Review by Booji_Boy93

Reviewed: 01/28/08

I expected much better

This game was a disappointment plain and simple. I will delve into the specifics in a bit, but I wanted to talk a bit about the general aspects before that. I call this genre of game: "action-RPG" because you level up, and grind just as in a classic RPG, but the combat and exploration is based in real-time combat. Basically, a third-person over the shoulder view ala "Gears of War" with a cover system. You control the "hero" who must save the galaxy from destruction, and you have a variety of human and alien sidekicks you can take along on your quests.

I will start with the graphics because they are pretty disappointing. Lots of pop-up and and textures that load as you are looking at them. Some of the main quest environments look pretty, but you spend around 10% of the game enjoying them. My main complaint is the horrible (and I mean HORRIBLE) framerate issues. Framerate will drop to single digits just by turning quickly. a single enemy on the screen? Expect the framerate to suffer. Battling five enemies at once? Get used to the game stuttering and enemies teleporting two feet past you as you shoot at them. In short, this game has the WORST framerate issues I have ever seen on my 360. It gave me headaches and strained my eyes. Completely unacceptable. Character models aren't horrible, but all the dressings (armor, weapons, NPCs) all look exactly alike with very minor cosmetic changes. For example, the worst guns in the game look white. The best guns in the game look exactly the same style, except they are black. I imagine that a good portion of disk space for ME is spent on the extensive dialogue and cutscenes, but if I want to read a good book or watch a good movie, I will do so. I want to play a game, tho, and I want it to look and play decently. ME fails miserably in this department.

I love the general idea behind the gameplay. Who wouldn't like a space-themed, GoW clone where you can level up your character abilities and micro manage weapon upgrades and more? Sounds awesome, right? The main quest of the game makes up about 20% of the time you play. The other 80% of the game is cutscenes, dialogue menus, and very bland "side missions" which mostly look and play exactly the same. You explore different star systems and survey worlds for resources and other valuables. On each world there is usually some baddies to exterminate, but they are usually found in one of the three different settings that look exactly the same on each world: 1. the three room underground base, 2. the three room mining base, 3. the five room space ship, etc. Each of these can be found on different planets/systems and aside from some extremely minor cosmetic changes they all look EXACTLY ALIKE. The main quest environments are much more interesting, but there are so few of them. It appears obvious that the side missions are purely there to lengthen game time. My first play through I logged about 45 hours, which included every tedious side mission, surveying every inch of absurdly mountainous terrain, and taking my time doing it.

The story was pretty good, it's an immersive storyline backed up with impressive scientific theory. I usually find myself skipping most cutscenes in RPGs but I did enjoy the universe and history presented in ME. Some of the side stories were a bit silly (surprise, surprise) but overall it was grandiose and enjoyable.

petty gripes
Apparently, 300 years from now, elevator technology has taken a huge step backwards. What was once a faster and more convenient way to travel between floors now takes five times longer. Why anyone would put an elevator on a three floor spaceship, especially when the top two floors have a staircase connecting them, is beyond me.

A lot has been made of the "sexual content" in the game, but it is PG rated at best. You don't really see anything you wouldn't see in a bathing suit. Not even so much as a bare bottom. If the game is gonna get slapped with a 'mature content' warning then put some damn mature content in it for pete's sake. Perhaps a seven year old child might find the seven seconds of supposed 'sexual content' titillating, but trust me, it's nothing.

The Mako is an all terrain vehicle used to explore planets. By "explore planets" I mean "drive around the thousand or so mountains packed within the one square mile of terrain you can access." The Mako shoots like a tank and handles like a school bus. Even the most rough and mountainous terrain on earth doesn't compare to 95% of these maps. Many a player has gone down to a planet, seen a gazillion craggy peaks awaiting them, probably said "screw this", and left. I know I wanted to on many occasions. Without these mountains, most planets would take approximately five minutes to fully explore. Yet another artificial (and superficial) way to increase playing time by the developers.

Overall, I wonder just how much better this game would have been if all the issues could have been worked out by release. The game feels half finished as is, and the technical shortcomings really cripple what could have been GotY. I would have been satisfied if the developers had put more detail into the gameplay and programming than the storyline and ambiance.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Product Release: Mass Effect (US, 11/20/07)

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