January 28, 2011
Now that Mass Effect 2 is out on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, I can finally answer the question: Which version is best? I recently reviewed Mass Effect 2 on PlayStation 3 and called it the best version available. Focusing solely on value, that's completely true. But all three versions of Mass Effect 2 have their own strengths and weaknesses worth discussing.
Many who took issue with my statement about the superiority of the PlayStation 3 version did so for two primary reasons: save importation from the original Mass Effect, possible only on the PC and Xbox 360, and stunning visual fidelity that can only be attained on PC. Both are fair gripes.
If you're looking for the unabridged and fully complete version of Mass Effect 2, then you may want to stay away from the PlayStation 3 release of the game. The original Mass Effect was published by Microsoft and will never find its way to Sony's PlayStation 3. That's a fact that PS3 gamers simply have to deal with. The good news is that BioWare and Darkhorse Comics crafted a bit of a workaround in an interactive digital comic that's only available to PlayStation 3 owners via the Cerberus Network. As long as you have a voucher code that comes with every new version of the game, you'll be able to download the comic free of charge (though it can be purchased for those of you who buy the game used). The comic doesn't replace the experience of having played the original Mass Effect, but it does bridge the gap for gamers who didn't play the story-rich first title, and it does so fairly well.
Gamers who played through Mass Effect 2 on the Xbox 360 or PC versions may scoff at the notion that this comic somehow makes every aspect of the story coherent, and they're right. You simply cannot have the full Mass Effect Trilogy experience on the PlayStation 3. But this may not bother too many gamers, especially those who are new to the franchise. After all, the original Mass Effect, while a great experience in its own right, is still considered an inferior product to the sequel. So the PlayStation 3 version of the game is great for those who want to cut right to the chase and get in on the action.
Mass Effect 2 no doubt looks best on a beastly PC rig, but I find griping about the graphical look of the three versions needless. After all, you're playing a great-looking game no matter which platform you decide to work your way through. And while ME2 on the PlayStation 3 runs on the Mass Effect 3 engine, the changes aren't mind-blowing. In many ways, the graphical differences between the versions are negligible and unimportant. A pretty game is a pretty game, and Mass Effect 2 has a decidedly pretty look on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
Where the PlayStation 3 version really shines is with the package's value. The Xbox 360 and PC versions don't include Mass Effect 2's most compelling DLC unless you pay extra for it. The Xbox 360 version even comes on two separate discs, a cumbersome solution in gaming these days. That just goes to show Mass Effect 2's scope. Regardless, the entire game fits on a single Blu-ray disc, and it comes with most of the DLC you had to pay for on Xbox 360 and PC.
Going down in flames.
True, you can find Mass Effect 2 for the Xbox 360 and PC for cheaper than a brand new PlayStation 3 copy, but you're also not getting an identical product. The fact that Mass Effect 2 on PS3 comes wrapped with much of the game's pertinent DLC makes it a compelling package for the PlayStation 3 faithful. Not only do you not have to buy a lot of DLC on PS3, but you don't have to download it, install it, and figure out how it fits into the story. It's all right there for you from the get-go.
Based on all of this, the PlayStation 3 version of Mass Effect 2 is the best stand-alone product when compared to its counterparts on Xbox 360 and PC. It unequivocally gives you the most bang for your buck while attempting to offer as seamless an experience as possible. However, this shouldn't persuade those who began their quest on PC or Xbox 360 to suddenly jump ship. If you look at the three Mass Effect games as one big experience without boundaries between titles, then you're already on the right track by playing on Xbox 360 or PC. But if you want to get in on the action on the PlayStation 3 and have never experienced Mass Effect before, then Mass Effect 2 on the PS3 is definitely the way to go.