Product Type: Electronic Arts PS3 games
Newest Review: ... whereby Shepard must try and repair the SR 1, until his/her spacesuit malfunctions, and Shepard is killed. Mass Effect 2 truly start... more
Side boobs and shotguns, hell yeah!
Mass Effect 2 (PS3)
Member Name: Danscomp
Mass Effect 2 (PS3)
Advantages: Peerless space-faring RPG
Disadvantages: That bloody lift!
My favourite Genre of game is RPG. Role playing games, when done well, have excellent and interesting storylines that are well paced and engaging. They are customisable in terms of statistics and abilities and contain NPCs (Non-player characters) that you actually care about. The best of them contain believable gaming worlds that feel immersive.
The PS3 has always, always suffered when it comes to RPGs. There quite simply are not that many to choose from. What there has been, have usually been lacklustre with just the excellent Fallout and Skyrim in a pantheon of patheticness.
Bioware have an enviable pedigree for RPGs. Their best included the Baldur's gate series, Neverwinter nights and Knights of the old republics. The original Mass effect was hit and miss. The story showed promise, particularly with the NPCs. It even introduced the concept of computerised side-boob, but the gaming mechanics were inelegant and the vehicle sections were tedious.
Then came Mass effect 2, which most folks expected to be just more of the same. It blew all of us away, becoming one of the highest rated games ever made.
Cool Alien chicks
It is far in the future. Humans are the new kids on the intergalactic block. That doesn't mean that they dance really badly and have no singing talent, it means that there are a whole bunch of older races out there that are unsure and untrusting of these Johnny-come-latelies. Commander Shepherd (you) became the first human member of the elite group known as the Spectres in Mass Effect.
Shepherd can be male or female. In the brilliant intro sequence, you are acquainted with a new enemy. The Reaper known as Sovereign, that huge living machine you killed at the end of the first game, used the Geth as its pawns. But there is a whole Reaper fleet in dark space, and they have found new pawns, the Collectors. And the thing they have chosen to collect are humans. Wholesale.
It's up to you to stop them. Oh, did I mention that you're dead?
It's difficult to come up with unique races that are believable. Bioware, unlike in the ho-hum Dragon Age universe, has managed to create some memorable races for Mass Effect. Given many of your crew are aliens that is no bad thing at all. I will summarise the major ones:
Asari - All Asari have feminine appearance and characteristics, but are capable of reproduction with any other race regardless of sex. The child will always be an Asari, but may pick up traits from the alien parent. Reproducing with another Asari is frowned upon as the result is not considered to add anything to the existing gene pool. Asari excel in most things; particularly biotics. A telekinekic power that is part biological, part mechanical.
Drell - Drell are a reptilian race from a dying planet. Rescued by the Hanar, a spacefaring civilisation, they tend to be deeply religious and few leave the Hanar world, where they have fully integrated. Those that do are unable to settle there.
Salarians - Warm blooded Amphibians operating at a hyperactive rate. They hardly sleep and tend to be highly intelligent. This comes at a price, with few Salarians living beyond 40. Excellent researchers and scientists with photographic memories, they were responsible for raising the Krogan to stop the insect-like Rachni, threatening the galaxy. They were also responsible for the creation of the Genophage when the Krogan proved hard to contain.
Turians - An avian species with a militaristic bent, Turians are not warlike like the Krogan, but are naturally disciplined in a way that makes them good soldiers. They also have a bitter history with Humans that is only slowly healing.
Quarians - Nomadic aliens, forced from their homeworld by their own creations, the machines known as Geth that they tried to destroy when they became self-aware. Now they hide beneath encounter suits, having lost much of their immune systems through generations in space. Quarians live on an interstellar flotilla, maintaining it through direct trade and pilgrimages during which they offer their abilities to other races.
Geth - Representing the bulk of your enemies in the first mass effect, the Geth not only won the war forced upon them, they became increasingly more powerful. Their only experience of Organics a negative one. Upon encountering the Reaper Sovereign, they split into two groups. One that chose to follow "the old machines" and one that did not.
Krogan - Humped bipeds weighing close to a metric ton. The planet they come from is host to a number of extremely aggressive species, none more so than the Krogan who, before discovery by the Salarians had turned their own world into a smoking cesspit.
Once saviors by defeating the Rachni, Krogan population numbers off-world exploded. Born to fight, they quickly became conquerors. The "solution" was the Genophage. A biologically engineered virus that does not kill its host, but ensures only one in a hundred births live. The surviving Krogan have become bitter outcasts, living only for the next battle.
Blast it, fry it, freeze it, shock it. Technologic.
Onto game mechanics. Mass Effect 2 gets it just right. It has fine honed the character classes and skill trees into something that feels balanced. You get the opportunity to change the appearance of your Shepherd on creation, though the result that looked so good on the intro screen can often look like Quasimodo once the game starts. An option to redesign in-game would have been most welcome.
There are an array of classes and four types of powers; ammo, biotic, combat and technical. The classes are adept (biotic specialist), Engineer (technical specialist, offensive), Infiltrator (Sniper), Sentinel (technical specialist, defensive), Soldier (Assault rifle specialist) and Vangard (close combat specialist).
Most classes have access to a certain pool of common powers, such as ammo of the deep-freeze or deep fry variety. There are other ammo types, but the explanation would mean a very long review. Each class has powers unique to it.
The Adept can suck enemies into a singularity. The Engineer can send out a floating combat drone. The infiltrator can become invisible, breaking the cloak for a perfect shot. A sentinel can enhance his or her own armour. A Soldier's adrenaline rush slows time and enhances damage. A Vangard's charge encases them in biotic energy and throws them at high speed into a target, causing massive impact damage but leaving them exposed and in the middle of some fairly narked-off enemies. Fun for everyone!
There is a good cover system in effect, which allows you to hide behind obstacles to avoid the worst of the incoming fire. Useful while you figure out what power to use for that situation. You can still be hit behind cover if the attacker is higher than you are.
All your NPCs are directly controllable in battle. If not controlled, they will use their powers as they have been instructed to. You can override this at any point. As some powers can be combined for extra damage, it's often best to. As you pause the game when the selection wheel is up, you don't get mullered while making your choice.
You have a whole pool of collectable NPCs, though you are limited to two on any one mission. All the cutscenes feature the ones that you've chosen. Dialog and extra scenes can also be triggered dependant on who you have where and when.
All have a rewarding backstory that unlocks extra powers and outfits, and gives them greater odds of survival in the game's legendary (and unsavable during) suicide mission. But don't worry. It's possible to survive the game with a full complement. It's also possible to lose almost everyone.
How's that lift powered, coal?
The PS3 had to wait, but got an edition of Mass Effect 2 with the latest graphics engine and free expansion packs, including extra characters. The excellent Kasumi's memories, Lair of the Shadow Broker and the humdrum overlord. You have a number of romance options available, including same-sex. That might raise a few eyebrows, particularly for a game rated 15, but I guess we are all in 2013. If you can shoot numerous aliens in the face, it's hard to argue for excluding something that's not shown in any graphic way.
It's hard to find something not to like in this game. Within your starship, transitioning between decks takes bloody ages, for a reason I've never been able to figure out. There's also a system in place where you have to scan planets for useful ores and elements that can get tedious.
The graphics in this game are jaw-droppingly stunning in places. The level of detail on armour, facial details, background effects and some great locations. All with no discernable lag. There are plenty of trophies to earn which also enhances replayability. The voice acting is never anything less than excellent. Martin Sheen as the illusive man frequently steals the show.
The plot and pacing is perfection. The game's potential length offers around thirty hours of solid experience. You will feel like you've made some real friends along the way, and best of all - the choices you made will follow you into the conclusion to the series. The not as great, but still enjoyable Mass Effect 3. But out of all three games, this is the clear winner.
For a mere £12, this is a must-have game for the PS3 and one of the best RPGs ever made.
Summary: An unforgettable gaming experience, open to much replayability
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