Mass Effect 2 review shows why Shephard is on stellar form!

The former exclusive from Bioware comes over to the ‘Dark Side’ as Playstation 3 gamers get to sample the forbidden fruit of Mass Effect 2

With the forthcoming Mass Effect 3 being announced as a multiplatform title later in the  year, the timing could not have been better for Electronic Arts and Bioware to launch their science fiction RPG shooter on the previously unavailable Playstation 3. Will it live up to the hype that it received during its time as a Microsoft exclusive? Or will PS3 gamers discover that it was all just something about nothing? Join us as GamesMediaPro brings you the review of the epic space drama  Mass Effect 2.    

Almost exactly a year to the day that Mass Effect 2 was launched with much pomp and circumstance, featuring Super Bowl advertising debut’s and a huge media campaign, the critically acclaimed title has done it, seemingly, again with its much-anticipated and much hyped launch on the Playstation 3 console. But with  the so-called ‘console war’ never more than at its fiery fervent best than when the fanboy’s of each system are flaunting their list of console exclusives in each others faces, how will the former Xbox360 favourite be taken by its new-found audience? After all, was it not these very same PS3 owners who were maligning the qualities of this very title only a year ago? Will they give their all important nod of approval to the game, and vote for the series with their wallets? Well, being a firm supporter of the Playstation console it has to be said that the gripes from a year ago are being quickly forgotten as gamers adopt this stunning RPG and take it to heart as quickly as they would if this were a Sony  exclusive title itself.

The story, for those gamers out there native to some far distant universe and have never played, or heard, of Mass Effect 2, is a continuation of the epic saga that was conceived during the first outing with Commander John Shephard and his rag-tag crew of assorted alien miscreants in the Mass Effect debut. Unfortunately for Playstation 3 owners the original title in the series has not been ported over to the PS3  also. Instead to fill in the gap’s, so to speak, Playstation gamers will have to make do with a digital comic that allow’s them to make game changing decisions that are unavailable to them from the first Mass Effect. What this means for Sony gamers is that they will be able to make subtle choices that will bring their version of Mass Effect 2 up to date with the storyline so that they can be on some form of a  par with their Xbox360 counterparts. Does it work? Well, yes and no. It works in the sense that it does give Playstation gamers an insight into the Mass Effect universe, and by allowing them to affect small changes, whereas the obvious benefits to the Xbox360 version  is that they are able to carry on their full game save from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2.

Right from the word go Mass Effect 2 throws you into the thick of things as you are introduced to the game’s storyline during a fatal attack against your ship, The Normandy. Against all odd’s you manage to pull the crew to safety but in a twist of fate it costs you dearly.  Waking up to more chaos you find that you have been pieced together by a section of pro-human separatists calling themselves Cerberus, a shadowy outfit under the command of the ever attentive cigarette smoking Illusive Man. From him you learn that you have been resurrected to assist this dubious band as they seek to uncover the truth behind the strange disappearances of entire human colonies from around the galaxy, and it is up to you to find out why, and by who?

This is the most basic of outlines of a story that will take you across the galaxy and to strange and mysterious new world’s in search of clues as you don your  detectives hat. Turning over tables in clubs run by the blue skinned Asari, trading blows with the wide-eyed reptilian-like Salarian’s or swapping bodily fluids with the  enigmatic members of your motley crew is all part and parcel of your interaction with the finest science fiction RPG the genre has ever produced. The game starts brilliantly and the suspense, plot and situations just keeps on getting better and better with every step the newly re-animated Commander Shephard takes as he hunts his quarry across the stars.

Aided along the way by crew members new and old, Shephard faces struggles on both fronts as he fights to try to stay one step ahead of his allies, and their ulterior motives, as well as trying to keep one step behind The Collectors. Decision’s you make, even in the most innocuous of conversations, will have great bearing on how the game plays out for you. A wrong question here, or an opportunity not taken advantage of to interview a suspect there, may well have dire consequences for all concerned further down the road. However an alliance made here will not necessarily mean that you have someone who will back you up when you get wherever it is that your investigations take you.  Miranda and Jacob, your two Cerberus crew mates who helped bring you back to life, may well appear to have all the correct motives deserving of your assistance, but things are not always as they seem in Mass Effect 2, and though some allies may indeed be the friends that they purport to be, others may in fact be nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing? Which ones are which…? That is for you to uncover, if there is anything to uncover at all?

Mass Effect 2’s gameplay is second to none in its genre, and the way that Bioware have utilised the Paragon or Renegade system into the storyline fits well with all of the underlying subterfuge and skullduggery that is constantly taking place. If you decide to aid someone then that choice is deemed as a good decision, and therefore will see your character awarded with Paragon points. But in the same way, if you choose to injure, kill or refuse some assistance, this can all be deemed as a Renegade action, which will give Shephard almost a kind of negative Karma to his points and character customization. The system works very well within the gameplay, and as stated, even when it is utilised in the storyline when you are offered the opportunity to interrupt conversations and have to make the decision quickly whether you will opt for the Renegade or Paragon action? Whatever you decide will affect the outcome of your time spent in the Mass Effect 2 universe.

There is constant scope to upgrade and customize your character with XP being awarded for everything from enemy kills and headshots in combat, to opening wall safes and uncovering details and clues in conversations during your investigations. This all makes for a deeper experience that gives you genuine emotional connections with your character, as when you are even aware of how you must incorporate yourself with Shephard’s speech and actions, you cannot but help to form an emotional attachment to a character that you are so heavily involved with. All of this engrossing gameplay makes for a rich and rewarding role-playing experience of the highest calibre, and one that we suggest you do not miss out on.

The missions and objectives are varied and interesting with contracts being available for smaller side quests to be picked up along the way from various individuals. All of this better strengthens Shephard’s experience and also gives you the opportunity to explore even further into the far-flung reaches of the vast galaxy. The combat system is slick and feels almost fluid in its smooth as silk approach, with engaging action taking place in a more cover based shooter style. The weapons, right down to the most basic of laser pistol, feel meaty and are all-powerful to knock a target off their feet should the shot be targeted precisely enough. Frame rates are a joy to behold, as even though there have been a few reports of issues in this department, all we can do is base the review on our own personal experiences in the game and tell you that we have not yet had any kind of issue with this in the game.

The added bonus for those gamers out there who have waited for Mass  Effect 2 to come over to the Playstation 3 is that the game is not just some second-hand port that has been piped over to another console purely in the interest of making a few extra shekels. The PS3 version run’s the all new Mass Effect 3 engine, and this is plainly visible in the mechanics and sound quality, as well as the highly polished graphics, But wait, the benefits of EA’s decision to allow the game to be released on the Playstation 3 do not end there. Not by a long chalk!  Remember all that lovely DLC that was released on Xbox Live last year for the 360 owners? Well, my Sony gaming friends your shiny new Blu-Ray version of Mass Effect 2 comes complete with every piece of that downloadable content included in the price. Now aren’t you glad you waited just that little bit longer than everybody else to get your hands on the RPG of the Year?

That’s right gamers and gamerettes, everything from Kasumi-Stolen Memory and  Overlord and right on through to the stunning Lair of the Shadow Broker is here for your delectation as Electronic Arts and Bioware bring you what is, to all intents and purposes, The Game of the Year Edition of Mass Effect 2 for the meagre price of a standard release title. Now doesn’t that sound reason enough to rush out and purchase this product? You bet your Batarian space monkey it does!

Graphics: Taking full advantage of the newly unveiled Mass Effect 3 engine, Bioware an Electronic Arts had promised Playstation 3 gamers a title that would make them drop their jaws in open-mouthed astonishment, and this is exactly what the partnership has delivered. Looking so polished you would be mistaken for thinking that Mr Sheen has just performed a ‘fly by’ over your sparkling new Blu-Ray version of the RPG powerhouse, Mass Effect 2 comes up with the goods time and again as the top drawer title takes you on an action packed, roller coaster of a ride through the stars as you search the galaxy for your objectives. Nothing in the way of frame rate issues or any other kind of visual faux pas will detract from your utter enjoyment of this outstanding title.    10

Gameplay: Although maybe not as deep as some true role-playing classics of the genre, Mass Effect 2 still stands up to the scrutiny of even the most critical reviewer when it comes to the titles RPG credentials. The combat system allows for sizzling action, but at the same time it does not mean that you have to search through endless menu’s and screen’s before you finally locate the desired item or weapon with which you would prefer to despatch your target. The immersive gameplay and speech tree format of the storyline allow for some enthralling gaming fun that will have you riveted from start to finish in this absolutely seminal piece of videogaming mastery.                 10

RePlay Value: Given that the storyline itself in the PS3 version also contains all of the additional content and downloadable add-on’s, Mass Effect 2 is such a sprawling title that it is doubtful whether you could see everything the game has to offer in under 50 hours. Now take into account the fact that alternate endings are available, as well as the fact that decisions can be made differently, thus changing the way that story unfolds for you, and players will have this game in their consoles for many a gaming day to come.    10

Presentation: Given all the furore at the moment between fan’s of the Playstation 3 regarding poorer quality ports of titles, or the fact that developers do not put in enough effort to properly take full advantage of the capabilities of the Sony gaming console, it is then refreshing to see a developer and a publisher both giving a game as much of their attention as is humanly possible. Mass Effect 2 looks better than it ever did on the Xbox360, and with the sheer weight of content contained on that powerful Blu-Ray disc, this is a title that will shift in its millions as Playstation owners support the developers who support them in turn. A truly epic sci-fi saga given the five-star treatment by a five-star team behind the production of this amazing five-star game.    10


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