As I mentioned in my review of the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2, it wasn't until I played the second game that I came to fully appreciate Jennifer Hale's great voice-over performance. Hale is the actor who plays the female version of the game's protagonist Commander Shepard, a version of the character affectionally referred by fans as "FemShep." Whether we chose to play her as a caring paragon or a queen-bitch renegade, Hale brings a welcome amount of guts and emotional range to her performance. But what's interesting about a game like Mass Effect is that it's possible to play through the game as a Male Shepard ("BroShep") and never hear Hale's performance at all.
In fact, that almost happened to me. I'd played through the first game entirely as a dude, my Shepard voiced by the capable Mark Meer. Meer does a perfectly servicable job, delivering scads of dialogue in a focused, clipped tone. In fact, due to the entirely BroShep-oriented advertising campaigns of the first two games, Meer's voice has come to somewhat represent the franchise. But his delivery always felt a bit pinched and flat to me, and on occasion his Canadian accent would slip through and take me out of the scene.
Midway through my FemShep playthrough of Mass Effect 2, I started noticing just how good Hale is. She adds heart, emphasis and nuance to a huge number of lines, and she rattles off nerd-tastic interstellar jargon with an unparalleled level of assuredness. This is due in large part to her experience in the industry—Hale is an old hand in the voice-acting business and has been doing voice-over work for over twenty years. But it wasn't until I watched this incredible YouTube montage of her work that I realized just how much range she has; she was Naomi in the Metal Gear series, Bastila in Knights of the Old Republic, played two characters on the fantastic Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series, and has lent her voice to countless other videogames and television programs over the years. She was even in Quest for Glory IV!
These days, one of my biggest recommendations to those who play Mass Effect or its sequel is to play as a Female Commander Shepard. But you don't have to take my word for it—YouTube user seePyou has created a head-to-head comparison between Meer and Hale in which both Shepards give their first big "let's go get 'em!" speech from the original Mass Effect. The differences between the two are pretty clear, though I'll admit that revisiting this speech after a couple of years kind of made me cringe, as it's fairly clunky out of context. Perhaps it was even clunky in context, though I remember being pretty into it at the time.
At any rate, I hope this video is motivation enough for you PS3 owners out there to go ahead and try FemShep on your first time through. You'll be glad you did.