Mass Effect 2 Review (PS3)
When Mass Effect was released in 2007, buyers may have noticed a stamp on the box that read "Only on Xbox 360." BioWare's intergalactic RPG was touted as one of the highest-profile console exclusives of the generation—the acclaimed developer was returning to the sci-fi grounds they so thoroughly stomped in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Xbox owners were going to get to have all the fun.
The franchise's exclusivity eroded somewhat over the year to follow. First, a PC version of Mass Effect was released, and not only did it allow for streamlined, customizable controls, it featured much-improved visuals and significantly smoother technical performance. In February of last year, Mass Effect 2 was simultaneously released on both PC and 360, with the "Only on Xbox 360" stamp conspicuously absent from its case.
I loved Mass Effect 2, but after I finished it, I felt a bit bad about carrying on about how great it was to my Playstation-owning friends. It felt like such an event hardly seemed fair that they should have to miss out on it entirely. Fortunately, EA and BioWare have finally released the game for PS3. Even better, it's arguably the most comprehensive version available.
This won't be a proper review; Garrett Martin already reviewed Mass Effect 2 back in February. He gave it a whopping 9.5/10, and that holds. In the year since its launch, I have played through Mass Effect 2 at least two complete times, as well as a good number of partial plays. I've seen just about every possible story permutation, from the introductory sequence on the Lazarus Project's operating table to the big dumb Terminator finale. I've fallen head over heels for voice actor Jennifer Hale in her role as the wry, no-bullshit female version of the game's protagonist, Commander Shepard. I've had awkward videogame space-sex with Tali, Thane, Samara and Miranda. I pretty much always punch the reporter.
And all of that is included in the PS3 version, as well as a few notable additions. For starters, not only do players get the original 30-40 hours of main story and sidequesting, they also get the excellent Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker downloadable mission packs right on the disc. This qualifies as a Very Good Thing—if you'll recall, both episodes were featured in our round-up of The Best Downloadable Content of 2010, and deservedly so.
Overlord is a refreshingly sinister self-contained story, akin to a mid-season episode of Star Trek or Firefly. It's not related to the main story-arc, but it's entertaining on its own and adds a welcome bit of survival-horror spice to the proceedings. Lair of the Shadow Broker is fan service of the best kind—a noir-tinged adventure through the shadowy world of Illium with varied gameplay and a bunch of really cool character grace-notes for longtime franchise fans.
Another nice addition to the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 is the interactive Dark Horse comic that plays at the beginning of the game. On the 360 and PC versions of the game, a player's character from the first Mass Effect was imported, Quest for Glory-style, into the sequel, carrying over all of the decisions he or she made. While the in-game results of those decisions had an admittedly (and perhaps necessarily) small impact on the game itself, they did a lot to make the Mass Effect experience feel unique for each player.
PS3 players never had a chance to make any decisions in Mass Effect, so instead they are afforded the interactive comic, which presents a cliffs-notes recap of the first game and pauses to allow players to make pivotal choices for themselves. Save Wrex, or kill him? Spare the Rachnai queen, or exterminate her race once and for all? And most importantly: hook up with Kaiden, or go for Liara? These choices are even more important since they'll factor into Mass Effect 3, which BioWare has announced will be coming to all platforms later this year.
The comic is a great feature; so good that it's hard not to wish it had been included in the 360 and PC versions of the game at launch, (it is available now as a download). When I did my second playthrough on 360, it was a bit of a bummer to create a new Shepard only to be told that back in Mass Effect she made choices that didn't jibe with her character as I was envisioning her. But at least the comic is available now, and hopefully that kind of thing will become standard for games that involve character-importing between releases.
I should note that the setup and installation was an extraordinarily arduous process. In addition to a lengthy 5GB installation, I had to set up an EA account (using my Dualshock controller), wait as the large "Cerberus Pack" was downloaded, then wait again as it was installed. It took me two nights to finally play the game; each time I'd think I was ready it would turn out that there was there was another thing that needed to be downloaded or set up. And when I finally had everything ready to go, the game kicked me out again, this time for a sizable PS3 system update. I'm happy that Sony and EA have brought so much content to the PS3, but over an hour's worth of delays feels unacceptable.
But once it's finally up and running, Mass Effect 2 remains an extraordinarily slick and well-written action-RPG. I was expecting to check it out for an hour or so just to get a sense of how the game feels on a new console, but I wound up getting sucked in all over again, caught up in the story of Shepard, Cerberus and The Collectors. Playstation owners, rejoice.
Mass Effect 2 was developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. It was formerly available on the Xbox 360 and PC and is now available on PS3, as well as as a digital download from the Playstation Store.
Watch the trailer for Mass Effect 2: