But wait, you’re thinking to yourself, doesn’t that crackpot already have the entirety of Mass Effect on the PC? Why in the name of hell is he spending money on the PS3 version? Is he a nutcase? You already have an answer to those questions, and you would be correct. I picked this up as a treat to myself for being a wage slave for almost 3 weeks straight with no time off. I like my PS3, and having Shepard’s entire story on a second device attached to my big screen where I don’t have to drape an HDMI cable across my living room appealed to me, even though the PS3 version of the trilogy has some flaws to it. So with a new Bluetooth headset in hand, I fired up all three this past week and put a chunk of time into each of them on my favorite console still attached to a television.
1. Install times. It’ll take you about 15 minutes to install Mass Effect from the disc, and another 15 to install Mass Effect 2, also from the disc. Before those install, pop onto the PSN and start downloading your Cerberus pack for Mass Effect 2 and the Multiplayer packs for Mass Effect 3. By the time they’re done, you’ll have the first two games installed and could potentially play Mass Effect 3 multiplayer without a hitch. I ended up downloading the Extended Cut for Mass Effect 3 overnight, just so I could have some kind of internet connection at my house. Now, off the disc these aren’t incredibly horrendous install times, and you’re looking at about ten Gigabytes of real estate disappearing from your hard drive, but seeing as how the first two games perform on the PS3 compared to the third, which doesn’t have an install option at all, I think the installing helps a great deal. I’m kind of shocked they haven’t put a patch out for Mass Effect 3 to let PS3 owners install it, because the disc reading is almost constant. Granted, I have no idea what is actually installed on the hard drive. It could just be the DLC. Anything could help though.
2. Stacking up the Trilogy versions – Why did I grab the PS3? Normally I’d recommend the PC version. You can mod it, tweak it, crank the textures through the roof and it’ll generally play with only a few minor bugs in each game. I’m looking at more bang for the buck, already own all three on PC, and I also don’t own a 360 and have friends who have Mass Effect 3 on the PS3 as well, so I can play multiplayer with them. I didn’t want to just buy Mass Effect 3 for the multiplayer. I like the whole trilogy’s story line. Right now, with the PS3 version of the trilogy, you get almost all the story DLC from Mass Effect, sans Pinnacle Station, which I have never bothered touching on PC anyway, Mass Effect 2 minus Arrival, and then Mass Effect 3 minus Fallen Ashes, Leviathan and Omega. You’d have to buy all of these on the PC minus Bring Down the Sky from Mass Effect, and everything on the 360 version. Now, you do have an option to pick up the games separately, but barring sales, it will cost you $5 more. I did find the N7 Collector’s version of Mass Effect 3 for the same price as just buying the standard game, and that would cut the cost of picking up Javik in half with some bonus stuff, but I already own all that extra physical stuff from my PC copy. To me, more content makes for a better deal, and the compact case fits nicer and looks nicer on my PS3 games shelf, aside from the fact there’s not a FemShep option for the cover. Seeing as how the cover is laid out open on a shelf right now, and all you can read on the spine is the name, I’m not shedding too many tears over here.
3. Mass Effect ported to the PS3. Granted, I haven’t gotten very far, as I wanted to try out all my options on the PS3 with the trilogy, but I like what they’ve done with the port so far. The visuals, I’d have to say, are on par with the PC version I’ve got, minus the HD texture mod that some very inventive people have made available. There’s been a line in almost every cutscene that didn’t match up to the lip-sync on a character, but it’s usually one line at the start and then the rest of the scene is fine. The standard Mass Effect combat seems to be there, minus the clips, just like the original, all the RPG options intact, and the power and weapon wheel selection as well. It’s going to feel clunky compared to 2 and 3, but this is more RPG, less shooter. There hasn’t been much, if any, significantly noticeable frame dropping and no screen tearing, which I can’t say about my PC version, so there’s definite improvements here getting it to run on the PS3. I’ve heard of texture popping issues and a few other problems, but honestly, I’ve yet to see it have any meaningful impact at all. I think I noticed Saren’s hologram was fuzzy for about a second and a half during a council scene and cleared up. Woo. Shadows are a little off, as in jagged, but that’s par for the course with the first game.
4. Importing. One of the big things I like about the Mass Effect series is I can import my character from the previous game and see a change in the way things play out, depending. I’ve heard all the arguments and made a few of my own before, but even if it’s just subtle, it’s nice seeing that my choices are reflected in events, even if it’s a subtle change. For my testing purposes, I fired up both Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 without importing, because let’s face it, a few hours with the first Mass Effect game isn’t going to net me a completion. It’s actually the first time I’ve ever seen Mass Effect 2’s intro sequence without an import and played through the comic that sets up the major choices from Mass Effect for Mass Effect 2. While I thought it was kind of neat, I’m glad I didn’t buy that for the PC version. It glosses over everything and there’s no sense of awe or the reveals of the first game, just Shepard recounting events as she remembers them, and then they dump you into the game again. That, and The Illusive Man and Miranda having a general conversation about Shepard that just feels awkward. The same goes for the dramatic walk entrance for Mass Effect 3 with Anderson, which I remembered almost exactly from the demo. The shit I’ve done indeed. You better make mention of those dead Batarians! Now, however, we’ll be able to import all of our decisions from the first game into 2, and then 3. I know some of them may be minor, but they affect the overall experience of about one-hundred and twenty hours of play time when all is said and done. I’m sure I’ll have more than that for each of my many characters, considering I want to Platinum all of them, and that’s going to be 3 runs through the first game at a minimum.
5. Mass Effect on the PS3 looks fantastic. If I was going to pick one of the 3 games just based on the single player RPG campaign alone, I’d go with the first. Mass Effect 2 was great, but it stripped too much of the RPG away for my tastes. It was a great action RPG, don’t get me wrong, but I appreciated the older style RPG feel from the first game. It’s nice to see some of the engine improvements from Mass Effect 2 and 3 show up in the first game on the PS3 and, because I’ve only ever played on the PC, it’s interesting to have a totally different menu experience as well. The radials do take a bit of getting used to when you’re used to hitting one or two mapped keys to do the same thing, but it works well for the console.
6. Connection and account issues. I did have some issues connecting to verify my downloadable content for Mass Effect 2. It’d go to a Please Wait screen with an EA logo splashed across it and sit there. I let it go twice for over 5 minutes each before I got fed up and killed that to download the multiplayer packs for Mass Effect 3, then went back to it and it magically worked after a twitter tirade. I’m good at those. High entertainment. So I play around with Mass Effect 2 a bit, then load in Mass Effect 3 to try out the multiplayer to make sure all was right with the world. After looking at my depressingly bare character choices (yay for starting over in multiplayer), I started in on it and had some rather impressive long loading screens. I thought the PC ones were bad for multiplayer. Try waiting almost a minute to get loaded into a match. Yeah. IF you’re logging in to play just one match, that can account for almost 6% of your play time right there. Granted, that isn’t every time I’ve played, and usually those matches are laggy as hell because of the host. The only other issue I have is that, instead of asking for your account info if you already have an Origin/EA account, the games just use your e-mail from your PSN account and run with it. To get them matched up, even if you’ve changed your e-mail and are logging into a new game, you’ll have to open a ticket. That can be an odyssey. I’ve dipped into that well twice now, once over text chat, which I had a helpful person with but her solution didn’t work, and I’m trying e-mail now and have not gotten any luck yet. I just want to be able to check out my N7 HQ from one account login. Is that so wrong? I’m actually putting together a column on that special nugget. Stay tuned.
7. 3 Discs for the PS3? Really? I can understand cutting costs by basically just taking the default disc images from 2 and 3 and slapping a new picture on them, but if you’re going to the extra cost of new packaging and making a whole new disc for the first game, why not dump all 3 games on one Blu-Ray disc and let us use that? I’m thinking that even a single layer Blu-Ray at 25 Gigs could potentially hold all 3 games, at least based off the install size of each on the PS3. This is based around the download size for Mass Effect 3, considering we can’t actually install off the PS3 disc onto the hard drive yet and probably never will. Granted, you also don’t have a reason for the nifty looking, but cheaply made, flip open cover for the game then, but then PS3 players could have left one disc in the drive to play the entire trilogy, which would have been awesome.
8. Complete Package? While I would have loved to have seen a more complete package for the price, I can see why they didn’t do that just yet. You get the base 3 games as they were released on their respective systems, and of course Mass Effect finally on the PS3. So why not wait until the last DLC comes out and release it as an actual complete trilogy, like they did with Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition and include, oh you know, everything? I think this is more of an opportunity, for them more than for us. The price has dropped on the last installment in the series, and here they can put out, at relatively low cost, a ‘new’ release at the base video game price that actually has some value to people who don’t already own it, or
crackpots fans like me. This, to me, is kind of the budget way of getting the trilogy, and in a year or maybe even two we might see the Complete Edition or some ridiculous naming nonsense that has everything in it. Now that version, I’ll probably pass on, unless…
9. …they introduce more Bug Fixes. While Mass Effect is largely cleaned up from the 360 version, it’s still lacking some of the polish from the PC version, which is also far from perfect, but would play cut-scenes with relatively few issues. Then there’s also the issue of Mass Effect 3’s chugging on the PS3 no matter if it’s installed or not. Granted, that seems to be due to a random set of factors, including whether you’ve played multiplayer first, rebooted your PS3 recently, and so on. I’ve had it load into single player just fine, and other times I wonder if my game system is getting ready to explode. With how well Mass Effect 2 runs on the same hardware, optimized in its own version, supposedly for this system, yet still without a few bugs, it amazes me how rough the PS3 version of the trilogy’s conclusion actually runs, even with as many patches as they’ve put out for the system, which is a little ridiculous at this point in the console’s life cycle. First time I loaded the game it was awful, like the demo, which was headache inducing, then I swapped to multiplayer and that played fine. Next day I start with multiplayer then swap over to single player campaign and it’s suddenly running fine in cutscenes now without any chugging. Multiplayer runs pretty smoothly yet, which was my bigger motivator as I like running with friends, so I’m not regretting that choice yet. At this point in the ‘trilogy’s’ life, I’m betting we’ll see relatively little in the way of fixes to the originals, but they might surprise me with Mass Effect 3.
10. Interface and Gameplay for the first game is largely unchanged from what I’m guessing is the Xbox 360 version, with a few tweaks here and there. So while you have that shot lined up, there’s still an unseen dice roll that you make that shot or not, which I love in an RPG, but makes the first game seem like a really bad shooter at first if you’re not clued into that little tidbit of info. While I think the interface works, for the most part, for the game on the PS3, after playing with the PC version for over four years now, this seems fairly clunky. I can see why they basically stripped the inventory system in the later games and went with something different, but they could have fine–tuned this a little better. The PC interface for inventory and leveling up wasn’t perfect either, but felt a lot more functional than what’s on the PS3. But at least I don’t have to fight with it to get it to work, which is excellent. Also, I’d like to add that elevator load times are comparable to the PC, which is to say your team will have their conversation, and about 3 seconds later you are arriving at your destination. Huzzah.