So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 on PS3, XBOX 360 and PC: excellent downloadable content works seamlessly with the main quest.
- Very solid port; Mass Effect: Genesis comic provides a fine alternative to playing the original game; excellent DLC works seamlessly with the main quest.
- Reports that it's a major visual upgrade appear to be overblown; streamlined gameplay will likely put off more traditional RPG enthusiasts.
It took some time, but PlayStation 3 owners are finally welcome to join Commander Shepard and the crew of the Normandy in BioWare's intergalactic action-RPG epic. It's the same great game 360 owners are already familiar with, albeit outfitted with the previously released DLC and the slick new Mass Effect: Genesis backstory comic.
Price$ 109.95 (AUD)
In some ways, I wish I had waited for the PS3 port of Mass Effect 2 before introducing myself to the Mass Effect universe. It would have been a longer wait, but it also would have saved me a good 15 hours of playing the original game.
This might sound like sacrilege to some, but I believe that the original Mass Effect has aged quite poorly. The RPG mechanics don't match up well with the shooting mechanics, the story takes a long time to really get in gear, and it's clear that BioWare wasn't entirely comfortable with Unreal Engine 3 back in 2007. Cast in that light, the interactive comic that is included with the sequel's PS3 port is a fine alternative to actually playing through the original game.
The comic, of course, is essential. One of Mass Effect's biggest draws is the way in which individual Shepards persist from game to game, and without that element, the PS3 port would have felt barren indeed. But the comic, which pops up shortly after the opening sequence (still one of the best parts of the game), offers a colorful alternative in which to choose whether Ashley or Kaidan are killed, and whether or not Shepard gets laid. It doesn't provide quite the same immediacy of playing through the original events, but speaking as someone who will probably never go back to the first game, I find the comic very welcome.
The rest of the game is more or less a Mass Effect 2: Game of the Year Edition, as there's little to distinguish it from the Xbox 360 version. BioWare has claimed that the PS3 version is in fact running on the Mass Effect 3 engine, but if that's the case, it's tough to see with the naked eye. While that may be disappointing to some, I prefer to look at it another way: it means that PS3 owners won't be stuck with yet another middling to awful port. That's not a lot of consolation given that the PS3 version is coming out a full year after its brethren, but it's better than some of the alternatives.
That being said, PS3 owners who haven't played the Xbox 360 or PC versions are still in for a treat. BioWare churned out some great DLC last year, and it's all there pretty much from the get go in the PS3 version. Speaking as someone who purchased the DLC after finishing the game on the Xbox 360, I was pleased with how seamlessly the Shadowbroker and Kasumi content fits into the overall campaign: they're right there in the galaxy map, making them no different from any other quest. Kasumi, Shadowbroker, and Overlord add around an hour apiece to the game, and are well worth your time.
Less obvious, but also worth noting, is the inclusion of all the special guns that BioWare released as DLC. The Black Hole Gun probably isn't worth $2.99 by itself, but it still provides some remarkable eye candy in the way each shot creates a mini-singularity that devours large packs of enemies. And the inclusion of a wide variety of new conventional weapons and bonus armor certainly makes Shepard's armory feel quite a bit more robust than it did in the "vanilla" version of the game.
As for the game itself, the Dirty Dozen-style quest to recruit an elite team on behalf of the pro-human organization Cerberus remains very much intact. Much digital ink has been spilled over the past year on whether Mass Effect 2 swung too far into third-person shooter territory with its universal ammo and much-reduced talent trees. But personally, I'm willing to overlook the lack of crunchy mechanics in favor of the tremendous job BioWare has done in making every Shepard unique, the much-improved action, and the outstanding final mission (apart from the final boss, which is still silly). There's much more to be said on this topic, but whether or not the "streamlining" bothers you is really down to personal taste.
Regardless, the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 is a very good port of one of my favorite games of 2010. I would recommend it to anyone who has yet to dive into the franchise. Even without the promised visual overhaul, the inclusion of the downloadable content and the interactive comic probably make this the "definitive" version of the game. With that in mind though, Xbox 360 and PC owners can easily obtain the DLC, and even the comic is apt to be available on their respective platforms before too long.
What's important is that the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 successfully brings series newcomers up to speed, which I'm sure was BioWare's primary objective. All that's left now if for PS3 owners to decide whether it's really worth finding a way to dig up a copy of the original game on the Xbox 360 or PC ahead of the grand finale.
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