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Mass Effect 2 Review

I’m literally writing this as the credits to Mass Effect 2 are rolling on my cheap TV behind me. What do I think of the game? Let’s just say that there’s a very good reason why so many Xbox fanboys were annoyed when Red Dead Redemption beat out Mass Effect 2 at Spike’s Video Game Awards for 2010.

Although Mass Effect 2 was originally released over a year ago to the Xbox 360 and PC, the PlayStation 3 version is well worth the wait. DLC, that would cost the the owners of the other versions upwards of $20, is given with you for free (the DLCs are Kasumi: Stealing Memories, Overlord, and Lair of the Shadow Broker, which are packaged with the game on the disc. You might also get a piece of paper with a code written on it, advertising the Cerberus Network. Download it immediately – it provides the opening comic, Mass Effect Genesis, some new armor and weapons, and a new character to recruit).

Mass Effect 2

The graphics are phenomenal, and noticeably better than the original Xbox version. That’s not because it’s on a Blu-ray Disc instead of two DVDs, like the 360 version, but because BioWare ported the game from the ME2 engine to the upcoming Mass Effect 3 engine. Facial animations are great, and there are absolutely no framerate issues, excluding when the game is saving. The only graphical hiccup is during cutscenes, surprisingly. The game’s camera will do a cinematic thing where it will zoom in on whoever’s speaking, and suddenly their teeth look like clay. It’s noticeable, but won’t destroy the cutscene, nor the game’s, otherwise, beautiful graphics.

Sound is great, as a fantastic score that sets the mood whether you’re in a huge battle against the Blue Suns, or in a somber, solo mission checking out the wreckage of the ship from the first Mass Effect, the SSV Normandy. Occasionally, you’ll here the same music twice (I heard the same song played on the Normandy wreckage scene in the prelude cutscene to the final boss battle). Voice actors are all phenomenal, but the show stealer is Martin Sheen, who plays the Illusive Man. Sheen voiced the Illusive Man perfectly, but the entire cast does a great job. Tricia Helfer, who voices the Normandy SR-2‘s (the privately built successor to the original Normandy, the SR-1) AI, EDI, is fantastic. She will make jokes at the worst times (she says “I enjoy the sight of Humans on their knees…that is a joke” to the AI-phobic Normandy crewman Jeff “Joker” Moreau during a tenuous and stressful scene). EDI may try too hard to be GLaDOS from Portal, but it’s still funny nonetheless.

Mass Effect 2

Another real draw is the game’s incredible customization tools. You can make pretty much any human face you want with that game. Want to play as redheaded Michael Jackson? You can do that. Want to play as Barack Obama, or any other politician of your choice (Sarah Palin? David Cameron? Nancy Pelosi?)? You can do that. If you have the time and patience, you can painstakingly create any face, of any gender, and make them become the new Commander Shepard. Since I had neither the the time, patience, nor talent to do that, I just played as the average Shepard, the one on the cover.

There’s plenty of armor for you to customize your Commander Shepard, too. The downside is, most of this armor comes with helmets. Irremovable helmets. So, if you want to see those breathtaking facial animations I mentioned earlier, you have to go with the average armor (which you can still customize, to a degree). It’s a shame, too, because most of the armor looks sweet. The helmets do, too; it’s just that they don’t magically disappear when you enter a cutscene or converse with someone, like they do in, say, Dead Space 2. You even keep the helmet on when you get a drink from the bar at the Afterlife Club on Omega. The drink magically goes through the metal and into your mouth. I can’t tell whether it was just poor oversight, or laziness by BioWare. Another thing some armor does is give you perks. Mass Effect 2 is still an RPG at it’s heart, and if you’re playing on the harder difficulties, you’ll need the +10% damage increase the Blood Dragon Armor comes with, even if you don’t like the helmet.

Speaking of cutscenes and conversations, that’s a big part of the game. Most conversations include three options; the nice, inspirational option, the neutral option, and the mean, jerk option. I almost always chose nice, because I like my characters to emulate me, and I was worried that if I was a jerk to too many people, they’d stop talking to me and I’d miss a crucial piece of information that I needed for a mission.

Mass Effect 2

Often times, a fourth option comes up; “Investigate”. Should you select this during a conversation, Shepard won’t say anything, but it will take you to more dialogue options; mostly questions to get background information on the characters, or whichever task is at hand. Whenever the “Investigate” option comes up, take it. That is usually where the crucial questions are.

The real draw is the gameplay. There’s literally something for everyone in ME2. Whether you want to take down the Collectors (the game’s main enemy), take side missions on Illium, the Citadel, or Omega, explore the galaxy to find new planets, mine those new planets for platinum, Element Zero and other things (like an unknown side mission), play loyalty missions to gain the trust and respect of your crew, or build your Renegade, or Paragon, status, etc.

The only possible gripe I could have with the entire package of Mass Effect 2 on the PS3 is the fact that the game comes with no manual. It’s provided on the disc in the “extras” section on the main screen. I, for one, love a good manual. When I’m playing a game from a genre I usually don’t indulge very often in, I’d like to have the manual open in front of me. I hope this doesn’t become a trend, although it’s seemingly inevitable.

Mass Effect 2

Anyway, Mass Effect 2 hands out a metric crap-ton of Trophies. I’d never gotten more than a few trophies before I got bored with a game and stopped playing, but in ME2, I got 60% of the trophies. Plenty more are on the way, too, as the only way to get the Platinum trophy is to play the game a second time. A cheap way to get more plays out of ME2, but I’m sure as hell not complaining.

Overall, I give Mass Effect 2 a 100 out of 100 . In my very small review library, I’ve never given a 10 out of 10 to any game before, but Mass Effect 2 has done it. If you haven’t gotten it yet, I highly recommend purchasing it. Now.

This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 provided by BioWare.