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Feb 19

Game Review – Mass Effect 2 (PS3)

Space. The final frontier. Well, actually there’s enough movies, comics, tv series, books and video games based on space exploration that it doesn’t really seem all that “virgin territory” anymore. However, the science fiction side of role playing games is relatively untouched with only a handful actually being a successful series. The last one of note was the Star Wars : Knights of the Old Republic and, funnily enough, the same creators Bioware made a blockbuster release on 360 called Mass Effect.

Mass Effect was, and is, an amazing game that has some of the greatest story telling and gameplay substance ever known in the industry. The seamless blend of reflex bending action, emotionally charged narrative and epic choice of statistic character building really has no peer. It wasn’t completely flawless but it was as close as it could get for a fresh franchise. With the obvious success, they spawned a sequel.

Okay, I realize that Mass Effect 2 is not the newest kid on the block but it is new for the Playstation camp. 360 players have had the game for quite some time, a year in fact. So a lot of people have already gone through this title and are wondering if the ps3 version has had any tune ups. So I’ll give a run-down of the differences toward the end.

At it’s absolute heart, Mass Effect 2 is a third person, sci-fi action adventure with heavy attention to your personal interractions with the characters around you and your approach to situations you constantly find yourself in. Along the way you will make decisions that will form the path the story will take you as you form a team to thwart an alien plot to take over the universe. Mwah ah ah ah ah aaah….

Mass Effect 2 takes no time messing about. From the get go, the intensity is laid on thick with an immediate emergency requiring you to make some character shaping decisions straight away. The first thing that really shows off is the graphical WOW-ness of everything around you. Whether its space and planets or the terrain of a hostile alien world. The characters faces and even the lip syncing and acting is so phenomenal that you really feel that you are in the middle of a big budget Hollywood flick. Every location you visit has an attention to detail that only a Star Trek convention of the nerdiest of sci-fi freaks could bring. The richness of the universe in Mass Effect 2 can be overwhelming but only if you want it to be. Those who want to just do the missions one by one, and do what they have to will still be rewarded.

Enemies come at you in waves as you duck behind boxes and walls while you dispatch them with an array of weapons, all convienently stashed in that magically bottomless inventory pocket…. where do you get one of those? Anyway, you also have a bunch of very high tech powers that can be used like magic abilities and then they recharge over time. And if you’re feeling a bit out numbered, never fear, because you usually have 2 other team members with you who have varying powers along with a whole bunch of ammo. Strangely they don’t have one of those amazing inventory pockets as they only carry 2 different weapons. It’s not really that big a deal though since the AI of your team mates isn’t the typical “dumb as shit” as in most games. The different characters play to their strengths and they do feel like they want to live first and foremost. Only a few times do I recall a team mate running in front of my gun whilst I was shooting. Suicide still exists in the future.

Some of the team members you pick up along the way are tied into the first Mass Effect game so I don’t want to go too far into the details in fear of spoiling some of the awesome moments the game hits you in the face with. Let me just say that every character has a rich background and a compelling situation that brings them to your side that you can see through to the point of gaining their loyalty for the seemingly impossible task ahead of you. This can lead your character to having, ahem, relations with one of your shipmates if you choose to pursue it. Yep, you can get down and freaky with an alien. Who hasn’t at least thought of that?!

From the first Mass Effect, it seems Bioware listened to the gripes that players had and decided that, rather than fix them up or give less focus to them, they have just removed them. In the first, there were some terrible unavoidable surface vehicle sections which have been replaced with 2 optional vehicle missions that are actually fun. The other big change is that there’s no more inventory window. So all armour improvements are now done through paid upgrades rather than hording innumerable useless pieces just to sell at stores. This does subtract from the “RPG-ness” of Mass Effect but it truly won’t be missed in the long run.

So it’s been a year since Mass Effect 2 first came out so what have they done during that time. Not a lot. But then, honestly, what the hell could they do to improve it??? I have noticed some slight, and I do mean slight, graphical touch ups. The only stand out touch ups is to one of the lead female characters ass (I’m, sadly, not kidding) and the face model of one of the male leads. Other than that, nothing else seems different. Not that that is a bad thing anyway. The only real addition to the PS3 package is that the downloadable content from Xbox Live is included on the disc so there is about a half dozen more missions available.

Mass Effect 2 is a masterpiece of story telling with every action you make having an impact on the characters and situations around you. The level of graphical eye candy is stunning and rivals most CG sequences of it’s peers. The controls are easy to get used to and you really do feel in control of your character’s development. The sheer size and scope of the universe can cause confusion and a bungled choice may make you restart your character numerous times but you will still want to do it. It’s an addictive ride right up to an evil twist in the climax which will have you running to pre-order the third installment, which is currently due out in November. RPG and sci-fi fans should not miss this. If you already have Mass Effect 2 on 360, rest happy knowing that this version doesn’t introduce anything new. After all, if it ain’t broke, DON’T FIX IT!

– Stubby