Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mass Defect

Considering that the first Mass Effect game was exclusive to the Xbox 360 and PC it was obvious that PS3 owners would miss out on the sequel as well. However the fine folks at EA and Bioware thought otherwise and have brought this galactic adventure to Sony’s black box with a few extras to keep it up to speed.

While Xbox 360 and PC owners have the option of importing their Mass Effect 1 save file to see how decisions made in the first game tie-in here, the PS3 version gets an interactive comic, a sort of a digital “Choose Your Own Adventure” book to make a few key decisions that would impact the game world and introduce you to the series.

Also it includes all the downloadable missions on the disc itself adding around 6 hours more to your playtime.
In spite of all these upgrades and bonuses to accommodate the PS3, Mass Effect 2 feels like a quick and dirty port for a lot of reasons. For starters, there’s a lengthy hour long installation process onto your PS3 hard drive, hilarious considering that it’s only a 5GB install.

In order to access the interactive comic you need to download 676MB worth of data, which is preposterous given that it could fit on the disc itself.

Even more preposterous are some of the bugs present. In some scenes the game ran slower than a powerpoint presentation, yes it literally crawled. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a nasty glitch that corrupts your save file, forcing you to restart the game from the beginning. In short, it’s a mess only compounded by the fact that the manual is four sparse rags of paper, shoddily done in the name of saving the environment.

If you somehow manage to overlook these flaws you’d appreciate the streamlined approach.For instance, all the throwbacks to older role-playing games such as detailed menus, character statistics and levels have all been culled to their bare essentials.

Your character only gains experience after missions, the dialog system is realistic and you don’t have to worry about clunky vehicular controls. Include a better, cleaner interface and combat that has more in common with Gears of War and you have a sequel that has more in common with The Empire Strikes Back than Transformers 2.
And there’s a solid story too, without spoiling much you’re back from a more than certain death, have to traverse the far reaches of the galaxy in a brand new spaceship and recruit a motley crew of aliens, humans and robots in what would culminate to be a suicide mission to save the universe.

Minus every possible technical niggle and idiotic design call this looks every bit like 2010’s game of the year. But, considering that the PC version is available at one-fifth the cost and playable on most machines you could do better.

So much so that we’re hard-pressed to recommend this to anyone but the most hardcore of PlayStation 3 fanboys.

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