March 14, 2012
Mass Effect 3 Review
In 2007 Bioware unleashed a gaming phenomenon in Mass Effect, an action RPG in which the choices you made would affect the outcome in future titles. It’s now 2012 and we have the third title in the planed trilogy, Earth is in ruins, the Reapers are spreading galactic extinction, and only Shepard can unite the galaxy under one banner, does your version of him or her have what it takes to “take Earth back”? I must admit, writing this review was a huge undertaking. I have never been so emotionally involved in a medium to the point of despair, feeling a sense of humanity out of digital characters, and to shed tears of sadness. It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, to get me to cry and well, this game accomplished that. Well done Bioware, well done.
The game takes place a few months after the conclusion of the Arrival DLC from Mass Effect 2. The Reaper threat is very real as within the first 20 minutes Earth comes under attack and the dark and desperate tone of the game hits hard. Shepard is charged with the daunting task with uniting a feuding galaxy against a common enemy. What unfolds over the next 30+ hours, including side quest, is a brilliant story, which is well written and has superb voice acting; Hollywood should be taking notes here. There is a real sense of emotion and humanity with these characters. There is a particular part in the middle of the game that shows the human side or influence if you will, in each of the species that shows a real connection with your Shepard that has spanned 3 titles. I did have gripes toward the zero hour of the games finale, but they are really small gripes in the grand scale of an amazing tale, and who can argue with a game that has some of the most spectacular space battles of this generation.
The tight game play and fantastic cover system return from ME2 with sight improvements. There are now directional arrows for easy cover to cover maneuvers. They have now implemented a weight system and it affects your load out and powers accordingly. Each weapon has its own weight, which can be deterred by upgrading the weapon, add to many weapons to your load out and your powers will recharge at a much slower rate. Equip only one weapon, or below the designated line on the weight gauge and gain a recharge boost. It is a nice implementation; it adds a nice balance to the different classes. Soldiers can carry more and not really worries about powers were as my Vanguard was lightly equipped so I could instantly use my powers again. The conversation system is back and I have mixed feelings about it. While the dialogue is better than ever, there are only two clear cut choices. You either have a heavenly glowing paragon, or a tough as nails, rude renegade. In the previous titles there was a nice middle ground where you weren’t the guy everyone liked yet not the guy everyone wanted to kill. The melee system that was taught over is fine and well as long as you’re not trying to aim a strong attack. The camera backs off to give you the full effect of our force blast or stab but the aiming mechanics go out the window as well; just hope they are right in front and don’t plan on moving. The only other game play gripe I have is the back button functionality (I played the 360 copy since that’s where my Shepard has been since day one). In ME2 it would holster your weapon while not in combat to give you a better view while you searched for objects in the environment and so you did not look so stiff while traversing the terrain. Sadly this has been removed in favor of a quick save feature, which I can see the point of but I just hate the fact Shepard can’t put his gun to his side to pick up an upgrade it looks robotic now.
I have given some serious rage to the Unreal 3 engine in the past; the bugs that are prevalent in most games using the engine, the awful network coding, TEXTURE POPPING, and the slowdown that can occur if it has to stop and think about something. Good news everyone, the game is 90 percent free from all of this. The game is gorgeous and texture pop in is almost nonexistent. The visuals are the best in the series and really convey a war torn galaxy and the skyscraper like Reapers have a huge intimidation factor. The game can feel a little clunky at times, the same problem with the Gears of War series, but when it works its silky smooth. I am proud of Bioware being able to get a working multiplayer going on this engine, they should be commended. Yes, the multiplayer is a version of hip horde mode everyone is doing, but it works and has little connection and lag issues. Gears of War can cripple itself under the weight of its own engine, Mass Effect may not have the glamour textures of GoW but, it runs without a hitch. Speaking of the multiplayer, there were skeptics when this was announced and I was one of them. I am happy to say, it works and works quite well. In the demo that was released, I had easily put 20+ hours with friends and co-editors into the multiplayer and the demo contained a fourth of the content. It is worth checking out and can have a small effect on the single player, but if you don’t the N7 missions take its place.
The game is an epic achievement on Bioware’s behalf. The choice and game play designs are top notch and they found a great mix between ME1 and ME2. Despite what I am giving this game it is not perfect. It is receiving this score because the game is a fantastic package. The single player is great, while the story hiccups towards the end, 99 percent of the game outweighs the off-putting 1 percent. Like I stated in the opening paragraph, I have never been so emotionally involved in a game before. I would love to see more of these types of games in the industry, ones with good stories and with more choice, even though there were issues with choice in this entry. Mass Effect 3 is brilliant, and if you have had reservations about jumping on the hype bandwagon, now is the best time to dive in. You can get lost reading the universe’s lore in the codex, scouring the universe to complete side quest, and have a blast with friends in the multiplayer; without a doubt get this game! This maybe good bye to Shepard and crew, but not to the Mass Effect Universe, I am excited to see what becomes of the series next.
Editor’s note: I did not get a chance to play the game with a Kinect. I do have one and will update the review if it would change my opinion of the game at all, if not this is our definitive review.
Mass Effect 3 Review