What is Mass Effect 2? At the crudest level it's a 'sci-fi RPG' - but BioWare's epic is anything but crude.
You play as a human war hero, Commander Shepard, travel around the galaxy in a ship, the Normandy, and either chat with or kill aliens with an array of futuristic weaponry and biotic powers.
However, filing Mass Effect away as either Trek-like geek fodder or a 100+ RPG stat marathon not only insults the game's appeal and polish, it belittles the significance of Sony's progress with PS3 itself.
Put another way, Mass Effect 2 coming to PS3 in January is a big, big deal.
How so? Well, it's an incredible game, universally praised by Xbox 360 and PC owners who've been enjoying it all year and contributed to its 96% Metacritic average.
Aside from that, its announcement at EA's GamesCom press conference is another indicator that publishers and developers want to bring their very best to Sony.
Mass Effect has long been a jewel in Microsoft's crown - this sequel is held in the same esteem as Halo, Gears Of War and Forza - but now it's coming to PS3.
Sorry, correction, an enhanced version's coming to PS3, complete with DLC and several small but vital extras. It's as huge a deal for us as Gabe Newell taking to the stage at E3 to announce Portal 2 on Sony's machine.
Looking further into the future, it practically guarantees the presence of Mass Effect 3 - the conclusion to the trilogy - on our console, as well as continued support from BioWare, the world's leading RPG developers.
There are all kinds of reasons to be excited, but, as we hinted at earlier, the main one's the game itself.
Don't worry, we're not planning to ruin any of the surprises here. In Mass Effect 2, story is king, both in the way it's told and the way it unfolds.
The game's rich sci-fi universe is meticulously detailed yet linear enough to ensure you don't get lost or bogged down in endless fetch and-carry missions.
You're guided through the space opera by gorgeous in-game cut-scenes, voiced by big-name celebs such as Martin Sheen and more sci-fi actors such as Battlestar's Tricia Helfer and Farscape's Claudia Black.
At the start of Mass Effect 2, for reasons we won't go into here because the opening scene's incredible, you leave the Alliance and join up with a pro-human mercenary group called Cerberus.
Your mission? To investigate the disappearance of human colonies from the edge of the galaxy. It's classic sci-fi fodder, but told without cliche and implemented with a delicate touch.
You set about your mission by traveling to various worlds, recruiting crew members and earning their loyalty for the final assault.
You're forced to make tough choices along the way, favouring certain squad-mates over others, which has an effect on the gameplay.
And because the personalities on-board the Normandy are all morally ambiguous, the choices you make are rarely simple, something that separates Mass Effect 2 from myriad RPGs offering so-called plot-altering decisions.
Even if you don't care for some of the characters, you'll be in awe of how natural the conversations look and sound. The first time you're offered a talk option, you'll be genuinely surprised that the cutscenes let you take charge, such is the game's visual prowess, and seamless story integration.
SHOT IN THE DARK
When you're not talking, you're firing. Mass Effect's combat isn't perfect, but it's certainly enjoyable, mixing tactics, special abilities and old-fashioned third-person gunplay to create some thrilling sequences.
It offers RPG depth for those who want it, and simplicity for anyone who just likes to line up crosshairs and shoot.
There is, quite simply, no other game like Mass Effect 2. It may have shades of Gears Of War, borrow ideas from Battlestar Galactica and feature the emotional storytelling we all know and love from Heavy Rain, but no other title brings all these elements together with such precision or polish.
Just another sci-fi RPG? Not a chance. An Xbox hand-me-down? Nope. One of the most important PS3 launches ever? Absolutely.
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