I have to admit that as a PS3 gamer, I never thought I would be writing a review for Mass Effect 2, but this just goes to show that anything is possible. Mass Effect 2 was released on the Xbox 360 more than a year ago to critical acclaim, and had PS3 gamers wondering what all the fuss was about. I’m here to tell you that there are tons to fuss about and Mass Effect 2 is one of those special games that you just have to experience for yourself.
Mass Effect 2 picks up in the year 2183 shortly after the first game ended. Now for my fellow PS3 players you’re saying, “Hold on didn’t decisions from the first game carry over to this one, and how can we get the full experience if the original Mass Effect never came out on PS3?” BioWare already understood our concerns and put in a really slick comic book style intro that will give players the opportunity to make all the critical decisions from the first game, which ultimately determine your experience in Mass Effect 2.
At the beginning of Mass Effect 2, which was shortly after the end of Mass Effect, Commander Shepard is “killed” while making a valiant effort to save his crew and his ship, the Normandy. However, Shepard is much too important and a group called Cerberus enacts “Project Lazarus”, whose sole purpose is to bring him back. Cerberus recovers Shepard’s body and begins work to bring back the only person that can save humanity. It takes Cerberus two years and lots of money, but they finally manage to bring Shepard back from the dead, though that didn’t go as smooth as they would have liked.
You awaken on a Cerberus space station that is under attack by an unknown enemy. Although your wounds aren’t fully healed, it’s now or never. You are immediately engaged in combat that will be highly familiar to anyone who has ever played a third person shooter before. You have to give BioWare credit, Mass Effect 2 isn’t just another port. They really spent time making the controls feel natural and fit the PS3 controller. After helping out Cerberus agents Jacob Taylor and Miranda Lawson, Shepard is given the chance to have a meeting with the person behind his return, the Illusive Man. The Illusive Man brings Shepard up to speed on what has happened since he has been away, and lets him know that he thinks Shepard’s arch-enemies, the Reapers, have returned and are preparing for something big. The Reapers are a race of machines that periodically come back to harvest all intelligent life in a galaxy once its civilization reaches a certain point. The Reapers are a powerful bunch, but when has humanity ever went down without a fight.
Mass Effect 2 is such an epic game that I won’t say anything else about the story. Trust me you need to experience it for yourself.
The thing that I love about Mass Effect 2 is that it’s all about decisions. Every decision you make seems to eventually have an effect on something. When it comes to making decisions, you can either be someone who tries to make rational decisions and keep a pretty even keel, or you can be a hardass who uses force and intimidation to get your way. Neither of these approaches is necessarily right or wrong, they are just different. Based on these decisions, you will receive Renegade and Paragon dialogue options that Shepard can use to interrupt the dialogue (by executing an on-screen action when prompted to do so). The icons will flash in the bottom portion of the screen, so pay attention during important conversations because missing your opportunity to execute one of the dialogue options could have dire consequences, trust me I know. There was a point during one conversation where I thought it was all good, then the situation escalated and I missed the chance to trigger a dialogue option and the consequences were fatal for someone. I won’t lie to you, Mass Effect 2 has a LOT of dialogue, but you have to fight through it because there are key details and background information that you just don’t want to miss.
Shepard’s primary goal is to form a team that will be strong enough to help him eventually defeat the Reaper threat, which most believe is a suicide mission. In order to do this, Shepard will have to travel across several galaxies’ convincing characters, whom all possess unique skills, that his cause is worth joining. Shepard is put at the helm of the Normandy SR-2, a more advanced and upgraded ship based on the original Normandy equipped with an onboard A.I. known as EDI (Enhanced Defense Intelligence). The Normandy will be at the center of everything you do. From the Command Information Center (CIC) you can coordinate your travels, check on the status of your crew, read email, and much more. The Normandy is a very large ship with tons of things to do and people to interact with. You will want to make sure that you travel around the ship on a regular basis and interact with the crew to find out things they may need or that you can help them with. This is important because in the end, your success or failure will depend heavily on whether you can gain the loyalty of your crew.
When it comes to actual gameplay, Mass Effect 2 is excellent. The combat controls are tight and responsive. The wheel style selection used to switch between weapons allows you to adjust quickly. You hardly ever hear people talk about the tactical aspect of Mass Effect 2, but if you learn to use your ability to send your team to different strategic points, it will make combat much easier. As you move through different environments you should send your team members ahead of you to provide cover fire and take out the first waves. Then you can come in and clean up. As you gain more experience you can divvy out points to upgrade your team and yourself, make sure to allocate those points well.
There was hardly anything not to like about Mass Effect 2, but I did say hardly. Mass Effect 2 is non-linear, which means the story develops as you play it, and you don’t have to do missions in any particular order. This is great for giving the player a real sense of control as far as how the story develops, but with a story as deep and complex as the one in Mass Effect 2, it can start to feel a bit haphazard. There are so many stories going on and so many games being played that the game would have been helped by having just a bit more forced continuity in the story. Again, don’t misunderstand me here, the story is excellent, but if the player had just a bit more insight and direction, it would have been all the better. I also felt like the game could have done more to alert the player to all the different things that they can do. There are so many! Honestly, you kind of just accidentally stumble onto several things and you’re like, “I didn’t know I could do that.”
The bottom line on Mass Effect 2 is that it has instantly become one of the best games on PS3 right now and has us chomping at the bit for Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 2 is the definitive action RPG. It combines cerebral gameplay, action-packed combat, and overall great production. We can’t wait to see how the trilogy ends when Mass Effect 3 is released later this year. Mass Effect 2 is a must play and that’s why we give Mass Effect 2 by BioWare 9 out of 10.