Epic has a new name.
Playstation 3 owners rejoice! Bioware has done what most scoffed at months ago. They've taken a game that's been out since last year and made it better. Did they do it through revamping it? No. Did they do it by retelling the story in a different way? Not exactly.
How did they do it? Well, come find out.
First, know that Mass Effect 2 is technically the same game that Eric Layman reviewed about a year ago. It's still telling the compelling story of Commander Shepard and his fight to keep the universe peaceful and safe. More specifically, this time around our hero is trying to stop 'collector's' from invading colonies and taking people away for God-knows-what (well, I know what, but I'm not telling). The game brings a character driven story that would rival anything that Hollywood could imagine.
If you've never had the pleasure of playing Mass Effect 2 or a Bioware game in general then let me explain a little bit of why they are a hoot. Bioware has taken a unique role-playing game formula and successfully mixed it in with elements of a third-person shooter. Then they took that combination and added a very complicated and enthralling story that pulls you in from the moment the characters hit the screen. They've always had the knack for this type of combination. If you need proof of concept prior to Mass Effect you need only look at the hit title Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. If you want proof that it still works then you can go check out their sword swinging Dragon Age. Bioware knows how to make gamers emotionally attached to their games without sacrificing gameplay or drowning gameplay with cutscenes. They always seem to put together a perfect balance between all three elements I mentioned.
When you go into Mass Effect 2 you're drawn in through the narrative. Once you get hooked on the narrative you begin getting into the action of the game. For example, there is a part of Mass Effect 2 where you have to fight your way out of a space prison. You'll take control of Commander Shepard and arm yourself with the best possible arms solution to fight your way out of the predicament. Resembling an 80s action film, you'll fight your way out with a minimum amount of help in an impossible situation; you'll enjoy every minute of it. You'll get into the 'duck and cover' type of combat and strive to move around to avoid enemies, while trying to gun them down. The action is fast and intense, and completely worth every minute of your time. What's even more impressive about the action is that you get just enough of it. One of the big things that bothered me about Gears of War (and I know that people are going to kill me for saying this) is that enemies just continually kept showing up and the gunfire never really ended. It's fun to go around shooting enemy after enemy, but eventually you get numb to the experience and it just becomes old. Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 seems to know how to distribute the action pretty evenly. Going along with the story the action simply belongs in certain spots and not in others. I'm not sure how else to put that, but it's quite even and fulfilling.
So where do the RPG elements fall into place? Along the way on the adventure your series of characters, who all have different abilities and strengths, will require upgrades. The upgrades are different depending on characters, but all characters improve with experience points. The player has to decide the best way to use these points and grow their characters. You also have smaller elements of RPG in upgrades with armor, weapons and abilities. You'll find a cornucopia of different ways to improve situations and weaponry. These same type of elements were first introduced by Bioware in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. They will keep you glued to the screen, as they have always through the years.
Another element of fun that you can always guarantee from Bioware in nearly all their games is the ability to pretty much do what you want when you want. Mass Effect 2 takes that and magnifies it, as you'll be able to jump from solar system to solar system, and explore different planets that have been uninhabited all the while putting the main story of the game on hold. The developer has basically put together a giant world for you to explore and you can pretty much take your time with the only true restriction being cost of fuel to explore. Creating this sort of depth in a game that's already filled with good action and a great story simply makes Mass Effect 2 invaluable to gamers.
Anyway, I could go on and on about this game, but again we've already reviewed it. It's technically the same game that was released in February 2010. I mean that in the most basic sense. You get the same story for the most part and the same feeling that you had as you played through it on the 360. With that said, this isn't just a simple port. Most people grumbled that Bioware was simply taking a year old game and attempting to scavenge money from a Mass Effect 2 starved Playstation 3 fanbase. The funny thing is that Bioware could have done a simple port and the game still would have sold well. They didn't really need to put much effort into 'making it worthwhile'. They could have simply repackaged it and walked away. Funny thing is that they didn't. They put the effort into not only making this version of the game more valuable, but also making the game better.
Xbox 360 fans might want to stop reading at this point, as jealousy is the only thing that will spring out of the next series of paragraphs.
The ultimate differences between the 360 and PS3 versions of the game come in many forms. The first, and more important, is the Dark Horse comic that is included in this bundle. Since Microsoft won't extend a license for the Playstation 3 version of the first Mass Effect, Bioware had to get creative. They invited Dark Horse Comics in to put together a digital comic explaining the happenings of the first game. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Who the hell would want to read a comic in a video game?" That's a valid question and here's my answer: Everyone. Not only does this comic catch you up on events prior to Mass Effect 2, but it also allows you to make 'choices' that affect how Mass Effect 2 is played out. It's an important element that not only draws you in, but does so with urgency because of how it affects the sequel. It's like having to memorize something for school, so that you can pass a test (except this test would be fun and entertaining). It was a clever way for Bioware to tell the entire Mass Effect story, if not a very unique way.
But the goodies for the Playstation 3 version of the epic space game don't stop there. You also get DLC out the wazoo to continue the mission even after the main mission is over. For all you Dragon Age fans out there you know how important DLC is to help stop that empty oh-man-the-game-is-over-now-what-do-I-do feeling. It's a great add-on to a game that's the same price as its weaker 360 version. Speaking of weaker, the graphics in the Playstation 3 version have been considerably improved. While the cutscenes certainly don't run at a smooth 60fps, the texture and animation that comes with the game are considerably sharper to the eye. When you see the flashbacks occasionally during Mass Effect 2 you'll be able to see the detailed differences between the past game and this one. If you own the 360 version of this game you'll be heartbroken at the graphical differences. Not to mention that Bioware's graphics and presentation in this version of their hit game is probably closer to Mass Effect 3 then the version of the game they released in February.
Another difference that I haven't seen mentioned in many reviews is the load times. While probably minor in terms of 'what you get', the load times feel shorter. It could be the powerful Blu-ray drive inside the Playstation 3 or it could be the fact that it took nearly 20 minutes to install the files necessary to keep the cutscenes and lack of load time for environments to a minimum. For example, when Shepard is traveling through different landscapes or city scapes you will rarely find load time between areas. He'll just go through a door and 'poof' there will be a large active environment in front of him. It's quite nice to not be interrupted in a narrative rich game. I prefer this type of game to be treated like a film and the lack of loading time allows my imagination and interest to nearly never break away. It sounds silly, but it's very important to keep your audience locked on to what's happening at all times. It helps make a story memorable and a game epic.
So you can now see why so many Playstation 3 junkies are happy as clams. Bioware truly has made this package worth the money and shown that they not only care about their games, but also that they care about the gamer's experience. Because of these efforts they made the value of Mass Effect 2 is basically invaluable. For the same price of the 360 version (or at least when it was new) you're getting more for your money. And because of this value the fun factor of the game is magnified immensely.
I commend them for their efforts and wish more developers jumped into projects like this with the same amount of passion.