Anyone would find it hard not to love the intergalactic awesomeness Canadian developers Bioware have served up with their Mass Effect franchise, and I am no different. I lapped the original Mass Effect up, even with its underwhelming gameplay (IMO) and the infuriating Mako, simply because of its wonderfully crafted setting, characters and story.
Mass Effect 2 was more of a polishing act though. While the story in the second game didn’t hold a candle to the original’s (second parts of trilogies never do, do they?), the characters got better and most importantly, gameplay was much more refined which made it one of the very best games of last year.
We are back!
So when Mass Effect 2 was announced as coming to the Playstation 3, I felt happy for PS3 gamers. “Now everyone gets a piece of that delicious cake,” is what I thought. It wasn’t something I’d go and pick up on day one though, not until it was announced it’d be running on the Mass Effect 3 engine. I was tempted – one more playthrough of a great game and a 10-month early preview for the next one? Where do I sign up? And sign up I did – I took Mass Effect 2 PS3 for a spin, so read on to find out how my test drive went.
The first thing I noticed was how long the install was. Even though PS3 owners really ought to be used to mandatory installs by now, one that easily takes more than half an hour is abnormal. I would still find it acceptable if it had facilitated shorter load times though, but I'll get to that later.
Morrigan disappr- oh wait, wrong game
Mass Effect 2 on the Xbox 360 and PC gave gamers the option to import their saved games from Mass Effect. The PS3 version can’t, because Microsoft published the first game and therefore haven’t, and never will, release it for the PS3. Bioware have come up with a workaround though, in the form of an interactive comic that will allow gamers to catch up on the happenings in the original Mass Effect and make all the important choices that gamers playing the game on the 360 and PC had to make, thereby effectively creating their own save file. However, there’s a catch – as part of EA’s current program to encourage gamers to buy new games instead of pre-owned, players have to input a one-use code on the Playstation Store and then download the comic. So after an install that took more than half an hour, I was hit with a 676mb download. Ugh.
The comic itself is quite decent. While it’s impossible to pack the authentic experience of an entire game into a 20-minute comic, it does include all the important choices of the first game and provides PS3-only gamers a barely adequate introduction to the series, which is about all you can expect really.
When I actually got down to playing the game, it didn’t take me long to realize that what I was playing was a technical mess. Load times were atrocious and completely destroyed the rhythm of the game, even after that ridiculously long install. When you have to wait a minute (sometimes two), just to go to different parts of your ship, you know something’s gone terribly wrong.
The port has various other bugs and issues. I frequently ran into considerable framerate drops, most notably during the Tali recruitment and Overlord missions. There were even instances when textures would start clipping and characters would get stuck in a certain place, forcing me to reload from the last save point. To top it all off, the game crashed out on me thrice and even corrupted one of my saved games which is unforgivable considering Bioware had around a year to refine these issues. There’s a patch out now that promises to fix them though, so hopefully it delivers on that front.
Unfortunately, they failed to make Miranda look even hotter
The Mass Effect 3 engine didn’t do too much to improve the graphical fidelity. Keep in mind Mass Effect 2 was already a beautiful game so improving on that is quite the task. Even so, with the minor improvements in texture quality and lighting, Mass Effect 2 PS3 is a very pretty game. Of course, it doesn’t compare to the PC version at all, but then again we have to remember that PC versions will always be superior graphically. Console wise though, Mass Effect 2 PS3 is one of the best looking games around.
Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s focus a bit on the positives. All of the DLC that came out with and after the release of the XBOX 360 and PC versions has been bundled in on disc, hence saving the player trouble of paying for and downloading the extra missions and then figuring out where and how they fit into the story. Kasumi stuck out like a sore thumb from the rest of the crewmates thanks to a lack of narrative focus, but she's a useful squad member so I'll let that one slide. The control scheme also translates pretty well onto the PS3, but that was to be expected because there was already a console-specific scheme (XBOX 360) that Bioware could work with and improve.
She does stand out a bit, doesn't she?
Most importantly, Mass Effect 2 PS3 is still the Mass Effect 2 we all know and love. The gameplay and story are identical and considering how good Mass Effect 2 was, that really isn’t a bad thing. I wasn’t expecting any changes going into it and I’m glad Bioware didn’t make any, because PS3 owners deserve to play this game in all its glory.
Mass Effect 2 PS3 is a fantastic game and this version offers a lot of value thanks to the bundled DLC, but as a port it’s sorely lacking in polish. Bioware had around a year to work on it, but it seems nothing has really changed for the better.
PS3-only gamers don’t really have a choice – they’ll have to go in for this version and I’d still recommend it to them simply because Mass Effect 2 is a must-buy game that has to be experienced. However, if you’ve already played the earlier versions, especially the PC version, this port gives you absolutely no reason to go out and buy it.
P.S: EA have got to be kidding, calling those flimsy four pieces of paper a manual. Where is my real manual? Do I have to enter a code and download that too?
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