REVIEW: Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3Developed by – Bioware

Published by – EA

Number of Players – 1-4

Platform – Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3, PC

Release Date – Out now for Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Genre – Shooter/RPG

ESRB – Mature 17+

MSRP – $59.99

To say expectations are high for Mass Effect 3 would be an understatement. This is not only the latest sequel to a much beloved franchise, but the end of a 5 year epic saga, in which all your actions over the last 60+ hours finally pay off . Will the world destroying Reapers finally be defeated, and perhaps more importantly to some, will you be able to finally make a long-term commitment to Garrus?

Fans of the series so far will not be surprised with what the game has to offer, for the most part. A majority of gameplay is spent in cover-based shooting, ordering squad members around and strategically making your way towards a MacGuffin of some sort. Little has changed here, indeed the combat is very similar to many other third person shooters on the market. The biggest change veterans will notice is the cover system – slight tweaks have been made to make rolling around and vaulting over objects much smoother. At first it took some getting used to, but after a few missions I slipped into it naturally.

Other than that, its business as usual in the action department, which is by no means a complaint. This is war, and as such the gameplay provides epic battle scenes, which are very satisfying to work through. Some variation in enemy types means some serious tactical decisions have to be made, and sometimes this is literally life or death stuff for your crew.

Many fans of the series are more likely to be interested in the RPG and story elements of Mass Effect 3, and I’m pleased to say these do not disappoint. At this stage it hardly seems worth mentioning that Bioware are one of the few developers who seeing writing and story as a key part of the game experience, but until other developers catch up, they will remain a cut above the rest. The cutscenes are often a joy to watch because of their high production values – this is not Shakespearian, but at least the quality of a mid level sci-fi TV series, which is rare for a video game. This is combined with the fact that at this stage we know the characters, we have an emotional connection to them, and so being a part of the story is more important, and rewarding, than ever before.

Sadly though, all good things must come to an end. Characters will die, and conflicts or plot-lines that have developed for years will resolve here. Some ex-crewmate deaths through the middle of the game really hammer home that this is the conclusion of an epic saga, and the fact that these deaths could have been avoided had I made different key decisions made me question my style of play. This is the sort of thing that can only be achieved in an interactive medium, and I applaud Mass Effect 3 for using it how it does.

This sense of conclusion and closure may also be Mass Effect 3‘s biggest problem – it’s just too big and overwhelming. The whole game is like one long third act, with every mission being a huge battle for the universe. As a result, there are few breathing moments – while there is some exploration, it never feels like you are free to go and do your own thing. There only seems to be one planet on which you can wander around and interact with people – where before non player characters were preparing for war, this IS war, and so there is little messing around. Some quieter moments in among might have been nice to flesh the story out.

Much has been said about the multiplayer, which many have felt could be unnecessary. While not strictly essential, it’s fun to dive in for a few rounds to blow off steam, teaming up with buddies in a way that feels like it reflects the single player campaign satisfactorily. There is no competitive combat, only a variation on horde mode, which may disappoint some, but with a decent team it’s a lot of fun. As waves of enemies home in on you and up to 3 friends, the tension really racks up, and it really does feel like an extension of the campaign’s squad-based comradery. I’m not a huge fan of how the multiplayer and single player are connected – playing enough multiplayer will increase your chance of a ‘good’ ending in the single player – but as a standalone thing, it’s pretty fun, if not revolutionary. A pleasant surprise, considering I did not intend to play much of it, and now seems like the part I am most likely to stick with in the long run.

Mass Effect 3 seems like a fitting end to the series, and when viewed as a trilogy it’s hard to fault. It’s an franchise unlike any other, in which different players can have wildly different experiences, and everyone will form their own hero. Fans of the series will probably already have this installment, but anyone else looking for an epic space adventure should look no further. Mass Effect 2 is still my favorite, but Mass Effect 3 isn’t far behind.

Story: 5 / Graphics: 4 / Audio: 5 / Gameplay: 4 / Overall: 4.5

About David B. Cooper

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