I suffer for you guys, I really do. 26 hours of gaming in 48 hours. Ok, so it was a handy excuse to relive the glory days of all weekend gaming. Now that I'm all old and responsible, time to game is less and less available.
I received my copy of the PC version of Mass Effect 2 on Friday, and managed to rush finish it by Sunday afternoon. Still, I blasted through and ignored anything not very essential to the main story.
There’s a lot of info about Mass Effect 2 out there already, be it previews, news, downloadable content, or even Gameplanet’s own Xbox 360 review. Chances are if you are at all interested, you know a fair bit about this game already. So, to be a bit cheeky I'm not going to focus too much on what everyone already knows. Rather, lets look at how this game sits on the PC.
We gave this game a 9.0 for the Xbox 360 version, and I have to say our console team is right on the money. Regardless of platform, Mass Effect 2 is a grand space opera. Easily the best RPG I’ve played, BioWare are definitely on fire at the moment. It starts with a bang, and throwing more action at you this time round, it’s not long before you realise the tweaks to the gameplay were the right idea.
The game is more action focused, and combat has been greatly improved. Yes, scanning planets sucks, but it’s no worse than grinding in most other RPG games. Still, the ability to go hooning around alien planets was a nice touch. With enough discussion, DLC may solve this.
Speaking of which, what’s the point of DLC on day one? It’s not like I’d have finished the game and particularly desired additional content. Are we sure it’s not a cleverly disguised patch? Why wasn’t it included on the install disk? Call me cynical but something doesn't add up.
I don’t know how the game was storyboarded, but I feel sorry whoever is writing the final instalment in the trilogy, as having to deal with so many potential pre-made decisions by players in the prequels will make the third game an absolute nightmare to plan for. I’m already wondering what ramifications a complete and utter bastard approach will have. Like the first game, the paragon renegade system is back, though this time a little more forgiving.
From a technical standpoint, it’s best played on PC, though there are still one or two little issues that bug me. The PC allows you to remove two of the biggest problems that are on console versions, in my opinion at least. First of all, aiming on a mouse is far superior to the Xbox controller. I found the console version slightly frustrating to shoot with. Of course, this is same for any shooter. But the second is the best part of the PC experience. You can install the game on a solid-state drive (SSD) and remove those sodding great load times. With decent PC hardware they can be greatly reduced, which removes the break in immersion
The game runs perfectly on a mid-range system. I have a fairly average dual core machine that’s perhaps two years old, with an ATI 4870 video card. Running at a resolution of 1650x1080, everything was buttery smooth, no slowdown, and the shadows seemed to be much better than the first game. Visual tweaks were evident, and overall it makes for a very pretty game. It would be nice to have some in-game anti-aliasing adjustments, as my ATI card seems a bit picky, but it’s a minor detail.
I played the original Mass Effect on PC, so in theory my save game should have come across. However having played the original in Windows Vista 32bit, and installing the new one on my Windows 7 64bit install, the save games decided this wasn’t on. It was an odd experience running into characters I’d killed off the first time around. But it highlights a potential issue - if you’ve done the upgrade, your Mass Effect save games may or may not transmute into Mass Effect 2. Then there’s those who bough the original on DVD and bought the sequel on Steam. Getting complicated yet?
Thankfully there’s now a downloadable save game transfer tool. Whilst it didn’t seem to solve my issues, it may well work for you.
What starts to get my goat, is that you now have so many random services to sign up for. On console, you simply use Xbox Live. On PC, you could be on Steam, or the Cerberus network. For whatever reason, there’s no Games for Windows Live version with Mass Effect 2, yet there are achievements on Xbox Live. It seems that each developer and publisher want you to have an account with them, and as you can imagine, reviewing games means you get to see a fair few. I now have logins for Ubisoft Online, EA Online, Games for Windows Live, Cerberus Networks, Rockstar Social Club, Steam, and the list grows ever longer.
I do sometimes wish I bought the Xbox 360 version of the game, so I could sit on my couch in comfort, on a big screen telly. After all, sitting on my PC at home is very similar to what I do at work. But then I’ll I try and aim at something, or a loading screen pops up. That’s when I long for my PC.
This seems to happen every console cycle. The new generation comes out and the graphics and performance is amazing, especially for the outlay. Compared to a PC, the cost for performance seems on-par, and the simplicity appeals to the masses. But eventually what always happens is that consoles reach a mid-life crisis stage. Soon enough, the latest generation of PCs slide back in front in terms of graphics. With DirectX 11, quad core chips, and no new consoles on the horizon, the abilities of modern PC systems are starting to show up the consoles limitations. After all, the hardware on 360 is four years old.
The truth is, of course, Mass Effect 2 is an awesome game on any system. Horses for courses, but the highest fidelity, most accurate experience is the PC version. The difference is subtle enough that it’s really not going to matter either way, but there’s no particular reason not to get the PC version.
It certainly is refreshing to get a game that isn’t a terrible console to PC port.