Just what was Mass Effect 2, many of you might ask. “What was all the hype about?” Well, I’ll tell you what it was. Mass Effect 2 was simply the best game to have been released last year, and possibly one of the best games we’ve ever played. Yes, it was that good, and those of you who have played it will most probably agree. It had an awesome storyline, great characters, great gameplay and awesome graphics. Brilliant production values all around made it seem like an awesome high budget space opera feature film. Many might even call Mass Effect 2 the Empire Strikes Back of video games.
A lot of people even hated ME2 for turning into a TPS rather than an RPG, but what they didn’t understand was that after all, Mass Effect never had been about the gameplay, or what genre the game was. Even Mass Effect’s core gameplay, the shooting and the cover mechanics, were severely flawed. Mass Effect had always been about the story, about the character cast, about the weight of the choices we made. And while Mass Effect 2 did almost everything it attempted rather perfectly, it was only this area the game showed how immersive and brilliant a game can be.
And now, this legendary Role Playing Game, or Third Person Shooter, or whatever it was, has made its way to the PS3. The question is- is it good enough? Does it up the ante as far as BioWare games are concerned, or does it disappoint all those who had been expecting the same experience that the Xbox 360 and PC owners got treated to last year? We’ll find out in this review.
I could go on and on listing out the things I love and don’t love in Mass Effect 2 PS3, and I will not even have begun scratching the surface by the end of the day. Because Mass Effect 2 is crazily deep. Almost every aspect is as deep as entire games, and the amount of time one can spend on exploring all these aspects is mind numbing. The depth is most prevalent in what is probably the highlight of the game- the story.
Narratives usually pick up speed in games as huge as this some time after the game has begun, but in Mass Effect 2, the opening scene is probably one of the best moments of the game. Mass Effect 2 begins with Commander Shepard’s death. And before you all go “OH NOZ, YOU SPOILS IT FOR MEEE!!” let me tell you- this is just the beginning of the game, it’s not a spoiler. Yeah, so anyway, the Normandy is attacked by a mysterious vessel, and as the ship is shred to tiny little peaces and the crew flees in escape pods, Commander Shepard, in an attempt to save one of his crew members, falls into empty space, and crashes into an unknown planet below. Obviously, he would die after such an incident.
Two years later, Shepard wakes on an unknown space station- scars on his face, and memory damaged a bit. After escaping the station, that was now under attack, with two teammates, Jacob and Miranda, Shepard meets with the Illusive Man, the founder of the terrorist pro-human organization, Cerberus. Shepard finds out it was Cerberus who spent two years and millions of dollars to bring Shepard back to life. But why go through all this trouble?
Because humanity’s place in the galaxy, while stronger than ever, is threatened by the looming Reaper threat. Only Shepard can stop the Reapers. And the Illusive Man somehow links human colonies’ disappearances with Reapers. When Shepard investigates it, he finds out that a race called the Collectors has teamed up with the Reapers in their fight against the galaxy. And now, it is up to you, as Commander Shepard, to gather a team of worthy fighters and warriors and take the fight to the Collectors.
And thus starts what is possibly the most epic adventure in all of Milky Way. While the story may sound pretty straightforward to you, with little twists to boot, it’s not really the main narrative that steals the show here- it’s all about the characters, how they’re developed, and who they are in this game. Mass Effect has always been a personal quest, but never before has it been this personal.
The game centers around you having to recruit numerous talented people into your team so that you can fight off against the Collectors and the Reapers. But what we’re getting into is practically a suicide mission, and if our team isn’t loyal to us, it’s not just us and our crewmates who’re screwed- it’s every sentient being in the galaxy, and mainly all humans.
And with two missions being devoted to each character in our team, one for recruiting the specific member and the other for gaining their loyalty, to solve a personal dilemma of their’s, the characters are brilliantly developed. You will grow fond of almost each and every one of them, especially the likes of Thane Krios, a Drell assassin whose philosophical talks will keep you interested for long; Grunt, a tank bred Krogan who has… issues, and the character you’ll love the most will be Mordin Solus for sure- a brilliant Salarian scientist who provides for entertaining and funny conversations. I grew a likeness toward my female comrades, especially Miranda, because… well, BioWare sure know how to model sexy women. Many characters from Mass Effect 1 make a return, but since ME1 was never on the PS3, those who are playing this game for the first time won’t be as impacted by the game as those who have already played Mass Effect 1. But then again, those who have played Mass Effect 1 will not be playing this version, since they must have already played ME2 on the other two systems.
You can talk to all your crew members in between missions to get to know them even better. A few dark spots on this aspect of the game, however, are Zaeed Massani and Kasumi. While Zaeed is still a decent character, Kasumi only gets one, pretty boring mission to herself, which not just fails to keep the player entertained, but it also fails to developed the character properly. Kasumi was a downloadable content pack in the Xbox 360 version of the game, so it wasn’t a huge problem then as it was basically optional, but here, Kasumi is a main character.
And the depth that we talked about above that is most prevalent in the story is hugely prevalent in one more aspect of the game- its morality system. This game is no typical game with a morality system where you’re either good or bad. Mass Effect 2 has two separate meters- paragon, that’s for positive, and renegade, that’s for negative. As you do good or bad deeds, your meters will start filling up to reflect your personality, giving the morality system an excellent shade of grey, rather than just black or white. As you start tilting more towards paragon or renegade, similar dialogue options open up in conversations, the scars on your faces become more prevalent (something we still don’t understand fully) and you can either interrupt cutscenes to perform paragon and renegade actions by pressing the shoulder buttons when prompted on the screen. While paragon actions will have you comforting crying mothers, or giving some injured creatures some medicine, renegade actions will have you kicking people out of windows of skyscrapers and punching other people right in their faces.So obviously, there’s a slight imbalance there.
But let’s not waste time talking about stuff that we already know about this game. We know that the story is great, and so are the characters, and we know that the Third Person Shooting and Cover mechanics work exceptionally well, and seem polished and enjoyable even in the face of true cover based TPS franchises like Uncharted and Gears.
But what makes Mass Effect 2 on the PS3 a less desirable version of the game? What does it lack that the Xbox 360 version possessed? Well, the first, and possibly the most noticeable flaw that you notice with the game is that you (obviously) cannot import a Mass Effect 1 save file over to your Mass Effect 2 game. Mass Effect 2’s main draw when it was being released was that you could play the game with your Shepard from Mass Effect 1. Importing an ME1 save file altered the entire experience hugely. All our decision made in the previous game were carried over to the second installment, and were given immense weight. A Mass Effect 2 game played with an ME1 save file proved to be a much, much better experience. Now, since Microsoft owns the publishing rights of the original Mass Effect, it can never be released on the PS3, so we can never have that kind of experience on the system.
BioWare have tried to counter this problem, however. They have given out free download keys of an interactive comic strip detailing the events of Mass Effect with the retail copies. However, the fact that some people might have to pay $15 for this feature can be a serious downer. Anyway, this interactive comic sequence will have you making the same pivotal decisions you made in Mass Effect 1. While it is an innovative idea, and the script of the comic is strong and well thought-out, it fails to recreate the entire epic-ness (if that’s even a word) of the original Mass Effect, and thus, the decisions made don’t seem to carry a lot of weight.
However, what are probably the most noticeable, and sometimes even game-breaking, issues of the PS3 version of Mass Effect are in the visuals department. Well, the graphics are sharp, with great animations, brilliant lighting effects and creative and wonderfully designed environments, providing us with some of the best art design in any game in recent memory, but certain areas of the visual department are hit or miss, especially in the included DLC packs. There are tons of frame rate issues, for one. Whenever there’s a lot of action on screen, there’s a lot of screen tearing and frame rate hiccups, which kind of takes away from the action sometimes and leaves you a bit annoyed.
The game will often freeze, or throw a stupid glitch at you- like at one point, my character suddenly rose up a few feet in the air and stayed there, refusing to move a muscle. All I could do was screaming at the screen and almost breaking my analog sticks, and later, restarting the game from my last save point. This happened not just once, but a lot of times throughout the entire game. So I guess you’ll have to keep saving almost every ten to fifteen minutes to make sure you don’t lose a lot of progress.
Saving reminds me of what is possibly the bug in Mass Effect 2 (PS3) that pushed me over the edge and drove me crazy as hell. I was about fifteen hours into the game, and when I next boot the disc to continue my adventure, I realize that the save file corrupted itself, and the game isn’t letting me load it. I had to start the game all over again. BioWare have promised to get around this problem soon. But not only was it really frustrating for me to have to restart the entire game all over again, it also made me realize that how glitchy and unpolished this version of my favourite game of all time was.
Then, there’s texture pop-ins. This was a problem mainly with the DLC packs, especially Overlord. The far off vistas of the planet in the mentioned DLC were all pixelised, and blunt and donwright horrendous visuals in those segments did zero justice to what was an awesome downloadable mission on the Xbox 360. The glitches were the worst in this section, with us being able to fly our vehicle through the surfaces and the geometry. Long loading times all throughout the game didn’t help the matter.
Other cons in the game included the planet scanning, which is still as boring as ever. The final boss battle was a disappointment, and friendly AI was a bit frustrating. Our team members often climb up on crates rather than taking cover behind them, or just keep walking around to swallow a truckload of bullets, with us left to heal them. These problems were expected to get fixed since the Xbox 360 version got released. A year to fix such small problems is a lot of time. What BioWare did was create more problems.
It was after these errors and bugs that I noticed when I realized that BioWare had not done justice to my favourite game of all time, and I am never going to forgive them for that. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Mass Effect 2, and even the PS3 version is an absolute joy to play through, but with all these bugs and glitches, Mass Effect 2 became exactly what it never was- an unpolished game with a lot of rough edges.
Now, I will not end this review on a negative note, since I still love ME2, BioWare, and for all its mistakes, I love the PS3 version of this absolutely fantastic game as well. I want to tell you people how brilliant The Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC pack is. The pack was good enough already, but the fact that it was already included in this version of the game made it an absolutely brilliant 2 hour long exciting, action-packed missions. The vistas and the environments in this mission are simply a treat, and testify just how wonderfully artistic BioWare are.
I would like to take a moment to mention how good the sound design in Mass Effect 2 is. The game has some great orchestral sound tracks, not to mention brilliant voice acting, which is supported hugely by the strong dialogue and script and the awesome lip syncing.
Many of you might have noticed how I have review Mass Effect 2 (PS3) as a port, and not as an individual game. Well, that’e because of how legendary, how memorable the original Mass Effect 2 was. While I love Mass Effect 2 on the Ps3, it has a hell lot of glitches and bugs that make it look like an unpolished game, which is exactly what Mass Effect 2 was not. So, does Mass Effect 2 on the PS3 live up to the name it made for itself a year ago? No. But is it an awesome game nonetheless, all its bugs aside? Yes. But which version should you buy? I’d say, the Xbox 360 version is still the version to get.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Spectacular story and great characters that keep you hooked to the game; Game can take anywhere between 40-50 hours to complete, which is just plain awesome; The awesome Lair of the Shadow Broker and Overlord DLC packs are included in the game; Graphics are freaking awesome; Great sound design; Varied mission structure; Galaxy exploration is fun; Great shooting and cover mechanics; Rich background given to everything in the game; Your actions carry a lot of gravity; Morality system is brilliant
Tons of frame-rate issues; Full to the brim of freezing bugs; Texture pop-ins and some weir bugs like flying through soil; Glitches; Friendly AI can be frustrating at times; One save bug made me restart the game all over again; Comic-strip doesn't do a very good job of reliving Mass Effect 1; No save file transfer from ME1 (obviously); Kasumi sucks as always; Disappointing final boss battle; Planet scanning is still boring; Long loading times
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