Another annoyance comes in having to occasionally navigate the Firewalker, a vehicle used in a couple of the DLC packs now included on the Blu-Ray disc. The vehicle is a high-speed hovercraft that has the ability to jump great heights and fire a high-powered cannon, but it does neither of these things particularly well. The cannon sometimes misses targets lined up squarely in its sights from medium range, and several platforming sections are clumsy at best. More than once the Firewalker would either go through a rock layer as if it weren’t there, and there was one instance where the collision detection went haywire and the Firewalker went through a moving rock I was supposed to land on and ride. Not a lot of fun had on the Firewalker, to say the least.
Graphics & Sound
While the story and gameplay are identical to its PC/360 counterpart, there is one major technical difference in that the PS3 version runs on the engine being used for the upcoming Mass Effect 3.
At its best, it’s just as BioWare have said — the game looks at least as good as the Xbox 360 version. While I lack the knowledge and equipment to break down the technical minutae, the game featured the same variation of gorgeous environments. Whether you’re on the rundown Krogan homeworld of Tuchanka, the Asari metropolis of Nos Astra on the planet Illium, or the seedy underbelly of the space station Omega, BioWare put a lot of care into crafting their staggeringly vast universe.
A difference in the PS3 version that seems to be purely aesthetic is that some of the lighting throughout the game has been changed. Take a look at Eurogamer’s massive screenshot comparison gallery and see for yourself. I’m still unsure as to the reasoning behind the changes, and the new lighting is neither better nor worse in my opinion, but there it is.
While it’s all gravy when the game is firing on all cylinders, I experienced some genuinely ugly textures while playing through the Project Overlord mission pack. Curiously enough, these weren’t apparent until I was exploring the fields of Aite on the Firewalker (more hate for that wretched machine); rather than loading up what should’ve been standard grass and rock textures as seen in this (spoiler-free) 360 video, the ground was a sea of green and brown pixels. No joke, it was like traveling on a sea of digital camouflage. Furthermore, the tall grass in the above video would only sprout up — literally — when I was within about 10-15 feet of it. It’s not an isolated incident, either. How this got through QA when you spend 10-20 minutes travelling that field is beyond me.
Thankfully, the audio is mostly fantastic. The musical score was one of my favorites out of the last year, with Jack Wall’s spacey orchestral tunes being as relaxing or tense as the situation dictates. The voice acting is also top-shelf stuff, featuring some pretty high-profile sci-fi talent … plus Martin Sheen just for good measure. And while both male and female Shepard do a great job, my recent playthrough as FemShep leaves no doubt in my mind that Jennifer Hale is the superior Shepard and doesn’t get nearly enough recognition for her work.
The audio doesn’t quite get off scot-free, though, and is prone to a few hiccups of its own. Nothing deal-breaking, but occasionally the sound effects in cutscenes don’t quite sync up — while lip sync will be spot-on, sometimes gunfire or other loud noises will be off by about a second.
Of all the games that I’ve bought for my Xbox 360 in my 4 years of owning one, Mass Effect 2 is easily the best game I’ve played on it. A year later, I fell in love with it all over again on the PS3, despite some of the technical snags I hit along the way. I’m not sure if there were difficulties with the ME3 engine or if it’s the old “PS3s are hard” adage, but the game is far from unplayable when it hits a few rough patches and is absolutely sublime when it’s running smoothly. This is more than we could say for Fallout: New Vegas, at least.
Just as importantly, I didn’t find myself pining for the characters that I’d interacted with on side missions in the first game that would’ve showed up in my ME2 playthrough on 360; in this case they simply don’t show up. While it’s fun to push around the sleazeball nightclub manager from ME1 at the sleazy nightclub in ME2, it ultimately doesn’t matter. Perhaps I’m swayed by the fact that I played ME1 when it was new in 2007, but the original’s subpar pacing in its first act, along with clunkier combat and inventory systems, make it hard to go back after playing its sequel for the last year.
Is it the overwhelmingly definitive version that I thought it’d be? Not quite, but if you’re jumping into the Mass Effect universe as a PS3-only gamer, or even a multiplatform owner that’s simply late to the party, you can’t go wrong with picking up Mass Effect 2 on PlayStation 3.