Graphics:
8.7
Gameplay:
9.4
Sound:
9.1
Control:
8.9
Replay Value:
9.6
Overall Rating:
9.2
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
EA
Developer:
BioWare
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
RPG


About one year after Mass Effect 2 wowed critics and gamers alike, BioWare’s epic role-playing adventure finally arrives on the PlayStation 3. Complete with a ton of extra DLC, an interactive comic that allows franchise newcomers to catch up, and the benefit of the engine currently being utilized for ME3, it’s the definitive “collection,” so-to-speak. It can be purchased on Blu-Ray or in digital format off the PlayStation Store; either way, you’ll need a hefty amount of hard drive space available. But for most, that won’t be an issue, primarily due to the game’s undeniable quality. Some say the storytelling and immersion is almost unparalleled while others adore the depth and detail. On the whole, you’ll be hard pressed to find a reviewer who won’t immediately recommend a purchase…and I’m not about to break that trend. Despite some small reservations, there’s no doubt that ME2 is an amazing accomplishment.

We’ll begin with the one element that may require the most explanation on my end: the graphics. For the record, the level of detail, the level designs, and even some of the facial emotions are top-notch; there’s a definite cleanness and slickness that permeates every last facet of the visual production. However , there’s also something else I feel I must mention. The presentation often feels a tad lifeless; maybe it’s the stiff animations, or the frequent (albeit minor) hitching during cut-scenes, or maybe it’s just the odd sterility that seems to accompany a sci-fi setting. To me, a lot of it seems more plastic than vibrant, and that’s the best way I can describe it. Still, the aforementioned holds true, in that ME2 looks great from top to bottom; it’s a fantastically competent and consistent graphical palette that likely won’t disappoint. “Plastic-y” may be more subjective and I accept that.

There’s very little to complain about on the sound front. Technically speaking, I felt some of the sound effects corresponded with the lack of perceived richness I found in the graphics, and the balance could be off (effects cut right out several times). It’s not as consistent as the visuals but the beautiful music and superb voice acting continually enhances our experience. The soundtrack, although I wish I heard more of it, fits perfectly and the developers know exactly when and how to implement an appropriate piece of music. The voiceover work is impressive, to say the least. There’s a ton of dialogue and a ton of different actors and yet, every last delivered line sounds authentic and believable. And because ME2 puts such a huge emphasis on story, this is essential and most appreciated. A few slight technical misgivings and some dull effects can’t stop the important aspects from reigning supreme.

Much has been made about the gameplay, in that some of the game’s detractors will say the world of Mass Effect is little more than a third-person shooter with a few RPG elements. They’ll say, “at best, it’s a blend.” And trust me, with my RPG background, if I honestly believed ME2 wasn’t a role-playing game, I would make that bold statement and back it up with plenty of evidence and sound reasoning. But I can’t do that. I can’t do that because ME2 is every inch an RPG; it just so happens to utilize a real-time third-person mechanic, and it’s a mechanic that works extremely well, by the way. In fact, I’d be willing to say it’s even more of an RPG than the first-person Fallout 3 or maybe even the oft-discussed Final Fantasy XIII . But maybe you’re still not convinced; maybe you’ve been waiting for my review to make a final determination regarding your feelings about the game’s “status.” So, the following is the explanation, and I’m gonna have a whole lotta fun writing it.

I say that because the following – the reason why ME2 is a hardcore RPG and one that can be immensely fulfilling – represents my favorite parts of the game. First, the story: this is a well-scripted, excellently acted, in-depth plot with intriguing characterization, plenty of intrinsically human themes and concepts, and surprising twists and turns. It has most every element crucial to an engaging storyline. You can make choices concerning your reactions, and this has a direct impact on the growth of your character. Furthermore, you’re even rewarded for such growth; if you lean more towards the heroic side (Paragon), you’ll be able to hit L2 when the prompt appears, and perform a special action that will likely effect events in the near future. If you’re more of an impatient Renegade, you can perform specific Renegade actions when prompted with the R2 button. There are side-quests, NPCs, and vast environments. RPG enough?

No? How about how they approach that third-person gameplay- first and foremost (in my mind, anyway), you can pause the combat. To me, this seems to be one of the last vestiges of the formerly unique role-playing realm. With so many genres doing so much blending these days, definitions have altered and lines have blurred. But only in RPGs can I pause, take stock of the situation, select equipment and new commands, and in general, get my bearings. At any time in combat, you can hit L2 to bring up the weapon wheel and select different weapons for you and each of your party members. What you have available is what you chose as your equipment when loading out. Or, you can press the R2 button, which brings up the power wheel. Here, you can choose from available powers and skills, unique to each character. So in theory, against a tough enemy for instance, you can bring up that wheel, select a power for each of the three characters, and let it all fly at once when you let the action resume.

I really liked this; such a feature gives the standard third-person shooting mechanic a whole new level of depth, control and customization. It also works almost flawlessly. As for the control itself, you can go into cover with the X button, or hold the X button to dash forward, and you simply aim with L1 and fire with R1. Collision detection is usually spot-on, the AI – on both the ally and enemy side – is pretty damn good, and although I still say Shepard moves a little stiffly and he sometimes wouldn’t hurdle over a barrier until I had pressed X a few times, the control is more than reliable. And I know I just said the AI is good but it can be erratic; Miranda once hopped up on a box of crates in a hail of bullets and fell almost instantly. Not sure what that was about. The enemies will also appear to adopt the same approach technique in certain battles, but really, besides that, the AI gives the action a dynamic, entertaining flavor.

I won’t give away much of the story, but all you need to know is that something is abducting humans. It seems a group known as the Collectors might be behind the kidnapping, but it goes much deeper as time goes on. The game lets you visit a number of different locales, most of which can be revisited and explored. You embark on a mission to assemble a team capable of taking on the final threat, and I’m always a big fan of recruiting in any RPG; I get to see different characters, participate in different scenarios during the recruiting process, and ultimately choose my favorites and pay them special attention. You also have to remember to take your morality into account, and as each major player in the plot has a central story, you must come through if you want them all to be your friend…and if you want them all to survive at the end. It’s just another engaging level of depth for the micromanagement lovers.

It’s about the story, the characters, the freedom, and the atmosphere. I still think the pacing is a little off and too many of the mundane, trivial side-quests tend to make us lose track of the main plot. But you don’t have to adopt the completionist mentality (like I always do with RPGs) and no matter when you re-grasp the primary storyline, you’re once again impressed with the professional implementation. Being able to choose how you advance, both physically and mentally, having full control over your team and and the gameplay proceedings, and just exploring this immense universe is probably enough. The combination of those positives really puts this one over the top, and is the reason why it is so widely respected and beloved. The bottom line is that even if you spend two or three hours, you not only feel as if you didn’t do enough, but you really want to go back and keep going…and do more.

Personally, it doesn’t grab me but I don’t want that to significantly impact this review, which is why I produced that editorial . Read that to understand why, no matter how many hours I invest, no matter how hard I try, no matter how many times I tell myself, “by all rights, you should love this game,” I just can’t connect with ME2. But besides that, there are negatives that have to be a part of this analysis: such drawbacks include the aforementioned pacing issue, the slightly less-than-perfect AI and control, and the technical hang-ups that are noticeable. Sound, for both voices and effects, would routinely cut out during my play time (only for a few seconds, mind you), I still think there’s a lifelessness inherent in the visual presentation, and cut-scenes can skip about a bit. The game also froze on me once. And although these are all minor, I don’t believe they can be entirely ignored.

Mass Effect 2 is so brilliant in so many ways. There’s just no getting around that fact, and I wouldn’t want to get around it. Just because it isn’t my thing – and I feel bad about that; I feel as if I’m missing out – does that mean it isn’t one of the best interactive adventures of the generation? Does it mean others, especially those who love the setting, won’t adore it? Of course not. I never liked any RTS, either; doesn’t mean Command & Conquer isn’t legendary. ME2 features one of the best storylines in gaming, a sense of freedom that comes through in almost every action and interaction with characters, a reliable and rewarding style of combat, memorable emotional peaks and valleys, a massive amount of sci-fi goodness, and enough depth – on just about every conceivable level – to satisfy even the most ardent role-playing fan. I have my reservations and those won’t change, and the production, especially from a technical standpoint, isn’t perfect.

But as it says on the back of the box, it’s “a brilliant sci-fi epic.” That isn't false advertising, friends.

The Good: Fantastic story with great writing and interesting characters. Ultimate control in terms of gameplay and customization. Plenty of freedom within the linear plot. Good AI and control. Super voice acting and a lot of great music. Blend of third-person shooting and RPG mechanics is nearly spotless. Satisfying and fulfilling to the max.

The Bad: Small technical hitches. Graphics lack luster and vibrancy. Minor pacing issue. AI and real-time control can fail every once in a while.

The Ugly: Even the Blu-Ray disc will require a 25-minute installation.

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Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

After reading The Good, some may ask, "how can you know if it's 'satisfying and fulfilling to the max' if the game didn't grab you?"

My answer to that is because the game ALMOST got me, and it takes one HELL of a production to give me any sense of fulfillment in an environment I don't like. Combine this with the many, many people who name ME2 as one of their most satisfying experiences of the generation, and I think it deserves to be mentioned as one of the positives.

Jawknee
Jawknee
10 years ago

"more plastic than vibrant"

Unreal Trademark.

Good review. Frylock guessed the score correctly.

frylock25
frylock25
10 years ago

yea i did. i had a feeling after reading the editorial yesterday that it would be right in there. considering i was .01 off of my high guess, i could just sense it in Ben's words.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
10 years ago

That is something I have mentioned before with other games as well. This generation, the HD vissuals are like a double edged sword. They can be lifelike, photo-realistic, artful and incredibly detailed, and on occasion, they can look like the objects on screen are injection molded, painted figures. It can be distracting to an extent, and it's a disappointment to me that any game falls foul of it. Considering that so many games get it just right, you expect that most major devs have figured this out already.

Ah well, such is life.

Qubex
Qubex
10 years ago

Yip, it is a great review. I have been very interested in purchasing this game but it will have to wait until after Killzone 3.

It's on my list anyways, and well done to Frylock for guessing that score, it's usually not easy to pick what Ben will give a game…

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

Ludicrous_Liam
Ludicrous_Liam
10 years ago

Yeah I hear you Ben, I remember playing the demo & I saw why people loved it but when it said "Want some more?" I was like…"Eh, nah thanks.".

frylock25
frylock25
10 years ago

ha ha just press the button once and wait.

Jawknee
Jawknee
10 years ago

Dude?

Ludicrous_Liam
Ludicrous_Liam
10 years ago

Ah fack it I just deleted about 20 of them! Sigh..can't delete them now as I refreshed the page…screw it I'll keep my mouth shut next time XD


Last edited by Ludicrous_Liam on 1/22/2011 5:40:27 PM

Pandacastro
Pandacastro
10 years ago

Lol you make up most of the comments, just press submit comment once.

Edit:Forgot to press reply to liam.


Last edited by Pandacastro on 1/22/2011 5:40:26 PM

Ludicrous_Liam
Ludicrous_Liam
10 years ago

Yeah I'm impatient 😛 That & the PS3 browser is just plain irratating & makes me want to jump out the windown as I can't contain my fustration lol.

Qubex
Qubex
10 years ago

Yes, the PS3 browser is incredibly poor, not to mention the memory constraints it has to work in which can make things worse under heavy page loads 🙁

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

Pandacastro
Pandacastro
10 years ago

At least this site works well with PS3's browser.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Cool review, outsiders won't really understand it but PSXE readers know what's up. And since everyone says it has improved since the demo that is just icing on the cake. It definitely sounds like more of an RPG than the demo suggested and that's cool. As soon as I have time I'll find this sucker somewhere.

The complaints you have don't bother me at all because (as this is Bioware) and I've been playing Dragon Age Origins today I can tell you all those and worse exist in DAO but that doesn't stop me from liking it.

Temjin001
Temjin001
10 years ago

Yes, I liked that Ben attacked the TPS/mild RPG myth about the game. I was always semi-annoyed by how frequent people would cite that myth on message boards. BUt I also knew, it was being generated from a gross lack of experience, basically ignorance, altogether. And if I felt compelled to respond by putting out those fires every time I saw them… I'd be a full-time fire fighter =p

Oxvial
Oxvial
10 years ago

Taking into account the improvements over the demo and the dlc packed I'm okay with this review, I knew this wasn't going to get a 10 like all other sites loves to give it.


Last edited by Oxvial on 1/22/2011 5:52:55 PM

Oxvial
Oxvial
10 years ago

Just one thumb down? meh you ME fanboys are nothing!, the Call of Duty fanboys would give 20 at this point.

aaronisbla
aaronisbla
10 years ago

it could be they didn't care and are too busy playing ME2…

tes37
tes37
10 years ago

I was going to pass on this, but now I've decided to go ahead and get it. Everything I've been hearing has me convinced that I will like this game. I bought LBP2 and Brutal Legend the other day, but I want to finish Sly Cooper before starting those.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Ah screw it, this review has me amped and I just found it for $47 shipped. I'm buyin' it. I'll just find a way to make the time to play 🙂

frylock25
frylock25
10 years ago

did you win a lotto ticket? lol

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

If I won the lottery I'd buy you all a copy of any game you wanted 🙂

Lawless SXE
Lawless SXE
10 years ago

Someone buy this man a lottery ticket.

Temjin001
Temjin001
10 years ago

Sweet, welcome to the club =)
Nice score on $47.. that's pretty low for a new PS3 game.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Yeah, I got lucky i guess.

frylock25
frylock25
10 years ago

keep your luck up and go get that lotto ticket lol

PasteNuggs
PasteNuggs
10 years ago

So would the consensus say that the demo was just a bad preview of the game and that it is actually good? I wasn't planning on getting this but I just might have to now after reading this review. Ahh, so many games, so little time.

Jawknee
Jawknee
10 years ago

I am a firm believer in demo's helping people decide on a game or not but the demo released a few weeks ago was crappy. If you're a PS+ member, download the 60 minute trial. It's a much better demonstration and allows you to spend more than 10 minutes with the game to help you decide.

PasteNuggs
PasteNuggs
10 years ago

I'm not a plus member but my interests generally fall in line with what is constantly praised on here so I think i'll be picking this up at some point. Thanks for the info.

ZettaiSeigi
ZettaiSeigi
10 years ago

The obvious thing you will notice upon playing the final version is that there's hardly any screen tearing on the cutscenes and there are lesser frames dropped.

I bought my copy yesterday and played it when I got home. I was expecting to see the flaws I saw when playing the demo, and I was impressed that I did not see a lot of them on the retail copy.

Going back to the topic, excellent review Ben! I myself am not a big fan of sci-fi storylines and settings, but I am liking ME2 so far. So I agree when you said "It takes one HELL of a production to give me any sense of fulfillment in an environment I don't like."

So yes, this is a great game and I am glad that I didn't have to buy a 360 just to play it.

Beamboom
Beamboom
10 years ago

With a game as huge as this I can't help but think it's completely impossible to give a fair impression in a demo using two small scenes, cause the game is so much more than any particular scene.
Demos are best suited for the simple straightforward games, like your average fps/tps. Is it smooth looking, easy handling, good visuals? Ok cool then you know approximately what you get. Case closed.

frylock25
frylock25
10 years ago

well the review makes me want to play it. i have so many games goin right now i cant spend the money for this. but at some point i will get my hands on it.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

I didn't play the demo, but I seriously doubt ten minutes will give you any sense of what this game is really like.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Unsurprisingly, it made the mistake of focusing on the shooting and just added a smattering of dialogue options.

Jawknee
Jawknee
10 years ago

The demo was crap anyway. If there are any PS+ members who are one the fence, I suggest they download the 60 minute trial. It was enough for me to decide whether or not I wanted it without the distraction of frame rate and tearing problems.

Shams
Shams
10 years ago

Some games aren't demo-friendly. Some games aren't review-friendly. But, ME2 reviews very well, and even it's lowest scores are telling of that. It starts fresh, and ends with a bang, and you'll be coming back for more soon, enough.

Temjin001
Temjin001
10 years ago

Would it kill Sony to give a person even a 2-3 hour trial for PS+ members?..
With just 60 min, I'd be like, "CRAP! I can't take even this phone call, my time is ticking down tick-tok tick-tok.."

AcHiLLiA
AcHiLLiA
10 years ago

I did to feel that the demo felt crappy, anyways I will check into this game later, heck my cousin has the game so I will check it out at his place.


Last edited by AcHiLLiA on 1/23/2011 12:30:09 PM

Shams
Shams
10 years ago

I myself preferred it to both RDR and AC:2, partly because the interactive drama a la Heavy Rain kept me engrossed and involved in the story throughout and 'til the very end, as your actions do have an effect on the consequences, where as the other games felt simply like the traditional fair of gameplay (albeit perhaps better gameplay) punctuated by cutscenes.

At the same time, I don't want to underrate the action element of the gameplay. Besides offering plenty of replay value through the actions and consequences in the story (which characters you choose to recruit, which relationships you decide to develop, even how you upgrade your ship influences the ending), there is wealth of replay value involving which character class you use, which skills you decide to acquire and upgrade, which members you decide to recruit, whom you select for your squad, which skills and weapons you choose to select and upgrade for them, and the multiple difficulty settings. Your character class (Adept, Engineer, Infiltrator, Sentinel, Soldier, Vanguard) will also affect which weapons and skills you can acquire and how much you can upgrade. Which members you decide to recruit, and which relationships you decide to develop will affect which bonus skills can be acquired and developed, in addition to how you choose to select and develop your squad, which you determine at the beginning and ending of every mission (with the exception of the character missions which will have the storied character preselected). When you start the game, you can choose for the game to automatically upgrade your squad members at the end of every mission, or have it so that you manually upgrade them to your own liking.

There is so much to this game, that even two playthroughs won't be sufficient for experiencing everything. And this is yet another category which ME2 excels at over RDR and AC. The other games are great for the first playthrough, but aside from the MP, they offer little incentive for picking it up again. ME2 is one of the few games that I played through again right after finishing it. And I'll definitely play it again on the ps3, to have my save file data ready for ME3. I figure this is why Ben gave it a 9.6 for replay value.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

If someone chooses auto-upgrade, that person is not an RPG fan. 😉

Shams
Shams
10 years ago

Heh. I seem to remember someone complaining about being lost staring at menus in Demon's Souls 😉

But really, you do have to manually upgrade Shepherd in both cases, and if you haven't played the prequel, and have no clue what the classes and skills are about, selecting auto for your first playthrough maybe a better idea than selecting manual, upgrading your side characters along a particular path, only to find out 20 hours later you completely wasted their experience points. However, later in the game, for some amount of element-zero, you can reconfigure your characters.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

No RPG has ever confused me, including Demon's Souls. The balance issue in DS concerned me, but that's something different.

And I think the class you choose in ME2 has a more direct impact on the difficulty level (rather than allocation of Exp) but then again, I haven't played it for as long as others.

Shams
Shams
10 years ago

Sure, Ben. Nice review by the way.

Underdog15
Underdog15
10 years ago

The class you choose only has an impact at the start. It doesn't have a very major effect in the long run. Stat allocation plays a huge part. Basically, your life is easier if you decide to make your character especially good at a couple things, and not everything. If you're a heavy magic user with high magic stats and come across something that magic doesn't hurt much, morph to body form and drop a blue stone to get a friend to help. 🙂

matt99
matt99
10 years ago

Like so many others the demo made me question a purchase, but after reading this review and hearing what everyone around here has to say about it I think it's worth using my last christmas gift card on.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Since I just made my purchase online already, I'll use my last gift card on Dragon Age II I think.

checkudes
checkudes
10 years ago

Ahh i was gonna write a long ass post but seriously. Good review, awesome game in my opinion.
Some gamers are so stupid and let their fanboy'ism get in their way. If you enjoy a solid storyline along with some great shooter/rpg elements then just pick up this game. Weeoooooooooooooooo

Clamedeus
Clamedeus
10 years ago

And how do you know if it's fanboyism?It could be because of preference and it's not the kind of game they like.

checkudes
checkudes
10 years ago

Oh by the way, judging a game of this caliber by a demo is just stupid. OHRÃ¥

Jawknee
Jawknee
10 years ago

Uh huh, then why did Bioware release one if not to give people a taste of what they will get to help them decide if they wanted the game or not?

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