We have seriously mixed feelings about Mass Effect 2 coming to PS3. On one hand, Mass Effect 2 is one of the greatest games of this console generation and anything that makes it accessible to more people is definitely a plus. On the other hand though, we can't shake our disappointment that the first Mass Effect won't be available for PS3 as well. For PS3 owners who don’t also own a 360, starting from the second game is definitely better than not playing it at all, but it's still unfortunate that it means missing out on the rich introduction to the world and history of Mass Effect that the first game presents so expertly.
Here are the basic facts you need to know about the PS3 version, regardless of whether you own a 360:
-The events of the first game are presented in a brief graphic novel-style recap where you set up your ME2 game by making all the crucial branching decisions from ME1.
-The PS3 version comes with these DLC packs free of additional charge: Kasumi: Stolen Memory, Firewalker, Overlord, and Lair of the Shadow Broker.
-It's on one disc.
In our playtime with Mass Effect 2 at EA last week, we got to see the graphic novel in its entirety, so it's hard to talk about it without doing a mini-review of it. The novel serves a dual purpose – to catch up newcomers with the events of the first Mass Effect, and to allow players to make the same pivotal plot decisions that were presented in ME1 that change aspects of ME2.
A lot of care obviously went into creating the graphic novel – BioWare teamed up with Dark Horse Comics so the level of artistic quality would be high. Depending on whether you chose a male or female Shepard, the art and voiceover in the novel is different to reflect the correct gender, too. The "interactive" part comes in at points where you're prompted to make a binary decision, like choosing between two love interests, which character you sacrifice to save another, and so on.
Despite the quality of the presentation, even the best of graphic novels could never do justice to the experience of Mass Effect 1, especially given how short the recap is. It does an excellent job of hitting the major plot points concisely – it's as if the Wikipedia plot summary was given a voiceover and set to pretty comic book-style art. What you don’t get is a feel for the actual universe of Mass Effect, especially in terms of the personality of the characters, getting to know the various alien races and so on.
The succinctness of the recap causes a more specific problem too – because only the basic plot is presented, it's impossible to make truly informed decisions. For example, I picked Liara as my love interest in ME1 because Ashley was a racist asshole once you got to know her (not to mention Kaiden was as boring as a sack of rocks). But the way the comic presents the choice, it seems like a betrayal to pick Liara over Ashley because all you really know is that Ashley has been with the squad longer and has been loyal to Shepard, whereas Liara just seems like a sexy, exotic newcomer enticing Shepard away. It bothered me that my decisions would have been totally different if I only had the graphic novel to base them on, compared to playing the game. To me, the "interactive" part of the novel is only successful if players end up making the same choices they would have if they played the game.
Ultimately though, the problem is that there's no substitute for actually playing the game. But since we have to face the reality that the original Mass Effect is never coming out for PS3, the graphic novel recap will have to suffice. On the plus side, it does allow you to play through your Mass Effect 2 game as if you had actually played ME1, so at least PS3 players won't be penalized in any way.
Aside from the graphic novel, I also played through the Archangel mission on the PS3 version (#1 Archangel fan <3333) and everything seemed in order. The biggest difference is that the shoulder trigger/buttons are reversed, so R1 fires your gun while the L2/R2 triggers bring up your weapons and powers wheels. It's a change that definitely feels weird if you're used to the 360 version. It looked great though, and we're told that there are some noticeable graphical upgrades to the PS3 version, particularly with color saturation, especially with blacker blacks (we're told this is really apparent in the scenes with the Illusive Man).
Bottom line: I don't see many people jumping the 360 ship in favor of the PS3 version, but I really hope that PS3-exclusive owners will give the Mass Effect series a chance even if they aren't able to play Mass Effect 1, assuming BioWare hasn't botched the PS3 version in some way that we're currently unaware of, which seems unlikely at this point. Look for our full review about a month from now, when the game comes out on January 18, 2011.
Dec 16, 2010