Review

Mass Effect 3 Review (Xbox360)

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.

Game advertisements by <a href="http://www.game-advertising-online.com" target="_blank">Game Advertising Online</a> require iframes.

Videos

Comments

By nocutius (SI Elite) on Mar 09, 2012
nocutius
I see a lot of people being unhappy about the ending and how little effect the player really has on it.
That seems quite disappointing as one of the main points of the series was supposed to be your ability to influence things.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Mar 10, 2012
SirRoderick
I'm still replaying ME1 at this point!....actually I still have to start. The face....it's not right yet! I need it to look like my Shepard, which is why I'm hoping they'll fix that face import problem.
By unsilviu (SI Core) on Mar 10, 2012
unsilviu
Having just finished the game, I can say it's the best in the series, ties every plot point from the first two games... but the final 10 minutes are the worst letdown of any fictional story ever. It's as if they made a senile philosopher write the ending at gunpoint...
I've always viewed the ME series as an example of how story in games should be handled. I've been looking forward to the third installment since I finished the second, waiting to see how this epic story concludes. But ME3's plot structure is as follows(No spoilers in image):
http://i.imgur.com/kqtLo.png
Sorry if this feels like a rant, I finished the game 5 minutes ago and then I saw your review :P
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Mar 10, 2012
nocutius
That seems to be the concensus of pretty much everyone, a briliant game until you reach the end, at which point you becoma a sad panda.

I loved Battlestar Galactica but the ending completely ruined it and I have absolutely no interest in that universe since. I suspect that my interest in future ME products will suffer the same fate.
By unsilviu (SI Core) on Mar 10, 2012
unsilviu
Surprisingly to me, I liked BSG's ending, but I suspect that is because there had been several situations throughout the show where they'd made it clear that there were larger forces at play, and so I didn't mind that the ending was somewhat unexplained. But this is Mass Effect.
I get the feeling they were trying to emulate the original Deus Ex, with no "good" choice, but Mass Effect is a friggin space opera, inspired by the 50's Sci-Fi flicks, the original even had an optional film grain filter. People on the forums are currently begging to get a $10 DLC to fix the story...
By Sir_Recon (SI Veteran Newbie) on Mar 10, 2012
Sir_Recon
Playing ME1 again right now, the series as a whole is great way to spend your gaming time, there are alot of unhappy gamers out there I noticed and I think in general gamers are an unhappy lot, can't wait til my copy of ME3 arrives.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Mar 10, 2012
SirRoderick
As a random side note, why the hell is the film grain filter the default "on" in ME1? At first I thought my card had melted or something. xD

as for "People on the forums are currently begging to get a $10 DLC to fix the story..." sounds like a succesful plan then doesn't it?
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Mar 11, 2012
herodotus
I heard a lot of folk are upset at the ending and would prefer BioWare put any future effort into expanding upon the SP, rather than MP (hence a poll on FB from BioWare). Hard for me to comment as I just started playing "ME 1" again and realised I hadn't a clue where IO was or what I was meant to do so will have to re-start the game. be a while before I get to "ME 3".
I enjoy the conversations with NPC's, and am happy to see there is more attention given to developing your characters and their relationships (no, not the sordid ones you're thinking of) despite the flaming one BioWare staffer got wanting drop the action. My biggest complaint just with "ME 1" is the action pieces are the low points and are either too easy, or as with the vehicle sections just plain annoying.
While MP seems to be tacked on to every other new release these days, without a future MMO in the works I can't help but feel it will be popular for a bit, then disappear within 12 months. So much effort and resources ploughed into a feature that many end up just trying, then forgetting about. I'd rather have seen all effort put into SP, and anything MP put aside for a future MMORPG.
I am now more aware of the need to explore as mentioned in the review (as I have had that explained through more in playing "TOR"), however one things that has bugged me with both "ME" and "TOR" is the conversation wheel. What looks like the choice I think appropriate quite often is very, very different when the full text is spoken both in content and how it is spoken (for example, it looks like the confident and "correct" answer, but ends up sounding bombastic and over confident). Always thought this is the weak point in BioWare games.

Excellent and thoughful review, Joe. Genuine apreciation for the series laced with objectivity. Many other "Day 1" reviews have been bashed as being "paid for", rightly or wrongly and have lacked genuine comenting on content. ore extended PR hype.


PS. I found the ending of "BSG" (and I am a BIG fan) not s much disappointing as simply "meh". Such a journey with so many stories, personal conflicts/tragedies and side stories that should have all been tied together in the end or left with big question marks. The whole Father-Son dynamic so strong in Seasons One and Three just vanished in favour of that dubious and let's face it just plain weird sub polt with Kara Thrace.
I had high hopes for "Caprica", but they quickly faded after watching it. A strong cast with a poor story.
It was a "safe" way to end the show, and very "American" (Adama building the foundations of his frontier homestead etc.).
By hunter612 (SI Core) on Mar 12, 2012
hunter612
Meh. Waiting for my copy.
By raven89nk (SI Newbie) on Mar 12, 2012
raven89nk
My friends come in half asleep to work cause of playing Mass Effect 3 all night :D
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Mar 12, 2012
herodotus
I know the feeling. I played "TOR" yesterday until 6pm then got back at 11pm and just stopped playing in time to go out (7am here). Four stage missions don't help. Just when you think you're done and free to log off....one more objective.
By hunter612 (SI Core) on Mar 14, 2012
hunter612
^ addiction :D