Review by Galactus21

"An epic capstone to one of this generation's great series"

Earlier this year, the third installment to the critically acclaimed Mass Effect series was released. The third installment comes on the heels of Mass Effect 2, which was widely well regarded by reviewers. While it was a tough act to follow, Mass Effect 3 is an epic conclusion about the story of Commander Shepard, his or her crew, and the broader ME universe. Mass Effect 3 certainly isn't perfect. The story isn't its strongest suit. Character development and interaction sometimes takes a back seat to the intense combat situations that were presented. Generally speaking however, Mass Effect 3's fantastic battles, epic moments of galactic struggles and atmospheric environment more than make it a great experience.

At the end of the second installment, Shepard had stopped the Collectors and foiled the plan of the Reapers. Fast track into the near future and the Reapers are on their way to Earth to exact revenge on the human race and the rest of the galaxy. We quickly learn what happened to Shepard shortly after his or her suicide mission to stop the Reapers. On that note, another nice continuity point was the brief story missions that show what past characters have been doing. These characters are the ones that are not a part of the current squad roster of course. We also quickly learn about the grim news facing the galaxy. Mass Effect 3's story isn't its strong suit, but well timed moments of epic and chivalrous events spread across the storyline help illicit strong emotions towards characters you've grown to love in the first two games. That in itself helps mitigate the shaky story and rallies you around the galaxy's fight against the once unstoppable foe.

Mass Effect 3 will also re-introduce series familiars throughout the game, as either playable or non-playable characters. Garrus and Tali are two noticeable names that make their way back as Shepard's squad members. There are also other characters that make their first appearance as squad members, but mostly you will be introduced with series favorites. For other characters who did not make the cut, there are generally missions that will bring them to the forefront and allow Shepard to see what has been going on with them in the events following the Collectors mission. While character development sometimes takes a back seat to the action, Shepard's interaction with squad members is still a very enjoyable experience. Like previous titles, Shepard will be presented with varying answers and decision points that present different dialogue. Of course, since Mass Effect 3's setting is based on such dire situation, one can feel the emotional bonds form between Shepard and his crew.

Now Mass Effect 3 certainly presents epic moments and enjoyable character interaction, but the meat of the game falls on its intense action. On that front, Mass Effect 3 appears to take a page from the Gears of War games. While it certainly doesn't measure up to Gears exceptional third person shooting game play, Mass Effect 3 provides some dynamic combat. There are numerous fire fights that provide intense moments. Enemies generally come fast and furious. While some enemies like the husks or cannibals felt like fodder for my bullets, others like Banshees were much tougher. The game certainly isn't one of the tougher games out there, but generally speaking, the game's enemies felt intelligent enough.

The game's shooting mechanics also felt slick. Certain guns would feel better, which helped mimic the strength of recoil for those guns. Players can also upgrade weapons, which provided necessary improvements. During fire fights, I felt I was able to maneuver with my joysticks well and target enemies as needed. It did not become a chore to try and switch between targets as action picked up. It also certainly helps that you'll be playing behind many well placed covers as you aim a pick off enemies. I also found the controls for the most part to be slick. Although in tighter spaces, it becomes a bit difficult to maneuver your character. I found this to be especially true in one of the game's boss fights towards the end.

Like previous games, players will have access to certain abilities, such as singularity or equipping oneself with disrupter ammo. Players are also opened to an assortment of guns, grenades, and other weapons at one's disposal. While Mass Effect has simmered down with the rpg elements as the series progressed, players will still be able to upgrade weapons and level up your characters. The leveling up system was fairly simple however, as players would assign points to certain skills, which were few and far between. The light rpg elements certainly don't detract from the experience however, as the fierce action and emotionally eliciting story elements take center stage.

Moreover, Mass Effect 3 had a fantastic balance of main quest and side story missions. Many side story missions were also solid compliments to the main story. For instance, I needed to find a special artifact that would help a researcher better prepare themselves for this war. Other side missions called for investigations of Cerebus and their mischievous actions. One minor gripe however is the game's lack of a noticed system on when side missions needed to be completed. I found on several instances, where side missions were no longer available due to some other events being finished. I was deprived of a few side quests this way. Other side missions were also missed due to some noticeable bugs that I felt shouldn't have made production. These are few and far between and certainly don't detract from the otherwise fantastic experience.

Mass Effect 3 is a great looking game. Character models look fantastic, whether it was close up or far shots of characters. Character models were highly detailed and showcased some of the solid art design behind Bioware's artwork. The game also looks great in flight, as the numerous actions are depicted well and utilize Xbox 360's hardware. More importantly however, the game runs exceptionally well and holds a great frame rate throughout. Cut scenes also look solid throughout the game, with the ones near the end of the game looking especially well done. The game's voice acting was stellar as well, minus a few characters here and there of course. For a video game, I felt the characters were able to express the dire situation they were in and help connect one to the life and death struggle that Mass Effect 3's atmosphere presents. Finally, the soundtrack itself felt solid as well.

From start to finish, it took me about thirty five hours to complete the game. While there were certainly some side quests I missed or didn't complete, I did my due diligence to try and complete as much as I can. Side missions never felt like a chore however, and I felt it complimented the main quests well. Either way, Mass Effect 3 provided thirty five hours of intense moments, either through live game play sequences or emotionally gripping story elements. Playing through Mass Effect 3 was certainly made better after having a connection with the characters from the first two games. I also want to note that I had downloaded the extended cut and did not experience the original ending like others did. After the extended cut, I felt the ending was sufficient enough and did not detract from the overall game. While it was not the best in the series and also not without flaws, Mass Effect 3 was a gripping end to a trilogy that spanned numerous epic adventures as Commander Shepard. Anyone who enjoyed the first two games will definitely like this one as well.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/15/12

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

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