Review: Mass Effect 2 (PS3)

Title: Mass Effect 2
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: January 18, 2011
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Bioware
Original MSRP: $59.99

To get started, here’s some gameplay video from the full retail release of Mass Effect 2 on PS3. I think that anyone that had fears based on how the demo looked will quickly see the polish in the full game.

I want to preface this review with a few items. First, I’ve never played any Mass Effect games before. 2nd, I could not download the interactive comic that explains the events in the first Mass Effect, and 3rd, I’m not much of an RPG player. With that, this review is based on about 11 hours of gameplay, 2 of which were me starting the game over to focus on technical details. Also, I’m not going to waste time on the story in this review for two reasons, people that have played this game before already know what’s going on, and for those that haven’t played any of the Mass Effect games in the past, I don’t want to spoil anything, especially since the interactive comic is there to explain those events anyway. Added too all of that is the inclusion of a ton of content that was paid DLC in past versions, all for $59.99, which makes this an incredible deal.

Gameplay:
Mass Effect 2 is incredibly unique. At first glance it’s a 3rd-person shooter, but then you’ll start to notice the RPG elements that lie beneath the surface. For instance, when you’re shooting enemies with your gun, what’s actually happening is a “roll of the dice” on every attack, just like a typical RPG. Thing is, it’s really tough to even know this is happening.

Along with the “standard shooting” elements, you’ll also deal with squad control, exploration, and dialogue trees. Squad control can include placing your mates into position, ordering them to use their powers and/or weapons on a certain target, and you can manually manage their upgrades. The option is also available to let the CPU manage attribute upgrades for either just your squad, or for them and for yourself, so for those that are scared-off by resource management in RPG’s can actually play all the way through this without ever touching that screen, which is refreshing for someone like me.

Another major element to Mass Effect 2 is dialogue, and there’s a lot of it. Every part is fully voiced, and almost every voice fits the character perfectly. Even the “below average” voice work on a couple of the characters is still really good though. The dialogue trees change according to how the conversation is going, and choices can be made before the previous dialogue has finished. The direction the conversation goes usually has a direct impact on the outcome of the situation, as you need to use certain levels of being nice or not to illicit the required response. Sometimes you can completely approach a character the wrong way, and you’ll get nothing out of the conversation. It’s an interesting way to handle the heavy dialogue, but I really like the way they handle it.

Visuals:
In a word, Excellent. The visuals are stunning through-and-through, and the glitches seen in the demo are gone. I’ve played for 11 hours now, and haven’t had one crash or even hiccup really. The framerate is consistent overall, with some slowdown in heavily populated sections, or when a lot of explosions etc are taking place. None of these instances ever degraded the gameplay experience though, and overall, this is a beautiful game. The animation is excellent, the facial animation and features are impressive, and the lighting is top-notch. I only had a couple of instances where the standard “Unreal Engine Texture pop-in at the beginning of a scene” happened, and it’s definitely way less than I’ve seen in any other game that uses the same engine. In other words, this is a beautiful game in every sense of the word.

Audio:
Past the excellent and plentiful dialogue, the audio in Mass Effect 2 is superb overall. I did experience a couple of occasions where either some sound effects cut-out, or they didn’t sync with the action on the screen. These instances were rare, but still, they did happen. The sound field puts your receiver or headphones through some amazing paces, as every channel is used to great detail. Environmental audio is also impressive, and never gives the player a chance to feel like their not a part of the world. Very impressive indeed.

Conclusion:
I must say that so far, I’m incredibly impressed with Mass Effect 2. First, as a person that doesn’t normally like RPG’s, I had no problem playing for a straight 8 hours, and it feels enough like a shooter to hold my attention. The fact that there is so much available in terms of gameplay options helps the player customize the experience to his or her liking. Honestly though, the heavy amount of dialogue did wear me out some, but the story is well-written and quite engaging, and they’re not talking about dragons or +5 armor against gnome daggers. The other impressive aspect here is that, instead of what PS3 owners are used to in terms of ports from other platforms, this game feels like it was made specifically for the PS3, and that is incredibly refreshing. I’m definitely going to keep playing this one, as I’d like to see where the story leads, and fortunately, I already know that Mass Effect 3 is coming to the PS3, so there are no worries of not being able to complete this epic journey on my console of choice.

Score:
9.0

Quick note: Yes, there is a mandatory install that weigh’s-in somewhere around 4.5GB, and it takes from 10-15 minutes to complete. Honestly, you want the install anyway, and even with it, some load times are a bit lengthy in comparison to other games, but those loads are not often.

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  • Quite enjoyed the demo so I’m looking forward to getting the game, but have to still wait a few days due to the, far too common, later European release date 🙁

    oh and btw, did you notice any screen tearing in the retail realease, because in the demo it there were quite a few instances where it was really bad.

    • No screen tearing, no wall glitches etc, it’s incredibly well polished.

  • Thanks for clearing up the issue with the Install size, Glenn. Another site said that the install was the size of the PSN downloadable file (12 gigs), lol.

  • I’m liking the game so far. First one I got lost in what to do, this one seems a bit more fleshed out.

  • Anonymous

    Love the Mass Effect series and bought both ME1 and ME2 day one. The story in ME1 was better, but everything else was vastly improved for ME2. I own a ps3 and 360 but my bro is ps3 only. He is psyched to be able to play the game I consider the best game series this console generation. Cannot wait for ME3.

    • Anonymous

      I can back this game up as well. I played ME2 on PC my first playthrough & now I’m playing it again on the 360 simply because it was $20 at walmart. Now I’ve imported my ME 1 character & I’m going to do every assignment in the game. I’m gonna see it all this time.

      Knowing this was coming to PS3 I was tempted to wait but the $60 price tag considering I bought it for PC already was a bit steep. Worth it, but steep. This is a must buy for PS3 only owners though.

      I think I agree with dwplivelok about ME1, I think the story was better & I liked the fact that you didn’t need thermal clips. The weapons had a cool down. But everything else like inventory, mission structure, & the beginning of the game is epic.

  • Sorry tears. Can you point me to your review so I can see an example of how it’s done?

  • Anonymous

    I was in the same boat regarding RPG’s. I was skeptical of ME2 but a mere 2-3 hours in and I was completely hooked. I loved everything about this game and cannot wait for ME3. I would love to hear how things end for you – i.e. which team members make it through to the end. For my first play through I became incredibly attached to the characters and was downright saddened by the outcome of my particular game. Then again, it has given me apple incentive to play the game again and again and again.

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