Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
Mass Effect 2 is finally here on the PS3, and it was worth every agonizing second spent waiting for it.
Published: February 7, 2011
The final piece of DLC, Lair of the Shadow Broker, is, without a doubt, the most tightly-packed dose of information, insanely imaginative locales and callbacks to the first game BioWare has created yet for the game, and having it as part and parcel with the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 is single-handedly the reason to experience the game. Yes, even more than the vanilla campaign. It is, hands-down, the high water mark for DLC, and a testament to just how creative BioWare's staff continues to be, as it adds things that can continue to reward across the entire rest of the campaign depending on when the missions are undertaken.
That's actually one of the reasons why I've stayed intentionally nebulous about describing the plot; aside from a few introductory missions, and the endgame to bookend the adventure, every single thing you do in Mass Effect 2 is done at your pace, and in your order. No two games will ever follow the same path, class, play style or party members, and somehow, miraculously, the game seems to be equally great for anyone playing it, which is just mind-blowing, really. Consider this: your first optional character may not be a friend's, but that character you got and the character they did -- including the ones added with DLC -- all have their own reactions to major plot points. It may not seem like a big deal, but that's a ridiculous number of permutations to figure out, and recorded dialogue to go along with it.
No matter who you recruit or what missions you take, though, there is a sort of beginning, middle and end, and despite being a game so heavily weighted toward investigation or conversation and firefights, neither ever feels at odds with the other. Quite the contrary, in fact; they dovetail into each other and create a kind of slow-burn addiction that I can only describe as sublime given the fact that I'm quite ready to spend another 52 hours with the game after (finally) finishing this review.
It's actually something I contemplated while playing through the game: is my experience the one I should be reviewing, or should I be considering other friends? What about people like me that held off on playing the sequel, but played the first game on PC? What about people that never played the first game and are jumping in cold? In the end, after plenty of chatting with friends, it was made abundantly clear that just about everyone that played the game couldn't stop raving about things -- the final end boss was a little goofy, sure, but the ride was so damned enjoyable that it honestly didn't matter.
That wait, however, has resulted in some interesting changes to the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2. Not having experienced the second game on the PC like I did the first (and that's a blessing, I assure you; nothing trumps the PC version's lightning quick load times and unparalleled visuals, and ignorance is bliss), I can't make any sort of cross-platform comparisons, but I can explain that BioWare smartly opted to just dump the Mass Effect 2 assets into the Mass Effect 3 engine, which results in a game that's actually shadowed and lit differently (again, though, how much is largely a mystery to me). The result is a game that apparently looks better, but runs about as well as one could hope, dropping frames occasionally, but rarely (if ever) in firefight situations, and is teeming with visual treats -- at least most of the time.