biotic punches and slams with the Adept and Vanguard classes, and can use these to pull an enemy over cover and take them out in one hit. You can also execute a variety of combat rolls that would make Captain Kirk proud (although in multiplayer this changes a bit – salarians hop to the side, asari teleport, and for some reason turians can’t roll at all).

It’s a good thing that combat is so polished, as the AI has received a major overhaul. The enemies are ruthless, and even on normal difficulty they’re at least on par with the original F.E.A.R.‘s much-praised AI. Enemies are all too happy to flank you, toss smoke grenades at choke points, or chuck grenades at you from cover. It’s up to you to figure out how to best circumvent their plans and proceed against the enemy.

There are also a few sequences where you man a stationary turret, and for maybe the first time ever, I can say that these are actually pretty fun – they serve as sort of quick breather events rather than prolonged occurrences, and are rare enough that they don’t wear out their welcome. You also get a few chances to charge around in a stolen Cerberus mech, which can be a real kick to use their own tech against them (although technically I guess the rebuilt Shepard is their tech, too). Unfortunately, we never get to participate in any ship-to-ship combat (which Star Trek Online has left me with a serious taste for), but the new elements are fun and welcome additions in their own right.

Shepard’s Omni-blade is an impressive addition to the Mass Effect armory.

Shepard’s Flock

Now onto the real meat of the game: the story and characters. Depending on your actions in the previous games, you may have a very different playing experience from others.  Just about every loose end is tied up by the end of Mass Effect 3 – every choice you’ve made is addressed. You’ll run into people you saved, people with grudges that are still pissed off, and more than likely, quite a few old friends. The game’s atmosphere is appropriately bleak and oppressive – the galaxy lies on the brink of destruction, after all. You know right from the beginning that you can’t save everyone, and some of your old friends are not going to survive. The galaxy is mobilizing for war (and some of them are already under siege), and loss is inevitable. But it’s not all bad news. You’ll likely be seeing others, even those you didn’t expect, signing up to join the fight. The war scenes are particularly intense, showing the scale of the war and the destruction going on around you. The game manages to hammer home a solid “war is hell” angle without diluting the fun of combat proselytizing: it just shows that the Reaper invasion (and other conflicts in the game) are genuinely ripping worlds apart.

Familiar faces return, but their survival is certainly not assured.

The assumption that you’ve played the previous games in the Mass Effect series is an important one. A big part of the game’s impact (and in some cases, its cruelest twists) involve characters the player has gotten to know over the course of the previous games. I grew pretty attached to some of the crew, and was overjoyed to see many familiar faces, both among party members and briefer appearances, and the revelation early on that just about anyone in the plot could die… well, let’s just say I spent a lot of time worrying when my love interest from Mass Effect 2 was absent for a lot of the game and I was scrounging every bit of information for where I might find her. I literally lost sleep over this.

However, the actual plot is unfortunately quite poor. Everything feels just a little too neat and convenient. Shepard is able to accomplish his/her goals far too efficiently and quickly. Some of the conflicts you solve are centuries old, and you show up in the Normandy and solve them in time to make Happy Hour on the Citadel. It’s to the game’s credit that you get to see all the old faces and visit a lot of the places out there, to me it just all happens far too quickly. It all just wraps up so conveniently before the final battle. I hate to keep talking about it as Bioware has never had great plots (rather, they’re the go-to studio for well-written characters), but you don’t get the sense that the game unfolds over any length of time. It feels like the whole game almost takes place in real time. And this, to me, is a major weakness of the game.

Long Live the Fighters

Multiplayer and its tie-in to your galactic readiness rating is actually a surprisingly fun affair (or a frustrating one, if your team is composed of idiots). It faithfully translates the new and improved Mass Effect 3 combat experience into a team-based co-op setting, and gives you many of the same options for developing your characters as the single-player game does. The “pack” purchasing (done either via credits earned in-game or via microtransaction) gets a bit tiresome, in my opinion – I’d much rather just be able to focus on a new rifle instead of getting another upgrade for a pistol I’m never going to use, although it does keep things interesting. I’m just not one for mystery bag gambles, I guess.

Graphically, not much has changed. The modeling is a bit improved in some cases, and a lot of the textures are much better looking than in the previous games, although the Unreal Engine 3’s trademark slow texture loading is evident pretty often. Load times are often noticeable as well, particularly when opening some doors. The PlayStation 3 version – which I played – has some frequent sound dropouts (a carryover from Mass Effect 2, it seems). There have been quite a few glitches reported across all systems: the face import glitch on the 360 and PC versions, and the firing animations in multiplayer occasionally continue after the character has taken cover, making it look like all the futuristic weapons are suffering from “cook-off”.

The music is good. Clint Mansell and the other composers do a pretty good job of stepping up to the plate after the departure of the series’ main composer, Jack Wall, although the game noticeably reuses a large number of cues and pieces from the previous games. The style is occasionally incongruous, with a few tracks sounding like they were borrowed from Daft Punk’s TRON: Legacy score and the soft piano themes seeming out of place in a science fiction saga. However, I won’t argue that the music, despite the inconsistencies and what might have been had Wall returned, isn’t excellent, because it is.

This Hurts You

The game’s ending has provoked some controversy (no spoilers), as the options presented to you come out of nowhere and are inconsistent with other choices offered, as well as your overall reputation and play style having little to do with the ending. The game essentially hands you a “walk down this path to choose your ending”, and from there provides no real epilogue for what forces you brought survived the final battle. All of the endings are vague, esoteric, and invalidates the choices you’ve made, in a series where your choices influencing the story are a key selling point. As if this was not insulting enough, one of the last messages the game gives you is basically “Buy more DLC”.  Are you kidding me, Bioware?

I suppose I expected more of a “Where are they now” ending to provide closure like Dragon Age: Origins and Baldur’s Gate 2 did. The ending is a small fraction of the game’s time, and can quite easily be ignored (or even explained away, as many intrepid fans are trying to do.), but if you’ve played the series from the start it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

The concluding chapter of BioWare’s Mass Effect trilogy is an impressive tale that falls apart in the homestretch.

The Final Verdict

It’s been a long journey getting here, but Mass Effect 3 provides a stunning, heroic, tragic, often funny end to the saga of Commander Shepard that is marred by a conclusion that feels more like a summer blockbuster than a thoughtful science fiction epic. And if you’ve played all the way through the series, it’s your saga, as well. The game is a massive letdown in the story department, and while it should have joined Wing Commander and Star Control as one of the legendary science fiction franchises in gaming history, it is now ruined by its slapped together conclusion. It’s just a shame they had to throw it all into a black hole in the end. Unless this changes, I cannot recommend putting yourself through the gut-wrenching disappointment that is Mass Effect 2.

Cue cries of “RUINED FOREVER!”

Australian magazine PC Powerplay is reporting that Mass Effect 3 will feature multiplayer modes. While this has been rumored for some time, it took quite a while to confirm. It seems that (for good reason) it will only be for the combat portions of the game (as three dialogue wheels interrupting each other would probably get old fast – Mass Effect 3 is still going to have dialogue, right?).

I’m fairly indifferent to this, myself – I don’t particularly see the point (except maybe for EA to push Origin), as I prefer having control over the whole squad. but I’m sure some people will like this announcement. For some though, this may seem like BioWare is trying to make the game more of a shooter (as if it wasn’t enough of one already). Only time will tell if this is the best thing since sliced bread or just another option no one ever clicks.

BioWare’s Casey Hudson has said on the matter:

“Yes, co-op MP missions for [Mass Effect 3]: they’re real, and they’re spectacular. Rest assured it’s nothing of what you’ve feared. More soon…”

Thanks for the reassurance. But to paraphrase Han Solo, “I can fear quite a lot.”

“So I guess hav­ing a strong female lead isn’t cool in Sci Fi. We bet­ter inform Ellen Rip­ley and Honor Harrington.”

When Will Hollywood Learn?

Details on the upcoming Mass Effect film (I hesitate to call it a “motion picture event” as so many Hollywood types like to call their moviefilms) have begun popping up of late (including our own article, some of which has been refuted by Legendary Pictures’ recent Q&A). Now there are certain details that certain sections of the Mass Effect fanbase will not take kindly to; my purpose isn’t to point out those things. My mission here is to point out why this film, even so early on, has a minute chance of being worth a damn.

First, let’s consider the 800-pound gorilla in the room of any videogame-to-film adaptation – there hasn’t yet been a decent videogame movie.  Starting with Super Mario Bros., which seemed to have taken the plumber’s consumption of mushrooms to heart, videogame adaptations have been relentlessly bad. Some have been enjoyably bad, like Street Fighter (Raul Julia was clearly having a great time as Bison) and Mortal Kombat, which remains a guilty pleasure. Then there have been the irredeemably bad such as Wing Commander and Doom, and even the laughably bad but financially successful Resident Evil series. Probably the best videogame movie so far has been Silent Hill, which was visually and aurally perfect but ruined by changing the game’s Lovecraftian cult to a fundamentalist Christian sect that was ripped right out of one of Stephen King’s stories, not to mention hiring Sean Bean and completely wasting his talents. Prince of Persia couldn’t even be saved by having the series’ creator writing the script, turning an exciting, action and parkour-filled romp into a flaccid bore of a film that mostly involved wandering the desert for forty years. And this, of course, is without mentioning Uwe Boll’s oevure (Uweure?) which can, and has, filled entire pages.

Lest we forget.

So for starters, we have that working against the Mass Effect movie. In addition, you have the removal of player choice. Of course, this is in a series where your choices can have far-reaching and nerve-wracking effects (Virmire, anyone?). We’ve all played our own unique Commander Shepards. Male and female, paragon and renegade, reporter punchers and non-punchers, and so on. So those of us who played and enjoyed the Mass Effect series are expected to sit back and enjoy someone else’s interpretation? Of course not. We’re going to be yelling at the screen, chucking our five-dollar sodas and saying “NO! NO! THAT’S NOT HOW MY SHEPARD ACTS! MY SHEPARD HAS HAIR, DAMMIT!” and of course, “YOU SAVED THAT WIENER KAIDAN?”

Because in Mass Effect, who you're dating is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

While this may seem like an overreaction, it’s in fact the reaction we should have. BioWare spent a lot of time making sure we care about and identify with our personal Commander Shepard. One of the hallmarks of the Western RPG is the ability to define your character through their actions, and BioWare has gotten damned good at this over the years. So, are we ready to hand over our class, gender, alignment and – probably most dangerous of all – love interest choices to someone else?

Now, the Mass Effect novels (at least the one I read) have actually done a good job of existing outside the game’s storyline (acting effectively as prequels, the first one covering a young Anderson’s storyline). I guess I don’t see why the film can’t take a similar route, exploring the rich, cool, richly cool universe BioWare has created without performing a storyline copypaste. And if you think there’s no precedent for a BioWare game being given a terrible adaptation by a bad writer…oho, are you wrong. Oh, are you so freakin’ wrong.

This actually goes back to the novelizations of BioWare’s first RPGs, the Baldur’s Gate games. Like many Dungeons and Dragons properties of the time, it was given a novelization. But, rather than hand the job to someone like R.A. Salvatore (i.e. someone with genuine talent), it was given to TSR’s Forgotten Realms novel editor Philip Athans, proving the old adage that editors should not write (I kid! – I love ya Marty, Dec, Pascal). And what does he do with this tale of the sheltered lad/lass from Candlekeep, and his merry band of misfits? Oh, ’tis a sad tale. The blank-slate whelp hero becomes a sociopathic (and experienced) mercenary. Yeah, that’s what happened in the ’90s. Your editor spends too much time reading Youngblood comics and he’s like, “Screw this well-crafted plot and characters! Our hero’s gotta be a pouch-wearin’, shoulder-padded badass!”

"I didn't expect it to be THAT bad. SHEPARD."

I quote one of the best, and most damning reviews of the novel from Amazon:

What we have here is a very poor novel which takes place in a world where the places have the same names as that in Baldur’s Gate, and the characters do, but nothing else is even the same.

Even after that abominable embarrassment, there managed to be an even worse sequel (which is quite funny, considering how great a sequel Baldur’s Gate II was as a game.). What did Imoen ever do to you, Athans? And there’s a lesson in that, too. Even if the movie sucks, it’s probably gonna make a buttload of money and there will be a sequel which will swirl the carefully crafted setting of the game even further down the cinematic toilet. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be good to make money – Resident Evil proves this, Twilight proves it, Avatar proves it.

Heck, I’d almost rather see it not be taken seriously, as generic fratboy Shepard flies his intergalactic Delta House Normandy around the Galaxy, shootin’ stuff, fistbumping his broheims and scoring with alien chicks. See, that would be so completely awful that it would actually be worth seeing.

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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