Mass Effect 2 is the sequel to BioWare’s hit space-based role-playing game (RPG), Mass Effect. The first release in the Mass Effect franchise available for play on the PS3 platform, Mass Effect 2 is a single player third-person oriented adventure that allows players to experience the adventures of the fully customizable series hero Commander Shepard, as you take on a whole new adventure and a new cast of supporting characters. PS3 specific features include: a digital comic providing backstory and customization details related to the first game in the series which was not available for PS3, six hours of bonus missions in the form of three previously released DLC releases and access to all additional game content published to date on the Cerberus Network.
Mass Effect 2 is an RPG at it’s soul, among other things. A game that wears many hats and appeals to almost every single type of gamer that there is. Whether you like the classic story telling of an RPG, role based combat, or cover based shooting games, Mass Effect 2 has these, and again, much more. Bioware’s now classic RPG’s re-release, one year later, is perfectly aimed on the PlayStation 3 to a whole segment of gamers that may not have played the game if not owning an Xbox 360 or capable PC.
For starters, I wish all games had this type of release schedule. The great ones at least. Ones that need to be appreciated for more than the month window that they have around launch. Mass Effect 2 when it was released was adored by critics and gamers alike, a front runner for game of the year by many, it came out of the gates very strong in 2010. And for good reason. It was simply amazing, and still is. And firing up Mass Effect 2 for a third go at it, was just as good as any other. Few games do this. Few games are so good at grabbing you from the onset and pulling you into the world like Mass Effect 2 does.
I couldn’t help but reflect on the year that passed and how well Mass Effect 2 has held up over that time. If you can get through the first sequences of Mass Effect 2 without your jaw dropping you are either jaded or dead because it’s one of the best starts to a game, ever, I’m talking top ten all time. The game sucks you in. In a good way. You get bombarded by greatness at every turn. The graphics are amazing. You soon learn that the combat is extremely well done, and the game just unfolds layer after layer until you are half way through and really enjoying yourself. Whether comparing this version, the Xbox 360 version, or the PC , they all have their benefits. Sure there may be a shadow here or there that looks better or more realistic on one version or the other, but Mass Effect 2 is a game of substance, not neccesarily a game of superficial judgement. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a great looking game, but it’s a full package deal. Graphics aren’t carrying the Mass Effect experience. They enhance it sure, but so does just about every other tiny detail that Bioware combs over to bring you their end product in Mass Effect 2.
Having played the first one a few times, Mass Effect 2 is a great example of how sequels should be handled. Like less of a money grab, piggy backing on the success of the first game, and more of a “how can we make this better” approach was certainly appreciated.
There were some things I really enjoyed about this iteration of the series. For an RPG game, Mass Effect 2 streamlines the way that the game is played. Useless clutter has been removed from the game entirely. A very simple weapons and abilities upgrade menu has been put in place to lessen the time spent fiddling with stats and items. Your ship, The Normandy, is now more of an extension to the experience. You will now use your ship to scan planets for valuable resources, that when found are used for upgrading weapons and technology. Even the new load screens peak interest as they give you a holographic view of the specific area you are in, and where this loading time is taking you. Mass Effect 2 is a cohesive experience from the smallest and most menial tasks right down to the very end.
Furthermore, the combat in Mass Effect 2 is deliberately faster and more exciting. Blurring the line even further between RPG and third person shooter, the combat mechanics have changed greatly in Mass Effect 2. Biotic powers take less time to recharge making your character feel more powerful outright. Your AI controlled allies seem to use there powers under computer control more frequently and timely. If you played the first game you can recall the cover system that was used in combat. Using a single button to take cover, hurdle, and move to other cover locations. The designers took better advantage of this mechanic in Mass Effect 2 by putting more care into level design, giving areas where combat is taking place a plenitude of tactical locations. Enemies will move, take cover, and flank you given the opportunity and any one battle can play out in a number of scenarios.
Bioware pits the perfect blend of old and new in Mass Effect 2. Helping and finding old friends, and making new alliances is a big part of the game. Through carefully tailored conversation trees and loyalty missions, Bioware makes you appreciate and ultimately care about this newly formed team. A rare feat. Adding to the characters greatly is the Hollywood talent that is also involved with the game. It lends a great deal of authenticity to the experience and makes cut scenes and conversations feel more like a summer blockbuster movie than a video game.
One of the features that stood out to me the most about the PS3 version, that I was worried about before hand, were the controls. I wondered how the game would control with the Dual Shock 3 and whether it would be something I could get used to. And I absolutely love this game with the dual shock. More so than the Xbox 360 controller or the PC. It feels more intimate for some reason. I am a big fan of the analog sticks on the dual shock and they do a great job with this game. The controls are set perfectly for Mass Effect 2 and the Dual Shock 3 in my humble opinion.
I knew going in that I wouldn’t be able to tell much of a difference in the graphics regardless of how hard I squinted, but this was the one thing that I was concerned with and it was nailed, be it a natural fit or one that Bioware made sure worked.
As a fan of the series that has played it all before, all of the DLC, and the other game. I still liked that all of the extras were included in this version of the title. It’s a huge bonus to the game to get all of the DLC right from the start. Plus some extra goodies that can make the transition for someone that has no experience with the series a little easier. That was a nice touch from Bioware.
Even in my original review of Mass Effect 2 over a year ago, I had a hard time finding faults with the game. Although, on higher difficulty settings your teammates will be dropping like flies. The problem is their skill level doesn’t scale with the difficulty level of the game very well. And although I didn’t point this out in my initial review because I just didn’t remember to complain about it, I wanted to address that here.
This is unnoticeable for the most part of the game even on the hardest difficulty. But when you starting getting towards the back-end of Mass Effect 2 on Insane difficulty, you will definitely see what I am talking about. Your allies become more of a liability than an asset, and it was one of the single flaws that I found in the game. But you have to be a glutton for punishment anyway if you try and tackle this one at that skill level. You may enjoy the added challenge, who knows.
Not much has changed here in a year. Is that a good thing? I think so. You can still put Mass Effect 2 up against the best games that were released in 2010 and more than likely 2011 as well. As far as the claims of a superior version, I mean honestly I couldn’t tell you a huge difference. Does it look good? Hell Yes it does. Mass Effect 2 on the PS3 is a great looking game. One of the best looking games this generation as far as I’m concerned, the characters are very realistic. Skin textures and hair textures look as close to photo realistic as it gets. Lighting is exceptional as well. But like I said before, Mass Effect 2 is a lot more than a pretty face. The great story and gameplay mechanics, the galaxies to explore, the choice of paths, it’s an exceptional game. But it’s not just for one superficial reason like that.
It’s the synergy between all of these great qualities that make Mass Effect 2 one of the best games you’ll play in early 2011, regardless of if you have played it before or not.
Mass Effect 2
- Available On: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
- Published By: EA
- Developed By: Bioware
- Genre: RPG
- US Release Date: Winter 2011
- Reviewed On: PS3
- Quote: "You can still put Mass Effect 2 up against the best games that were released in 2010 and more than likely 2011 as well."