Review

Mass Effect 3 Review (PS3)

My face is not my own. I imagine you’ve heard this before (probably from me), but the details really do matter. Now, it would take a really petty person to base an entire review off the fact that Mass Effect 3 couldn’t properly import the face I created all the way back in ME1 (and that was also used in ME2), but still, there was a brief moment of sadness as I realised that Commander Joe Shepard would be fighting the Reapers with a new face. That moment was completely over-shadowed though by a game that, quite honestly, is an epic ending to an epic saga.
 

Oddly enough, melee isn't as good as it's made out to be...
It’s nice to actually have actually been there from the beginning – for the life of me I can’t remember what first drew me to Mass Effect (it was just before I started writing about videogames, so it’s not like It was my job at the time), but get it I did, and now just over four years later here I am commenting on the finale. The Reaper’s have finally arrived, Earth is under siege, and naturally only you can unite the races in order to fight back – it’s Mass Effect through and through, but there are still a few cautionary tales to be found here. Every game in the franchise so far has had its oddities, and the issue with importing faces is only the first that might plague a Mass Effect 3 player.

In terms of the core make-up off the game, we’d say it’s a kind of half-way house between Mass Effect and the second game. In the previous instalment, Bioware stripped out and streamlined a lot of more traditional RPG features, and some believed they had gone a bit too far – now they’ve swung things back in the opposite direction, but not too much as to be too old-school. You can now mod your main weapons in a limited capacity, each variation of each weapon had different stats, so it becomes a choice of which weapons you want to bring… hell they’ve even got a weight system now that means that if you do want to bring all give with you, you could five serious penalties on your combat powers. And that’s just with the guns – they have been other tweaks and changes, from how exploration is dealt with in the game, to movement in combat, to squad interactions.

As with all Mass Effect games, sometimes it seems as if you do as much talking as you do fighting. Combat is great – a little stiff at times, and slightly difficult to master – and the afore mentioned tweaks really give everything a more seamless (Or Gears-like, if you want to draw comparisons) experience. The enemies are tough AND smart too, forcing you to use your squad and powers more effectively to combat different situations and enemies. When you’re not blowing a Reaper’s guts all over the wall though, you’re dealing with character interaction, and here is where we encounter some more oddities. Now, we’re willing to concede that a lot of this is probably down to the fact that Bioware has to reconcile possibly events and outcomes strewn across three games, but it doesn’t make the experience any less jarring sometimes.
 
Local residents in Staines weren't happy about the Day One DLC
To put it plainly, there is an odd disconnect between this game and Mass Effect 2. In fact, there are more ties between this game and the first game than there are between 2 and 3, and sometimes we can’t help but feel Mass Effect 2 never happened. Apart from Garrus and Tali (assuming they survive ME2), no one else potentially recruitable for your squad was a major player in Mass Effect 2, with Liara and Ashley/Kaiden, and then two brand new players making up the rest of the roster (plus a day one DLC guy). Everyone else from the previous game is included in some form, but usually just for one off missions or meetings (even those involved in the main mission don’t stick around for long). It’s like, “Hey, Wrex, I just did that mission you really wanted me to do for you – we not going to talk about it at all?” And, “Jack, was great bumping into you again and rescuing you from Cerberus… only to have you suddenly disappear with nothing but an email.”

That said, the reason why the ‘playable’ cast is smaller this time is to allow for deeper character relationships – and that, at least, is clear. In the fact the entire plot – from the emotional side of things at least (the core story has its good and bad points) - is very well written. Heart strings will be pulled and made to dance like puppets. It’s not as obvious playing the game through normally (although you do get an odd sense of paranoia when it comes to making decisions), but If you dig deeper into the possible outcomes for the game – by consulting a guide or a wiki or whatever – you really do come to appreciate the big picture Bioware had to work with. At the very least, the studio and this game deserve credit for that. Now if only they had given Legion more screen time…

Of course, we must also talk about the multiplayer as well, given how integral it’s become to the game. In short – it’s actually not bad. Sure, it’s basically Horde mode with Mass Effect themes, but you can tell Bioware have at least given it a good effort – the character you take into ‘Galaxy at War’ (official name for the MP) can be customised, race, sex, class, and then you can customise looks as well. From there, you fight in matches (Bronze, Silver or Gold ‘difficulties’), and you gain XP and credits to level up and buy ‘kits’ from the in-game store that net you random loot. This loot can be anything from Medi-Gel, to one-off boosters, to weapon and armour ‘mods’ that can be applied for a particular mission. You have fewer powers than Shepard, but you still level them up in the same way, you can swap out and level up a different character class as an when you please.

The reality though, as far as we’ve been able to tell at the time of writing, the only real use ‘Galaxy at War’ has is to augment the single-player. Whilst the general plot of ME3 has you trying to rally the galaxy to fight back against the reapers, in gameplay terms this essentially has you collecting ‘War Assets’. The exploration element of the game manifest itself here, with you travelling into Reaper controlled territory to ‘rescue’ people and assets, and along with the odd salvage find to net you fuel and credits. These assets contribute to a global asset metre, but the value is modified by ‘Galactic Readiness’, which starts off at 50% (so you basically need to work harder to get the minimum amount of assets you need). Play multiplayer however, and that modifier increases, and your assets are worth more… until you get to 100%. After you reach that, we don’t really see the multiplayer having any draw since it’s not competitive and there’s little else to do with it.
 
You have to unlock other species in multiplayer, so to begin with you'll be playing as faceless human operatives.

This review isn’t really about how ‘good’ Mass Effect 3 is – of course it’s good. Great, even, but I feel my job is just as much about managing expectations as it is recommendations. Is this the best game of the series? It’s hard to tell – Mass Effect 2 was a better stand-alone game we feel, but there are elements of ME3’s core make-up that are also superior to any of the previous games. Multiplayer is a good start, but really could do with something competitive, and whilst the central story is emotionally rich (with some epic set-pieces), it does spend a little bit too much time tying up everything from all three games. Ultimately though, we think that this is as good an ending to the trilogy as you’re going to get, and Bioware deserve a round of applause for creating such a grand and visionary series.

Top Game Moment: There are certain set-pieces that… no, damn it… I promised myself I wouldn’t cry…

Played on: Xbox 360

Note: Sadly, I do not own the Kinect 360 peripheral, so was unable to test out those features on the Xbox 360 version.

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Comments

By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on May 08, 2012
SirRoderick
I just finished the game!

It was epic, fabulous, awesome, fantastic, magnificent, superb, titanic, transcendent, spine-tinglingly perfect!

Right up until the ending...

Really, best singleplayer game I've played since...well, Mass Effect 2! But that ending *groans*...I told myself people were overreacting, but I can't help like feeling I got slapped in the face with that one. It doesn't explain ANYTHING!

On top of which, it basically pulls a last second deus ex machina, which is just awful. It raises more questions than it answers for gods sake!

I loved playing the game, but the vague, inconsistent and in some areas downright baffling ending just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. The fact that literally every part of the game besides the final 5 minutes were so good almost makes it worse.

So I love the game, hate the guy(s) in charge of the ending.