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Mass Effect remaster exposes an unexpected shortcoming of next-gen

I miss Mass Effect 2’s lengthy loading screens.

Memorable loading screens will soon become a thing of the past thanks to the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Isn’t that kind of unfortunate?

Both new video game consoles boast impressive solid-state drives that load more data faster than ever before. As a result, loading screens are beginning to disappear. For most games, this is a good thing, but it hurts one game in Mass Effect Legendary Edition more than any other I’ve experienced on Xbox Series X.

Mass Effect 2 features some in-depth loading screens that do a lot to immerse the player deeper into the game’s world between key areas or missions. While this sci-fi role-playing game is mostly critically acclaimed for its characters, story, and gameplay, these loading screens are one of the most subtle but memorable aspects of the game.

They are truly some of the best loading screens of the 2010s, so for them to be cut so short during Mass Effect 2 gameplay — as part of Mass Effect Legendary Edtion — it feels a bit disappointing.

While you wait for the UT-47 Kodiak Drop Shuttle to land, you’re given a course trajectory. EA

These loading screen clips abruptly cut short, ending after a few short seconds. The end result feels more jarring than anything else. Mass Effect Legendary Edition shows that next-generation consoles aren’t just the killer of the bad loading screens; They’ll also eradicate all of the good loading screens too.

Loading screens have a bad reputation and for good reason. They typically interrupt the action and kill a game’s pacing. You’re forced to wait in silence before getting back to the action. Loading screens were never the cause and instead serve as a lackluster consolation prize while you wait for the game to load, oftentimes including helpful — and eventually annoying — gameplay tips. Mass Effect 2 takes a different approach with loading screens that enhance the experience.

They highlight the science and technology behind the universe with interesting wire-frame visuals. There isn’t one uniform loading screen either as it changes depending on where you are and what you are doing. Several after playing Mass Effect 2 for the first time, these loading screens still stick with me.

Check them out below, and you’ll see why I miss them so much.

These loading screens also go a long way in enhancing the game’s atmosphere. Their chilling score accentuates these images with a foreboding track that evokes the darkness of space and the foreboding threat from the Collectors and Reapers. Before Mass Effect Legendary Edition, I hadn’t played Mass Effect 2 in about 8 years, but these loading screens have stuck with me since then.

As such, something feels missing when the remaster quickly rushes through these loading screens thanks to next-gen SSD technology. It’s not game-ruining by any means, but it’s the first time I’ve actually felt nostalgic as frequent loading screens are being phased out of video games.

Because they will only last a second or two now, we’ll probably never get loading screens as intricate and detailed as Mass Effect 2’s ever again, at least until the hardware’s age starts to catch up with it. Mass Effect Legendary Edition vastly improves the Mass Effect 2 experience in so many different ways, but this underrated aspect won’t get the appreciation it deserves ever again.

That said, it’s also a fix that has its merits, so it’s understandable why BioWare doesn’t force players to watch the whole thing. Taking the elevator to different levels of the Normandy is a frequent occurrence if you’re getting to know all of Shepard’s companions, but it involved lengthy loading screens in the original.

Now, that loading is near-instantaneous, making traveling around the Normandy a much quicker process. The better loading times also make Mass Effect 1’s overreliance on elevators masking loading screens a bit more bearable. They are now much quicker, and you can even skip through dialogue in them to make it go even faster.

One of Mass Effect 2’s many interesting loading screens that you barely see in Mass Effect Legendary Edition. EA

When loading screens would negatively impact the atmosphere or pacing, it benefits the games to remove them. Mass Effect 2 is a rare case where the loading screens improve those key elements. They stay intriguing throughout the adventure and iconic long after you beat the game.

If you’re experiencing the game for the first time on next-gen with Legendary Edition, you won’t really get to experience the enhancements to the adventure that these loading screens bring. If BioWare could give players an option to watch them in the extras menu at the very least — or better yet, download them as screensavers — that would be a welcome comprise for their short length in the remaster.

Faster loading is an obvious benefit for video games this generation as it creates a smoother experience, but it will also mark the end of the era of interesting loading screens as well. Here’s to hoping that as games get larger and more complex, SSDs won’t be able to keep up.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition is available now.

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