Review: Mass Effect 2
Reviewing a port of a title we previously reviewed isn’t necessarily in our usual repertoire, but there are some interesting things to note here, which spurred us to check out the PS3 iteration of our 2010 Game of the Year. A few things to note – I did not replay the entire game for this review; there isn’t any point to it since it is the same game. This “review” will focus more on the technical aspects and combined content package of Mass Effect 2 for the PS3 than anything else. If you want a more detailed analysis of the game as a whole, you can just hit up my original review from a year ago.
One of the biggest things that people were asking who wanted to play Mass Effect 2 when it hit the PS3 was “Will we know what is going on?” Obviously, the original title is not available on the PS3, and, if you’ve never played it before, you’re missing out on a ton of story. So, for the release on the PS3, Bioware went the extra mile and inserted an interactive comic, with voice-over narration from the actors for Commander Shepherd (based on the gender you chose when you start a new game). This is actually a great feature.
The comic is inserted strategically in the opening events of Mass Effect 2, placed in as sort of a “flashback”, if you will, as Commander Shepherd faces a rather unpleasant fate. It allows you to get quickly caught up on the story from the first game, as well as make all the major decisions that impact the second title. I thought the narration was great from Jennifer Hale, the actress who plays a female Shepherd. It hits on all the major story and character relationship points from the first title and is quite thorough in catching newcomers up.
I can understand why they didn’t do this with the original ME2 on the 360, but now that I’ve seen something like this in action, wouldn’t it be kind of nice to add something like this into every sequel that builds on what happened in an earlier game? How awesome would that be?
Once you get through that comic, making all your decisions, the game begins with Commander Shepherd waking up on the Cerberus base, running you through a series of tutorial actions. And from there, your journey onward and upward to galactic domination. *insert evil laugh* Oh, wait, wrong game?
As I played through the first mandatory mission, and moved on to the “chose your own route” missions which start only an hour or so into the game, a rush of nostalgia hit me, and I remember what an awesome game this is. Unfortunately, I feel something was lost in translation, so to speak, when Bioware ported the game over to the PlayStation 3.
The original title had a few places here and there that had frame rate issues, and occasionally when the game would auto-save, it would seem as if the game completely freezes up for a few seconds. Unfortunately, in the PS3 version, these issues seem amplified. On numerous occasions in just the first few missions, the game suffers from frame rate issues and stutter, both visually and with the audio. It was, at one point, quite annoying when it happened in the heat of battle (during the Archangel mission). Mostly, though, it seems to happen right after an area loads up, or on board the Normandy.
About half the time, when the game auto-saves you think it is going to crash, as well, since action on-screen freezes for about five seconds. This never happened during an action sequence, because typically the game will auto-save right before or right after one of these. On top of that, you have some pretty jarring load times. I don’t remember load times being this bad on the 360 version. What is even more concerning is that I am playing off a digital version of the game supplied by EA, not a retail disc, so I would think the load times would be faster. If it is this bad reading from the hard drive, I loathe to see the load times from the disc.
Those were, frankly, my only issues with the game this time around. Now, I’m usually pretty lax when it comes to complaining about technical hiccups, but these were pretty extensive in the 20 or so hours of the game I played, so I really can’t avoid talking about them. However, this has nothing to do with the packed-full package that is Mass Effect 2 on the PS3. Bioware has mentioned that this is the “definitive version” of the game, and as far as content goes, they aren’t joking.
On the disc or purchased digitally, the game comes with all the major DLC that was available for the game over the last year, including the awesome Kasumi’s Stolen Memory and Lair of the Shadow Broker missions. These are, hands down, two of the best-designed pieces of DLC I’ve played for any game, ever. They add such rich, fulfilling aspects to the story and game lore, and one of them provides a deep, interesting new character to play. I highly suggest not missing those. (Kasumi, the character you can add to your team from the first mission I mentioned, can be picked up the moment you get your ship at the beginning of the game if you visit the Citadel.)
There are a couple nice things about having all this content available as part of the game from the start. First off, when I originally played the Kasumi DLC, it was well after I had completed the game, so I didn’t get the chance to use the new character in anything besides her loyalty mission. That was unfortunate, since she seemed to me to be a deep character and I would have liked to see a lot of her random dialog in other missions to get a greater sense of her characterization. I can now do that, because she is one of the first characters I picked up.
Secondly, all the DLC missions – from Kasumi, to the Firewalker content, to Overlord – fit better into the game being “side quests” from the start, not as DLC added later. This created an overall sense of expansiveness to the whole experience. If you played each of the DLC missions individually, it seemed more like an add-on, something to do after the fact. But, having them all there available from the start just melds everything into one seamless, lively galaxy with many things to do as soon as you get free reign of your ship. That is definitely something that this version has up on the baseline game released a year ago.
The game itself looks as amazing as ever. Technical glitches aside, they don’t hamper how awesome the game looks and the great sci-fi ambiance of the various locations. My two favorite places to visit in the game are perfect representations of this – the Afterlife bar on Omega and just about anywhere with a view on Illium. Absolutely nothing has changed here – everything is still pretty amazing.
One thing confuses me, though – and this might just be marketing talk: Bioware seemed awfully proud that this incarnation of ME2 was ported over to the PS3 using the Mass Effect 3 engine. That’s all well and good, the thing is, you’d be hard-pressed to tell just by looking at it. Again, the game looks amazing the way it was, I fail to see why such a big deal was made about it using the ME3 engine, because most people won’t be able to tell the difference between the Xbox 360 version of a year ago and the PS3 version of today. At all.
However, ultimately, I’m going to back up Bioware’s assertion that this is the definitive version of the game. You get so much great content on one disc that it’s hard to pass up, especially if you’re a PS3 owner and strict console gamer, haven’t had played the franchise titles before. Mass Effect 2 on the PS3 is still a great and must-play experience, even if there are more technical issues than I would like. Please refer to my review from last year for more detailed discussion of the full game experience, because it all still holds true. The score below reflects only the technical aspects and content package in the PS3 version. I didn’t think the port was bad, per se, but it could have been much better. However, I feel the depth of content more than makes up for what is lacking technically and anyone who has been waiting for this PS3 version should most definitely pick the title up. It’s one of the best games available still, even over a year after its initial release.
- Title: Mass Effect 2
- Platform Reviewed: PS3
- Developer: Bioware
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Release Date: 1.18.2011
- MSRP: $59.99
- Review copy info: A download code for this title was provided to DualShockers Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.