Review by D87Cook

"The Mass Appeal of Mass Effect"

Bioware, a company famous for it's science fiction nerd RPG titles, has been around for quite a few years now. I've been playing their titles for a while, my personal favorite having been Knights of the Old Republic. It was awesome...it was a great RPG centered around a character you created. You could be a hero or an wiener in your quest to save the universe, and it really helped to flesh out your own personality in the title.

Then the XBox 360 was released. Shortly after, the original Mass Effect was released. I couldn't put it down after 3 play-throughs. I loved every minute of the game that I wasn't on the Citadel. The conversation wheel was my favorite thing about the game. It made all the conversations smooth while adding in a system to make your character really feel like your own. In addition to your character's complexity, I loved the NPCs that joined your party. It was great fun. And then I heard they were releasing a sequel.

Mass Effect 2 worried me a bit...seeing that it bore an EA logo on the front cover. Soon before the release...I decided it had to be better than if Bioware had contracted Obsidian Entertainment like they did with the second Knights of the Old Republic (it sucked if you were wondering). I was correct. While ME2 had lost some of it's charm through the streamlining process, the gunplay, tech and biotics all felt better in battle. I generally played as a soldier through the first two titles. However, I quickly learned that there was no 40 second biotic recharge and that Sentinel could take over the Milky Way galaxy by level 20. The only knocks I had against ME2 were the following: the Collectors were nowhere near as good as the geth, the new characters -Jack and Grunt not included- were pretty boring, and the loyalty missions seemed to drag out the game too far even though the reasoning they were present made sense. But all of this affected my affection for the title very little...especially since the third installment was on the way.

Mass Effect 3
You are Commander -insert name here- Shepard. You are awesome. You are proficient with everything ever. You are...no longer a commander because you killed off all the Batarians, their ancestors and the bacteria population of an entire section of the galaxy. You were doing it to stop the sentient machine race known as the Reapers, which is a good reason. However, the galaxy got all pissy and you were discharged from the military.

Lucky for you, and also very unlucky for you, the Reapers have arrived! "Please help us!" the people scream. Suddenly you are now Commander again. Funny how that works. Anyway, your job is to unite all the races of the galaxy and fight for your organic survival! Congratulations, you're going to die. At least you're the best hope for the galaxy. And hey, maybe you'll get lucky!

Mass Effect 3's characters are a collection of new buddies and original buddies. Garrus and Tali are back for action and are the only characters who are in your party for all three games. Joining them again from the original is Asari Dr. Liara T'soni and Ashley Williams or Kaiden Alenko depending on who survived on Virmire. Newcomers are James Vega, who is built like a Krogan, your ship's AI, EDI, and if you downloaded the "From Ashes" DLC, Prothean Javik. The characters in Mass Effect 3 really seem to come alive to aid Shepard in the galaxy's time of need. In fact, every character from the first two titles that were left alive will make an appearance in some form or fashion. Most of the time you'll get to work with them for a short period of time, or in the case of Miranda a couple of times. Any romantic subplots you ventured into in the previous titles is still available except for Jack.

Graphics - 10/10
From the destruction of London to the moon of Palaven, Mass Effect 3 is one of the most beautiful games you'll play on the XBox 360. The environments will take your breath away while the Reapers destroy it. The enemies are diverse and beautiful in their own way. Each weapon is detailed to look as realistic as future weaponry can. It's difficult to say anything different about other aspects of the game. Really from start to finish you're going to enjoy everything you're going to see throughout the game. Graphically, Mass Effect 3 is the best looking game the XBox 360 can offer...beating out Skyrim, Call of Duty, Forza...everything. Every detail will have you amazed and from a visual effects standpoint, ME3 gives you everything you could want for the finale of this fantastic trilogy.

Sound - 9/10
The soundtrack of Mass Effect 3 does the game justice. It's well-made, well-implemented and just good all around. Additionally, the voice acting is memorable and really can get your emotions up in certain situations. The drama and the timing is spot on throughout. The only problem is that sometimes the voice isn't there. The mouth is moving and the subtitles are there, but there's no noise coming from the character's mouth. It's mildly annoying and happens semi-regularly through the more minor missions. There is next-to-no issue through the main story and absolutely no problems during major plot points. The occasional misfire does leave a somewhat odd taste in your mouth, though.

Story - 10/10
*This section will be based on the overall story with the expanded ending.

Mass Effect's main course, the story, leaves nothing to want. In my opinion, the entire game works as a finale for every storyline you explored and ran into through the first two titles. Everyone is back for the final attack on the Reapers and it does something you've never expected from a game. It brings you back to not only moments from the first games, but also decisions.

Mass Effect is really the first of it's kind for the console generation. You really play as Commander Shepard through the trilogy. Every decision you make changes the story for all three. You connect with Shepard in a way and style that you never connect with in another title. You are Shepard. You make your own game and that, for me at least, was everything that mattered with this series. It didn't matter to me if the Rachni Queen survived in the first game, but I made the decision. Guess what, that decision changed this game. It's unbelievable the way Bioware's system works.

I've played hundreds of games, dozens being RPGs, but never has a series caught my attention quite like Mass Effect. Bioware has, for the first time, given us a main character with a personality we create 100% of. Shepard's background and history is only what you choose it to be. Every detail of Commander Shepard is yours to control. In my opinion it's the single greatest concept brought to console gaming in this generation, and it makes Mass Effect a once-in-a-lifetime experience for gamers. It leaves almost no loose-ends, brings everything to a close nicely, and even throws plenty of twists at you to keep you guessing. It's a perfect closing to a great trilogy.

Gameplay - 9/10
If you like to play games, you're going to love Mass Effect 3. It plays very, very close to Mass Effect 2 even though it has a new engine packaged with it. The multiplayer suite works like a glove, but it's unfortunate that you are required to utilize it if you want to get the best ending in the game.

Movement is unlabored and simple. Sprinting even got a makeover, making for an unlimited and faster running experience. Joy of joys. The cover system is still great, but Shepard will randomly jump into cover if you get too close to a wall. This can get very annoying when you're running to an objective or escaping some death-dealing explosions of death. The camera can act up from time to time during these types of scenes as well. Provided you understand the quirkiness of the camera you shouldn't have any sort of real issues.

The conversation wheel is back and works just as amazingly perfect as it has in the past. Paragon and Renegade decisions are still located in the same portions as before. There's really been no improvement to the system, but it didn't really need it in the first place. Like Mila Kunis for hotness, it's the benchmark for character conversation in gaming. It's not going to get better and it never should.

Bringing the races to battle against the Reapers is an absolute joy. Each environment is crafted beautifully and interaction with it is inviting. Each world plays a little bit different from the others while still maintaining it's own feel and culture. The Citadel plays and feels much different from Earth, which is worlds different (see what I did there) from Thessia.

In addition to scenery and world design, the Reaper enemies and Cerberus enemies play very differently from each other. You'll have to adjust to every enemy type through the adventure and to be honest you never get annoyed. Too often do games throw mindless enemies after you in excess. You never feel that with Mass Effect 3. You'll hear a Banshee cry out and immediately wonder where it is and complain that you hate them, but you're never faced with bullet-soak scenarios that annoy you. It's masterfully crafted, this game.

Pros
+ Excellent ending to an excellent trilogy
+ World design is mind-blowingly good
+ You can really feel the drama through Shepard's eyes and heart
+ Characters are amazingly well-crafted
+ Easy and complex all at the same time

Cons
- Cover system can be a nuisance
- Story drags a bit in the middle
- Very end takes control out of the player's hands

As much as I love the trilogy and would give it a 10 hands-down, Mass Effect 3 has a couple of issues that keep it just shy of perfect marks. It is an excellent game and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a true gamer. It will take a while to navigate the story in the way it was meant to be done but it's worth it in the end.

Mass Effect 3 for the Xbox 360 is a great way to end a series. Bioware really shows us what a gaming company can do when it focuses on the gamer. That's why I'm giving the overall series a 10, but Mass Effect 3 alone gets a 9.25/10. I can't say enough how much win this game has packed into it.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/15/12

Game Release: Mass Effect 3 (US, 03/06/12)


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