Review by nastynate3118
Back in my day, all you got for an ending was a "Congratulations!"
Mass Effect 3 is a 2012 action RPG on the Xbox 360. This was the game that brought the series to my attention and actually made me want to play it. I clearly remember 2 years ago everyone going absolutely crazy over the ending of this game. Being an old-school gamer who grew up with games that offered nothing more than a congratulations! screen, I really wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I decided to play all three games in the series and see if all of the anger was really justified. The second game is a masterpiece and so naturally I was very excited to continue the adventures of Commander Shepard. How did it go? Read on to find out.
Mass Effect 3 involves the player controlling Commander Shepard in a third-person shooter perspective as he is accompanied by two squadmates as they explore planets and shoot enemies. Like the other games in the series, there is a ton to customize with Shepard and the gameplay itself. There are tons of options, difficulties, abilities, weapons, upgrades, etc. You can even craft Shepards back story and make him a nice or mean character with conversation choices presented. These choices change the progression of the game and make interacting with NPCs very enjoyable.
The combat builds off the simplified shooter experience presented in Mass Effect 2. Shepard has access to several different kinds of weapons that can all be upgraded as well as special powers that can be used in combat. The action is very smooth and there is a nice balance between shooting and strategy. Squadmates all have different powers that force the player to not blindly choose whomever they want. The only flaw with the combat comes when trying to take cover in a firefight; Shepard will either duck down when you dont want him to or not go down when he is supposed to.
Beyond combat, there is plenty of optional content to enjoy although it is not executed very well. Shepard can collect weapon and equipment upgrades but organizing and applying them is very clunky they make very little difference. Similar to the previous games, you can take your team through space exploring new planets but this process is also very muddled and confusing. You can randomly fly through space and use a scanner to try and find different upgrades and items but doing this attracts the attention of the Reapers, evil robots that are out to kill you. This takes all of the fun out of exploring planets. Side quests are usually nothing more than fetch quests that involve tedious exploring that takes time and yields little reward.
Ultimately, all of the fun that could have been present with the optional content is sucked away and Mass Effect 3 shows many problems that the original game had. On a plus side, this game does away with the many, many glitches that plagued the first two games but sadly a lot of wonderful gameplay aspects of Mass Effect 2 are missing in this game.
Mass Effect 3 has decent interface with a few problems that occur when doing optional missions. The menus are clean and nice and there is a helpful graphic that shows the controller mapping. They made the text much easier to read in comparison to the previous two games and overall everything is much slicker. Shopping is made easier thanks to it being centralized on the Normandy and the save system is still a strong suit.
One really annoying interface problem comes with the fact that you have to switch between Disc 1 and Disc 2 back and forth multiple times. It wouldnt be a problem if you only had to do this once but the fact that this has to happen on an Xbox 360 is unacceptable. I would expect this from an Apple II game from 1986 but not a 2012 360 game. The only menu that is really annoying is the weapons upgrade menu which is very cluttered and hard to use due to the many prompts you have to swim through. The side missions display is also very unorganized and unhelpful when you want to complete them.
Mass Effect 3 concludes the adventures of Commander Shepard and his team as they try to rid the galaxy of evil space monsters called Reapers who are bent on destroying the galaxy. This games story is action-packed and sets the tone very early with a chaotic start. The pace does come to a screeching halt during the middle of the game but for the most part the progression is fluent. The greatest strength of the entire series comes with the conversation choices Shepard has and how he can be a paragon or renegade; indeed, this adds a lot of intrigue to the story. The characters are all developed very well and I liked the portrayal of a gay character that was included. This is a character-driven story that is supplanted with excellent writing.
The biggest missteps with the story come with the sloppy romances and the controversial endings. Shepard has the ability to have a relationship with one of several characters but the mechanics behind this are very sloppy and inconsistent. Shepards partner will barely acknowledge the interest and the game has a bad habit of disregarding previous relationships from the prior games. These subplots are very haphazard in their execution and leave much more to be desired.
A review for this game must address the endings, so lets get this out of the way. Personally, I didnt think they were as bad as people made them out to be, but at the same time I do see why everyone was so upset. You see, there are different endings that can be attained based on choices Shepard makes, but if you watch all of the endings you will discover this games dirty secret: they are almost all the same. The cinematics and presentation are recycled amongst them all and it really renders everything you have accomplished moot. The Extended Cut DLC adds a little bit of variety but the major disconnect between what you think you are playing for and what actually happens is troubling.
The visuals in Mass Effect 3 are impressive. There are tons of environments that all boast detail and variety. I was especially impressed with the fantastic use of lighting and how light and darkness adds to the experience. The character and enemy models are animated very well however I have mixed feelings about the facial models. They are animated to perfection but the design is a bit off. It is almost like they added too much detail to the faces and they look unnatural.
Mass Effect 3 easily has the best music in the series and combines all of the great things about the previous two games in terms of audio. There is a nice mix between prominent and subtle music as well as some familiar songs from the older games. The music contributes heavily to the atmosphere and the ending theme is phenomenal. The voice acting once again lives up to the high standard of the series and the sound effects are mixed very well.
Play Time/Replay Value 10/10
I completed my play through of Mass Effect 3 in 35 hours and 2 minutes. The game is fairly lengthy even without optional content but still has a ton of missions and replay value to keep it interesting. This series is all about replay value by encouraging multiple play throughs with different Shepards who make different choices. Finishing this game will make you want to replay the entire series, something that has been crafted well from these games.
+Tons to customize
+Easier to read text
+Tremendous replay value
-Optional content clunky and unorganized
-Cover system still problematic
-Space exploration is no fun
-Switching discs is annoying
-Side missions display is unhelpful
-Disconnect between choices and ending
-Sloppy romance subplots
-Facial models a bit off
The Mass Effect trilogy will be viewed ten years from now as a fine series regardless of the ending of this game. This is certainly a worthy effort and even though it does not live up to the greatness of Mass Effect 2 it is still worth the time to enjoy. RPG fans and shooter fans will definitely love this game.
Final Score: 8.333333333/10 rounded to 8/10
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Mass Effect 3 (US, 03/06/12)
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