Not too long ago, the idea of anything on the PlayStation 3 bearing the Mass Effect name could be aptly described as far-fetched. After all, the series began its life as an Xbox 360 exclusive published by none other than Microsoft. But one major acquisition later, BioWare is now part of the Electronic Arts family--a publisher with no small affinity for multiplatform releases. So while PlayStation 3 owners won't see the original Mass Effect on their system of choice anytime soon, its critically lauded, EA-published sequel will finally arrive on the PS3 this January--almost exactly a year to the date after it first hit the Xbox 360 and PC.
Those familiar with the series--and BioWare's catalog as a whole--ought to be well aware of Mass Effect's heavy reliance on story and choices. In fact, Mass Effect 2 let you import your save files from the original game to shape the landscape of what has happened and who's left standing in this sci-fi space opera. Not only does anyone who picks up the PlayStation 3 version not have a save file to import, but they might not even be familiar with what has happened thus far in the game's vast, rich universe.
Fortunately, BioWare has a solution for that. The PlayStation 3 version includes a motion comic that spans roughly 15 minutes and seeks to fill in new players on all the events that transpired in the first game. It's a product of collaboration between BioWare and Dark Horse comics, bearing the latter's hand-drawn art and a script penned by Mass Effect 2 writer Mac Walters. (And fortunately, the art style is far more pleasing than EA's most recent stab at motion comics, Dead Space: Ignition.) The comic's narrative is a first-person account of the original game as told by protagonist Shepard and covers an awful lot of ground--right on down to a nostalgic recollection of that headline-grabbing sex scene.
The motion comic looks like a pretty comprehensive learning aid for those new to the series. Shepard's voice-over has a tendency to move perhaps a little too fast during moments when he's describing big action scenes, but for the most part it seems like something that people unfamiliar with the plot should be able to easily wrap their heads around. But it's also more than simply a comic. Mass Effect project director Casey Hudson also describes it as a "save game creator," because there are a handful of moments in the narrative when you must make a choice that will shape the outcome of the game. Said choices will affect your play-through of Mass Effect 2 in the same way as those who imported save files on the Xbox 360 and PC versions shaped theirs.
The game itself looks nearly identical to the Xbox 360 version, though Hudson did point out that the PlayStation 3 version will sport slightly improved textures thanks to the added storage capacity of the system's Blu-ray disc format. Another benefit? It's all on one disc, so no disc-swapping like in the Xbox 360 version. And then there's the nice little bonus of getting a bundle of downloadable content packs at no added cost, including the critically acclaimed Lair of the Shadow Broker mission pack.
This will surprise just about no one, but Mass Effect 2 on the PlayStation 3 looks great and seems like it will offer a hefty bit of value as well. If you haven't played it yet, you owe it to yourself to give Mass Effect 2 a shot--it's easily one of 2010's best games. Expect it to arrive on the PlayStation 3 January 18.