Review by johnluke728
"Even fan fiction writers couldn't have done worse at concluding this epic trilogy!"
- Quick Retrospective
The two previous games in the series are impossible to sum up in one word or sentence. They are simply amazing experiences that are heavily story driven, and your dialogue choices play a huge role in how the entire galaxy in the Mass Effect universe is shaped. You are not just following a vastly rich and involving story as it unfolds, you make the calls yourself through the revolutionary dialogue wheel. With it, you have choices of either three to five sentences that changes how your character, Shepherd, reacts to conversation or council. The effects can be positive or negative, and those decisions carry with you throughout the game. Attention is given to even the slightest choice. If you decided to punch an annoying news reporter in Mass Effect 1, she's going to remember that in Mass Effect 2 when you see her again. If you helped save the Council in ME1, they'll still be around in the sequel, or not if you decided to focus your attention on other things instead. The decisions that you, the player, make carry a lot of weight and can be the difference between saving or destroying entire alien civilizations in the galaxy.
The amount of care given to each dialogue choice really gives you the sense that you are apart of the experience itself, and the ability to customize Shepherd's appearance to match your own, whether male or female, can really put some players straight into the hot-seat of humanity's last hope for survival against a powerful, mysterious enemy beyond any person's power to understand. The scale of the story itself is absolutely unbelievable compared to most science-fiction stories seen in novels or movies, let alone a video game; it is an involving experience that could have only come about through this entertainment medium. We can only hope more games in the near future take advantage of this rarely explored form of story-telling; only a few novels have done something even remotely close to this before in the past.
- Visuals and Presentation 10/10
For a 3D console game running on dated platforms whole generations behind the latest in video graphics, the high-res textures and extremely high-poly models create a convincing and believable universe. Even up close, characters are very detailed and curved. Every cut and scratch in their skin is plainly visible, and its luster really adds to the beautiful lighting of the environments that surround you. Even common people, who would normally look like a recolored clone of some generic model in other games, have their own distinct facial features and sometimes hairstyles as well. You won't find any two people in the Mass Effect universe that look exactly alike! None of that lazy, lack of variety in non-playable-characters can be seen here at all, even for the other alien races!
Lighting and shadows are very clean and believable, intensifying in brightness as you would expect it to or growing dark enough to justify using your flashlight; which is an element very few games actually make decent use of. (HALO I'm looking right you and your useless headlamps!) The environments themselves are beautiful, creative and visually inspiring to stare at; I found myself looking up at the sky a lot on every alien world Shepherd visits on his journey. There are very few jagged edges in the terrain, and thanks to effects like bump-mapping, even creates depth in places that would normally be flat and uninteresting, due to the limited number of polygons the console's hardware is capable of rendering in real-time.
In short, even if the visuals aren't actually perfect themselves, it is the best in visual eye-candy that you can expect on the XBOX and Playstation 3 platforms. The whole game feels like a work of art moving in real-time on your console.
- Soundtrack and Sound Effects 9/10
As with previous Mass Effect titles, the inspiring, original soundtrack doesn't fail to impress. It's very recognizable, and can sometimes get stuck in your head! Most of it is rather quiet and calming, but intensifies at moments when it really matters, such as an epic space battle or firefight. The sound of firing super weapons and roaring Reapers is something even techno-pioneers like Skrillix would be proud of! Few sound effects ring your ears with generic cheapness; nearly every weapon, vehicle, voice and ambiance generates convincing, original ear-gasms breathed with a life of their own. The audible experience of Mass Effect is just as salivating as its visuals.
- Controls and Game-Play 8/10
The squad-shooter mechanics in Mass Effect 3 is a huge improvement over its predecessors, with the addition of moving from cover to cover, rolling away from thrown grenades, and using the mini-facturing capabilities of your omni-tool to create a diamond-hard blade for impaling enemies! While the rolling mechanic is limited to only four directions, sadly, it works without a hitch and doesn't break your experience. The omni-blade also has a different attack animation depending on your character's rank, such as Soldier or Infiltrator, so there's that many more reasons to try different types of character builds on your next play-through.
The AIs are as intelligent as you can expect, and you'll never find yourself waiting on squad-mates to catch up! They are very capable and I've only caught one of them standing on a wall once, so it's rare to find them doing anything stupid. The enemy AIs don't hold back either, and fortunately the tougher ones don't have three health bars like they did in Mass Effect 2; just armor and health, no shields! There is a wide variety of species to shoot at and they will keep you busy through each firefight. No single battle is ever the same.
- Story 6/10
After all the praising I just did in regards to the quality of this game, would it be questionable of me to rant about a possibly poor story? None of the other Mass Effect games suffered from bad writing, why this one? Even when Bioware's games visually feel like someone pissed in your eye, (Sonic Chronicles, I'm looking right at you, with your poor frame-rate and ugly, low-poly models!) the stories themselves never fail to shine through and blow you away. It would be blasphemous for me to say otherwise, right?
Well no, actually. Believe me, the whole adventure will have you enthralled and in love with it all the way through, until you get to the ending, that is. Don't mark me off as a hater and click the back button on your browser just yet, because this is an important point.
Without spoilers, I am able to say this much about the ultimate conclusion of this epic trilogy. The whole thing feels like someone other than the main writers drafted this ending specifically to troll dedicated fans right where it hurts, and none of the alternate endings you choose end any differently. No part of it fits into the Mass Effect universe at all and completely annihilates the backbone of the fiction; I was honestly waiting for EDI to say "It was a joke." and slap Shepherd right back into reality.
Overall, it is a tasteless, bitter end to an otherwise outstanding series, and I wish more professional reviewers would have given this aspect of the game more of their attention. Every review magazine and website are always prepared to trash the latest Sonic game down to its smallest faults for falling well below the mark, so why show such glaringly obvious bias to an EA-published game? It sure seems like nobody wanted to do the right thing here and warn readers against investing a large chunk of their money into a half-finished game. (And from what I understand, the PS3 version of Mass Effect 3 suffers from a plethora of technical problems, all of which were apparently sugar-coated in professional reviews too.)
- Overall 7/10
In summary, how it all ended was a joke, and what shocks me even more is that EA and Bioware are defending it! Let's say you drew a picture of Shepherd that looked perfectly fine -but both eyes were looking in opposite directions- for the game's official art box and EA slapped it on there, wouldn't people protest it? Sure, Shepherd looks fine, but there's something clearly wrong with it to the point it's horrifying. "It looks beautiful to me you ungrateful noobs, just put your hand over the eyes and ignore it! You won't even know its there!", the publishers would say. If you can't defend "artistic" incompetence or sloppiness in professional art, why can't we at least question they're poor writing decisions? I'm not all for sending Bioware a $1000 USD in cupcakes to convince them into changing that ending, so I'll just take my money elsewhere and invest it into something less pointless than a bad video game.
Why is it so important for me to stress how bad this ending was? Games do end tragically, but it's usually well-meditated and justifiable, which is something that was done so poorly in ME3, if that was the original intent. Everything about Mass Effect that was ever good after all these years had been completely undone in mere minutes. It's not that the game's ending was so tragic, rather, it was tragically written. I hope I never see another game end so pathetically as Mass Effect 3.
Either way, I don't really care about it anymore. I'm happy enough with Mass Effect 2 and am more than willing to disown Mass Effect 3 as a sub-par fan-fiction without regret, and all of you haters should be doing the same; let your wallets do the talking! So if you made the mistake of buying ME3, don't expect your copy to do well in the pre-owned market!
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/05/12
Game Release: Mass Effect 3 (US, 03/06/12)
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