Mass Effect 3 Xbox 360 Review
It’s hard to imagine a game arriving with more hype, demands, and expectation from its fans than Mass Effect 3 (ME3). The first two Mass Effect games provided an incredible and innovative blend of gameplay and story; with such an impressive standard, developer BioWare’s challenge for ME3 is not only to conclude the series, but to finish a tale that millions of gamers consider one of the most sacred ever to grace gaming consoles. Rest assured, ME3 is nearly everything you could imagine, flawed in few areas, and perfect in ways you never expected.
The game wastes no time acquainting you with the series’ impressive history. Regardless of whether you choose to create a new character or import your saved character from Mass Effect 2 (ME2), you will have a chance to review the game’s established story via a few explanatory screens and conversations. At the game’s onset, we find Shepard and his crew learning that the long-feared Reaper – an ancient alien race – invasion has finally arrived. After a brief tutorial that acquaints you with minor gameplay additions (or teaches the game’s unique RPG and shooting hybrid style to new players), you are tasked with stopping the Reapers and the rogue human interest group Cerberus from completely destroying the galaxy. Though galaxy travel has been a feature since the first game in 2007, ME3 tweaks it just enough to feel innovative. Gone is the endless planet scanning of ME2; instead, you’re tasked with various goals that add to your galactic readiness, a feature that reflects how well you’ve searched for resources and members for the final conflict against the Reapers. It’s a small change, but it adds gravitas to the game and makes you give attention to even the most remote corners of space.
And pay attention you should. The game’s graphics seamlessly blend – with only rare hiccups – between cut-scenes and gameplay, and it’s no exaggeration to say that few titles look this incredible. Like other titles in the series, BioWare takes full advantage of the graphical freedom offered by traveling all over a universe. You’ll encounter deserts, jungles, caverns, lost cities, abandoned labs, and exotic alien worlds; if it’s a science fiction element, chances are that it exists in this game and that it’s incredible to see. Don’t be surprised if you continually forget you’re playing a game; the universe looks and sounds alive through an incredible soundtrack that punctuates gameplay, and you’ll never experience a moment where you don’t believe that this universe will continue to exist long after your chapter in its story concludes.
BioWare’s storytelling ability has never been better than in Mass Effect 3, as the fully realized storyline features impressive voice-acting and script work that firmly establishes Shepard and his crew at the center of the story. It’s this narrative element that makes ME3 considerably more impressive than its philosophical sibling Halo. Thousands of lines of spoken dialogue are heard over the course of the game, each one masterfully delivered and contribute in creating one of the most memorable cast of characters in gaming history. Seriously, these characters put other ensemble casts to shame. Spending time with them is at the heart of ME3; by far, the most satisfying moments of ME3 for me came not in combat (not that it’s at all lackluster), but in a conversation with a crew member.
Don’t worry, veterans of the series – familiar faces from earlier games are entwined in your story, and your decisions from earlier games impact available crew members and their fates. You can again pursue a relationship with various characters in the game (even if you wine and dined another character in ME2), but remember – like real life, consistency and time are key. Not to ruin anything, but it’s a testament to the game’s emotional power that after five years and three games, the most sublime moment in ME3 came within a simple picture frame.
As for gameplay, ME3 abides by the running and gunning formula of ME2 with several important changes, making ME3’s combat the most enjoyable of any game in the series. Shepard’s agility in combat is perhaps the most noticeable improvement. Covering and evading enemy fire is much smother than in earlier games, and you have several new combat mechanics (rolling into cover, no fatigue while running, gap jumping) that ensure fighting remains consistently engaging. The game’s combat speed has also been increased, which makes melee much more enjoyable. The RPG elements in the game have also been improved; instead of ME2’s limiting weapon system, you’re now able to purchase multiple upgrades and equip any character with any type of gun, provided that it doesn’t exceed that character’s weight limit (another new feature). If it does, Biotic powers – skills ranging from frozen ammo to electronically overloading synthetics – will have severely hampered recharge times. Still, the game definitely encourages various types of combat. Fan of a sniper rifle? Snipe and weave. Bruiser and fighter? Yeah, there’s a shotgun for that. Even boss fights manage to feel fresh without sacrificing gameplay; trust me when I say you’ve never seen anything like trying to survive during a Reaper and Thresher Maw fight.
The only areas that are lacking are mission variety and multiplayer, though these are lesser concerns. Once you finish recruiting the game’s crew, there are painfully few side missions to keep you occupied, lending credence to the chorus of voices complaining about downloadable content coinciding with the game’s release. But the main story is why you’re playing, and you shouldn’t think of something extra as something missing. The inclusion of a new multiplayer mode adds re-playability, but you’ll most likely play it because of the impact it can have on the single-player story. Still, it’s a welcome diversion and should tide you over until the game’s next inevitable DLC release (and hopefully Mass Effect 4).
I’ve never been privy to a game that caused me to wonder, question, and embrace humanity’s place and purpose as greatly as Mass Effect 3. It is worth noting – BioWare attempts to tailor the game for new players, yet the experience is undeniably deeper and more rewarding if you have already played Mass Effect’s previous games.Would I argue that it’s the greatest game ever made? Well, perhaps one day and after much contemplation. Maybe. But I just finished the game, and all I can think about is how much I already joyfully miss – not in sadness, but satisfaction – the characters and conversations in it. It mirrors how we should one day look back on our own lives, better for having known exceptional people and forever changed by being a part of their community and family. Mass Effect 3 is easily 2012’s best game yet and a monumental achievement of narrative in video-games. Bravo BioWare. Bravo.