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Mass Effect 2

By Christ0ff

NOTE: While Christ0ff wrote most of this review, it was edited by Neil Schneider, and supplemented to take into account DDD and iZ3D driver solutions.



Introduction

Building on its predecessor, Mass Effect 2 has become an instant success. Well rated for traditional gamers, this title promises an intergalactic adventure that features action, dialogue, and intergalactic exploration.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3


However, how does Bioware's scifi soap opera fare in stereoscopic 3D? Today, we find out.



General Game Review

While I never played the first Mass Effect, I quickly got hooked to the sequel. While it's not necessary to play the original, the game starts off where the last chapter finished.

The 2D introduction sequence shows a "mysterious man" and a gorgeous woman discussing how your character, Commander Shepard, is the best hope for the survival of the human race and can't die. That's too bad, because the next scene depicts your once valiant ship, "The Normandy", getting blown to bits, and you along with it.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3


Your death couldn't be any more inconvenient. Human colonies are getting attacked, and colonists are disappearing. A pro-human group called Cerberus believes you are the only one who can figure out what is going on and put a stop to it. So, taking advantage of available technology, they bring you back to life.

You can customize your character's appearance and history by picking your gender, face and class. If you finished the original Mass Effect, you can copy your saved games over so you can recreate your persona or nature based on earlier decisions.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3


As a training exercise, you wake up when the space station is under attack. After picking up a pistol, you progress through the corridors and rooms, and learn the basics by blowing up a few "mechs". For a time, I began wondering if I was playing Mass Effect 2, or some "Star Wars: Clone Wars" game!

Some have argued that the new Mass Effect is less an RPG, and more a third person shooter. I tend to agree because you get most of your experience and goods from third person shooting sessions, and not traditional role playing. The role playing that does exist seems limited to a few choices during the conversations that trigger different outcomes. If you are good at third person shooters, you should be able to handle all the fights without major problems, even at the hardest difficulty settings. You also learn how to hack doors and cabinets by solving mini-puzzles. It's easy to master after a few tries.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3

Similar to the first Mass Effect game, the sequel is all squad based action. As you wander the galaxy and distant worlds, you come across different characters that may become your squad allies, or your worst enemies. This all depends on your actions. When you go on missions, you can only pick two buddies at a time. Each ally has their own skill set and personality, so choose wisely.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
NVIDIA Stereo 197.13


During your numerous encounters, you will always have the option of being an all around good guy (Paladin), or the worst jerk in the universe (Renegade). You can be both! It all depends on who you are dealing with, and what kind of character you want to become. Some of your teammates will react according to your actions, good or bad, and may actually turn against you or leave you if you go too far.

Mass Effect 2 also features countless side missions, so expect to invest a lot of time with this game. However, you get your investment back through upgrades and rewards from vendors and characters. You can also upgrade your team members' abilities and weapon choices too.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3


Most of the upgrades consume four types of materials that you need to find. Element Zero is the rarest and is the hardest to come by. The other three are pretty easy to find. I found that planet scanning became very boring after awhile, but you need to do this to get the required upgrades for hard to kill enemies.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
NVIDIA Stereo 197.13


Some skills provide environmental benefits like special protection, or ranged attacks that are more powerful against certain types of enemies. It's a similar idea to spells in RPGs like Dragon Age, or plasmids in Bioshock.

So!  How did Mass Effect 2 perform in stereoscopic 3D? We shall find out!



NVIDIA Stereoscopic 3D Findings

NVIDIA specs:

Maingear X-Cube
Intel Core I7 Processor 2.66GHZ
6GB RAM
2 X GTX 275 (SLI)
Windows 7 64 Bit
NVIDIA 197.13 Stereo Driver
NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision / Samsung 2233RZ Monitor

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
NVIDIA Stereo 197.13


Mass Effect 2 in stereoscopic 3D was very problematic. It's not possible to have a combined depth and pop-out experience because there are too many artifacts. In particular, the HUD elements double and there are distracting light flares in all the wrong places.  There are also cut-out problems where objects can get a doubled effect when separated into left/right view.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
NVIDIA Stereo 197.13


The best case scenario is reducing convergence to minimum, and adjusting for depth. However, the game still looks very flat because the character is not rendered proportionately to the rest of the scene. Turning off shadows was very helpful in getting rid of many artifacts, but it made the game look bland.



iZ3D Stereoscopic 3D Findings

The iZ3D System Specs Include:

AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz
Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM
EVGA GTX285
Windows 7 64 Bit
Zalmon Trimon 22” Monitor
iZ3D drivers 1.10

NOTE: A driver bug prevents us from creating screen captures with iZ3D drivers.  None of what you see here is reflective of iZ3D's results.

iZ3D's results are equally challenged, but in different ways.  They too suffer from distracting lighting effects and HUD highlighters that split when convergence is adjusted.  However, they also suffer from serious camera angle problems.  If you attempt to have combined depth and pop-out experiences, the cut scenes will be very uncomfortable to watch.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
NVIDIA Stereo 197.13


They do have an auto-convergence feature, but it doesn't work very well with this title.  If you wanted, you can customize a keystroke on your keyboard with preset convergence settings for difference scenarios, but I think that's too distracting.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
NVIDIA Stereo 197.13


On the plus side, with the exception of dynamic shadows, you can keep all the eye candy on.  Unfortunately, there are too many flaws with this game to really consider than an advantage.



DDD Stereoscopic 3D Findings

The DDD System Specs Include:

AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz
Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM
EVGA 285GTX
Windows 7 64 Bit
Zalmon Trimon 22” Monitor
Tridef Experience 4.2.1 Package (with 2.5.3 Ignition drivers)

DDD's results are mediocre at best.  Similar to NVIDIA, dynamic shadows must be turned off.  The driver does this for you anyway, so you don't have a choice in the matter.  Similar to NVIDIA, you will get cut-out problems around some objects, and there is no way around this.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3

However, DDD's saving grace is their auto-convergence feature.  It's not perfect, but you can achieve a combined depth and pop-out experience.  In most cases it does a good job switching between third person and interactive viewpoints.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3


Similar to NVIDIA and iZ3D, DDD also has the doubled lighting and HUD element problems.  A workaround fix for this is to adjust the GUI setting in the DDD driver interface to turn the 3D off around these objects.  The DDD profile that does this is attached to the forum thread for this review.  The trade-off is when objects are too close to the screen, you will see modelling and distortions around the characters - but it is still better than a completely flat look.



Conclusion

The game's decision making process, the story, and the superb voice acting made Mass Effect 2 a wonderful game...in 2D.  Unfortunately, the stereoscopic 3D gaming experience was a big disappointment for all three driver developers.  There are occasionally some good out of screen effects, but nothing like Avatar or even Tomb Raider in S-3D.

Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3
Mass Effect 2, Tridef Ignition 2.5.3

To add insult to injury, Mass Effect 2 is uniquely qualified to be a good S-3D game because of its outer space effects, its diverse environments, and its immersive nature.  Let's set our hopes high for Mass Effect 3!

Please share your comments, and check out the Mass Effect 2 S-3D image gallery.

NOTE: We are investigating a minor bug with this thread and the updated comments engine.  Please use the above comments link to post directly.


Game Play
7/10

Sound

8/10

Presentation
7/10

Immersive Nature

7/10

How Memorable is This Game

7/10

Stereoscopic Effectiveness NVIDIA
5/10

Stereoscopic Effectiveness iZ3D

5/10

Stereoscopic Effectiveness DDD

5/10

NVIDIA Overall Rating
6.83/10

iZ3D Overall Rating:
6.83/10

DDD Overall Rating:

6.83/10