What fuels the console wars? Exclusives. And for the past three years, Microsoft has been able to dangle Mass Effect’s sweet blend of shooting, chatting and alien-romancing over Sony as a primary reason to choose Xbox 360 instead of PS3. But now BioWare has opted to share its critically and publically acclaimed space saga, and as you’d expect, Mass Effect 2 is every bit as stirring, exciting and engrossing as it was a year ago.
But just for the sake of prodding the ridiculous “hurr 360 durr PS3” argument, let’s take a look at some direct screen comparisons. I took these using the exact same TV and component cable, with whatever default settings each console has. And guess what? Most of them are identical.
BioWare says itused the Mass Effect 3 engine to create ME2 PS3, but as someone who’s played through ME2 three times now, I can barely notice the so-called improvements. Superficial differences? Sure. Noteworthy enhancements that make this a “definitive” version? Nah.
Above: Sexy Cerberus operative Miranda (the one withdat ass) as seen in the opening moments
Above: The enigmatic Illusive Man, from the same scene. Here, the 360 version has blue lighting on his face, while PS3 does not. Surely a choice, not a hardware limitation
Above: Regardless of version, Illusive Man still has jagged-ass fingers
Above: The squad screen, where you adjust your character’s abilities. PS3 is notably brighter and is shaded differently. We kinda lean towards PS3 on this, but it’s not a make or break difference
Above: A shot that’s split down the middle, half 360 and half PS3. Pretend you can tell them apart
Above: Which version is this?? I’ll never tell!
Basically, there’s no good god damn reason to aggressively prefer one over the other. Both look amazing and animate the same, so who cares. The only hitches I found in the PS3 version were some sound effects not playing when they should (explosions, door-opening noises etc), but this was neither consistent nor widespread, so I can’t really dock points.
Things that ARE clearly better
We’re not (overly) lazy bums, but the very idea of “Insert Disc 2” is becoming antiquated, just like flipping Laserdiscs or rewinding a cassette. While the 360 version shipped on two discs, the PS3 version fits nicely on one Blu-ray, so there’s no swapping at any time. Not a massive boon, but some of us really, really don’t want to get up.
Also on the same disc: all the major DLC expansions released throughout 2010. This includes Kasumi: Stolen Memory, Overlordand the vastly important Lair of the Shadow Broker, plus Firewalker and a large assortment of DLC weapons. Combined they’re worth about $25 at this point, so their inclusion helps offset the hefty $60 price tag of year-old game.
One of the biggest recurring complaints about the original ME2 was the plodding mining minigame. See, you can upgrade your weapons, abilities, ship and so on, but you need materials gathered from all the various planets scattered across the galaxy. While it is fun to zip around the space map and see each world, physically dragging a cursor over the surface in search of goodies can get old fast. Now imagine said cursor m..o..v..e..s v..e…r…r..RY GODAMN SLOWLY. No longer in the PS3 version – that thing zips around at twice the speed, significantly reducing its annoyance factor. This was addressed on 360 with a patch, but PS3 gets it (and other slight performance patches) loaded in right away.
The one big problem
One of the biggest perks of ME2 was the ability to import your save data from the first game. Major decisions you made, be they who lived or died, or whether you were a Paragon or Renegade, carried over into ME2 and had observable changes to the experience. But PS3 has no original Mass Effect, so BioWare had Dark Horse Comics create a 12 minute motion comic that summarizes the plots points of the first game and offers you a chance to make some of those crucial decisions.
Above: Will the Rachni queen live or die? Your call! (Sort of)
While this is a nice inclusion, and does give you a bird’s-eye view of the major plot points and characters, it doesn’t capture the feeling of the first game at all. Yes you know there’s a council of alien races living on the Citadel, but you have no appreciation for either. You know Ashley is a tough soldier, but her xenophobic opinions of alien life are left out. You know Wrex and Tali are in the game, but their distinct, captivating personalities are lost.
But this is a problem with no good answer. You’ll need some kind of primer before hopping into the dense Mass Effect universe, and this is as good as one can realistically expect. And for what it’s worth, ME2 does a good job of re-iterating these points and eases newcomers into the series, so even if you’ve never played the first game, you shouldn’t feel lost.
Other than this one irresolvable concern, Mass Effect 2 on PS3 is just as brilliant as the 360/PC versions. The writing is just as strong, the suicide-mission storyline still sucks you in and the half-Gears of War, half-Star Trek approach to space operas really does offer something for everyone. In our eyes there’s barely anything wrong with ME2, and we couldn’t be happier to see it come to PS3 – the more the merrier!
Click through for our original review of Mass Effect 2 for specifics on gameplay, plot and characters