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Review

Review: Mass Effect 2 (PS3)

Let me play among the stars.

Mass Effect 2 was one of our favourite games of 2010. The news that the series was making the leap across that console divide was welcomed by swathes of excited PlayStation 3 owners who had been quietly envious of the Xbox 360 and PC gamers who had been raving about the adventures of Commander Shepard ever since BioWare first let you build him (or her) in 2007.

There will be casualties

Obviously the storyline remains identical to earlier versions. You play as Commander Shepard, a human in a diverse galaxy populated by many various races. The rough plot synopsis of the first Mass Effect game, missing to PlayStation 3-only owners is summed up via an interactive comic, after the “prologue” action sequence, which serves the important points but skims over some of the more intricate subtleties which may have stuck with some who played through the epic beginnings of this saga.

In this second visit to the Mass Effect universe you must assemble a team of mercenaries and interested parties before embarking on a grand heroic mission to save the galaxy. This end game is repeatedly referred to as a suicide mission so you should prepare yourself for tough decisions and decisive branching in the way the game plays out. Unless you’re either very lucky or very well studied and careful, there will be casualties along the way.

In Mass Effect 2 you form emotional attachments thanks to the hours you spend with the supporting cast. The hundreds of lines of dialogue and the many hours of combat and exploration you spend with them will leave you with a genuine emotional bond which is played upon at many points in the game but especially so during the final act.

The success of this release should be assured

The emotion, the compelling narrative, the engaging system of branching dialogue and the character depth and development that you really shape with your choices are all still there in this PlayStation 3 version. The success of this release should be assured, those points are what Mass Effect has always been about and the complex dialogue branching and encompassing universe are still, a year after its initial release on the Xbox 360 and PC, better than anything else out there.

So, to the differences between this and previous versions. The PlayStation 3 game boots up into a lengthy install which is unavoidable so expect to be staring at that progress bar for around thirty minutes when you first slip the disc into your machine. Sony fans are well used to this process by now and while it is a little tedious, it is not a huge drawback, especially as it should lead to improved load times and better overall performance.

If you choose to immediately input the cerberus code that comes in the retail box (it unlocks various extra game content and acts as the incentive to buy new at retail rather than go pre-owned) you will have another wait while you download and install 676MB of new content.

Once all of your installing and upgrading is done you can enter the game properly, select your initial gameplay options and dive into the opening cinematic and action sequences. Visually, things seem a little superior the Xbox 360 version with improvements to lighting, textures and models. It might not look as crisp as the PC game running on a high-spec machine and there are some issues with bad or non-existent anti-aliasing in the shadows (something which is becoming a trademark of PS3 games) but it’s certainly not far away.

The action sequences are exceptional

The interactive comic which delivers the backstory allows you to make the key decisions that came during gameplay in the first Mass Effect so that even this expedient history of the series becomes your own. In this way you can begin your journey through this sequel with knowledge of what led to this point and with a sense of involvement in the preceding events. Once that is out of the way you’ll be put into the meat of the game, essentially recruiting a team and solving the galaxy’s problems like a smarter-dressed Captain Kirk with better guns and biotic powers.

The action sequences are exceptional. Even though each mission follows the same general structure (usually to fight your way through an area to a key plot point) the levels are built intelligently and the cover and shooting mechanics are competent enough that the  combat is a joy. Add in the ability to direct your squad-mates separately and time the use of tech or biotic powers so you can shape the way the team attacks (or defends) and you will realise the depth that is available in the action oriented scenes.

Mass Effect 2 is a quality action shooter but that’s not all it is. The RPG elements may have been honed and tuned from the first so that they can be almost unnoticeable if you wish but they are still there and they still make a difference. You select a character class at the beginning of the game and that choice makes a huge difference to how you develop your character and how you play the game.

This version is the best available for consoles

So, perhaps we could describe Mass Effect 2 as an action RPG. Even that is woefully underselling the game though. It’s almost impossible to adequately define just what this game is. So much of it is based around the drama of events. Much of that drama is born out of the dialogue and the events which your dialogue choices lead to. So, is it an interactive drama? That gives adequate credit to the scripting, direction and voice acting, which is all exceptionally good, but would seem to gloss over the quality of the gameplay aspects. Mass Effect 2 is a cover-based, action shooter. It’s also a (fairly shallow, admittedly) squad-based RPG and an engaging, intelligent drama but above all it’s a unique experience which envelopes you and drags you into its world.

Mass Effect 2 is a confident continuation of BioWare’s unmatched, epic space opera. It rectifies almost all the issues that were present in the original while adding new systems and refining old ones to make something that is as close to a perfect sequel as we’ve ever seen. The PlayStation 3 version, running on the new game engine that the third game is destined to use, improves the visuals and reduces loading times and pop-in/fade-in that was present (although not a huge distraction) in the 360 version. It’s fair to say that, even with the very occasional frame rate drops during heavy action sequences, this version is the best available for consoles.

The inclusion of the previously downloadable content on the disc means that there are another several hours of gameplay there, along with many more hours of reading if you allow yourself to become engrossed in the gargantuan Codex that catalogues everything about the galaxy as you progress.

Pros:

  • One of the best games of 2010, now even better.
  • Updated game engine is noticeably better for textures.
  • Scripting and narrative are still unmatched.
  • Combat is a pleasure.
  • Most small irks from previous versions have been smoothed out.

Cons:

  • Dialogue can still be slightly stilted due to the wealth of options available.
  • The final boss is a bit of a cliche.

So this latest release is still one of the best games in recent history, with a few visual improvements, a load of extra post-release content and all the refinement that twelve months at market can encourage. A year ago we urged all Xbox 360 owners to experience this game and now we have no hesitation in encouraging PlayStation 3 owners to do the same. BioWare may just have done something incredible: Mass Effect 2 is a genuine contender for Game of the Year 2010 and for the same title in 2011.

Score: 10/10

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75 Comments
  1. Jim H [Teabags]
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    Wouldn’t have expected anything less. I had a great time with this on the 360, and when I get the time, I will no doubt go out and buy the PlayStation 3 version.

    Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:05.
    • Kamokazi-UK
      Member
      Since: Sep 2009

      Ive practically finished the PC version which is a same. When I do get round to getting this version i’ll try to play it a little different.

      Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:12.
      • shields_t
        Member
        Since: Oct 2008

        Yeah I’m the same, though I’ll defo hold off due to the huge quanity of new games on the horizon a the moment.

        Comment posted on 19/01/2011 at 12:15.
    • MustaffaLeek
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      I got this on launch day and I love it. Can’t wait for ME3.

      Comment posted on 23/01/2011 at 10:52.
  2. Forrest_01
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    Holy Moley – I wasn’t getting this game due to LBP2 & Dead Space 2, but i have now been persuauded that i need this in my life too! Damn you cb!
    (only kidding, thanks for a great review)

    Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:06.
    • rht992
      Member
      Since: Apr 2009

      i know! so very tempting to pick this up instead but since there’s no multiplayer i don’t see the rush? i’ll wait till the price drops. hey i’ve waited over a year already haven’t I?

      Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:38.
      • skibadee
        Member
        Since: Oct 2009

        glad it has no multiplayer.

        Comment posted on 19/01/2011 at 01:48.
      • moshi
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        Multiplayer is not needed for every single game going and this is a perfect example.

        Comment posted on 19/01/2011 at 05:09.
    • ARUMIR Sympozium
      Member
      Since: Aug 2009

      I think LBP2 is enough for me so far… hehe

      Comment posted on 19/01/2011 at 10:28.
  3. jonny_bolton
    Chooses The Impossible
    Since: Oct 2008

    Excellent read and it seems you’ve been well justified in giving it a 10. I’m sure people will say they didn’t enjoy the demo but hey-ho, you can’t please everyone.

    Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:07.
    • Grey_Ghost13
      Member
      Since: Aug 2009

      Apparently the actual game graphics are better than what they were in the demo.

      Any idea if this is true CB?

      Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:13.
      • colossalblue
        Team TSA: Editor
        Since: Forever

        yes, the visuals are better (from what I can tell) and it seems to run a little bit smoother.

        Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:21.
    • TURRICAN-808
      Member
      Since: Jan 2011

      I read a recent article that the demo was using a two month old code of the game and the devs promised a better looking, sounding and smoother finished product

      Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 18:02.
  4. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    Splendid review, i’ll be picking it up shortly..

    Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:08.
    • TURRICAN-808
      Member
      Since: Jan 2011

      Me too, pre-ordered 2 weeks ago :)

      Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 18:03.
  5. aerobes
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    Fully expected. The ultimate version of my personal favourite game of last year. Can’t go wrong.
    Super review and by the end it was obvious how you were going to score it. :)

    Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:11.
  6. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Cracking Review!

    Dead Space 2, LBP2 and Mass Effect 2 will be bought.

    So many great games for ps3 I am miles behind. Only just done Blops and mashing through MOH.

    Loving the sea of awesome games though!

    Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:13.
    • TURRICAN-808
      Member
      Since: Jan 2011

      So true, I’ve cancelled my Dead Space 2 pre-order because I reckon Mass Effect 2 will last me a while….

      Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 18:04.
  7. hannes_truce
    Member
    Since: Sep 2008

    This will be mine on the 28th.

    Lovely review CB :-)

    Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:14.
  8. 3shirts
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    Wow, this game has just jumped from the ‘maybe when it’s cheap’ to the ‘definitely want’ pile

    Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:15.
    • Forrest_01
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      Yeah, I know exactly what you mean mate – Whether or not I can actually afford it remains to be seen…

      Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:25.
    • E8_BALL_
      Member
      Since: Jul 2010

      my thoughts exactly
      this review signed the deal for me, great review

      Comment posted on 19/01/2011 at 04:41.
    • kevatron400
      Drake, baby.
      Since: Dec 2008

      Yep same here. It was on my radar, but not as much as LBP2 or DS2. Think it has definitely overtaken dead space in the “what order I am going to buy games in” list.

      Comment posted on 19/01/2011 at 12:52.
  9. yogh_wayne
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    Just received an email that my copy is on its way and should arrive tomorrow :)

    Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:24.
  10. mynameisblair
    hisnameisblair
    Since: May 2009

    “this version is the best available for consoles” – I’m playing the PC version this very minute, and I have to say that I’m stunned. It runs amazingly well on my 9500GT and looks better than what I’ve seen of the Xbox version.
    So, is the PS3 version better than the 360 version? Yes. Is it better than the PC version? Maybe.
    Great game so far, £9.99 was a steal!

    Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:25.
    • colossalblue
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      there are so many variables that go toward how it will look and play on PC that I thought I had to include the “on consoles” bit of that sentence!
      It does look very, very nice on PS3 though.

      Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:29.
    • beeje13
      Member
      Since: Jan 2010

      Hmmm, If I can get locked 60 fps on my pc at 1027×768 then i would presume this game is breathtaking, but there isn’t a pc demo ( i think)

      Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:41.
      • beeje13
        Member
        Since: Jan 2010

        Quick search on steam store and , :P downloading now!

        Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:42.
      • mynameisblair
        hisnameisblair
        Since: May 2009

        Mines runs at 40FPS, but it’s pretty solid.
        Only get 60 in menus etc.
        And there isn’t a demo, what are your specs?

        Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:44.
      • mynameisblair
        hisnameisblair
        Since: May 2009

        There is a demo? News to me!
        Enjoy.

        Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:45.
      • mynameisblair
        hisnameisblair
        Since: May 2009

        Have you played the first? I recommend playing that first.
        I should have thought this through rather than triple posting.

        Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:46.
      • beeje13
        Member
        Since: Jan 2010

        lol
        I’ve just done the ‘can you run it’ and I passed every test and my results were at the furthest end of the scale so I’m hopeful, if I get 40-50 fps I’ll turn vsync on and lock at 30 fps (if you can do that!)

        Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 17:58.
      • KeRaSh
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        Mhh… I’m confident that my PC can lock in on 60ish FPS on the highest settings. I’m used to the PC controls from playing the first game but the PS3 version comes with DLC… I can’t decide which version I should get and this great review does not help me one bit! Also, I’d miss out on PS3 trophies if I got it on the PC…

        Comment posted on 18/01/2011 at 20:57.

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