Mass Effect 3 Review
Unfortunately, For A Game So Brilliant It Isn’t Completely Flawless, And Does Come With A Few Issues
Platform : Xbox 360/PS3/PC (Xbox 360 reviewed)
Throughout the course of the Mass Effect series the life of Commander Shepard can be described in a single word: tumultuous. From his rise to importance in the early hours of the first title by gaining the prestigious rank of Spectre, to his death and rebirth working for a man he doesn’t know or trust, Shepard’s life has kind of been a stressful experience before you throw in the threat of species destroying sentient battleships in the form of the Reapers. Life has not been easy, and in the conclusion of the trilogy that changes in no way: it’s time to take back earth, fight or die.
Mass Effect 3 does not even wait a few seconds to ease you into the game. You’re given a brief catch up with Kaidan (or Ashley, depending on who you saved in the first ME) and Anderson before having a meeting that is instantly brought to an end with a swift and destructive blast from a Reaper laser. The invasion isn’t imminent, it’s now.
Taking place in the aftermath of the destruction of the Project Base location in Mass Effect 2’s Arrival DLC, Shepard has been stripped of rank and command of the Normandy, being held accountable for his actions until the Reapers come a-knockin’. Following a quick trip to the Citadel and a word with the Council, it’s made perfectly clear that everyone that was doing their best not to believe Shepard about the Reaper threat were wrong, and as the leading authority on the world destroying enemy Shep is quickly put in charge, tasked with building an army big enough to not only kick the Reapers back to the darkest corners of space, but also to travel back and take back Earth. Throughout the game you face not only the Reaper threat and their army of indoctrinated species and husks, but also your former compatriots the Cerberus agency, hell-bent on taking control of the Reapers instead of destroying them.
One of the best things Bioware have been able to do with the importation system is not only remember the major decisions you made previously, but also every single interaction and conversation you had with anyone in the past, and they bring it all back with nice little nods and cameos. Your old squad-mates will turn up, you may not be able to fight alongside them all but you can talk to them, see if they’ll fight with you, and see what their life has become. They integrate everything you’ve done so seamlessly that even the most superfluous and subtle decisions you made will come back to you. Say you were shopping on the Citadel in ME2, and decided to purchase that space hamster, well he may not be in your cabin still, but if you go to the engine room and look closely enough…
Mass Effect 3 takes the same gameplay style as the first two in the series, playing as a tactical third-person squad-based RPG shooter. Whereas ME2 took what had been at fault with the previous title and completely did away with it, ME3 had little that needed to be done in terms of correction, but has in fact made a few nice additions that makes the game not only more enjoyable, but also helps vary combat. Firstly sprinting and cover combat is vastly improved, with it all happening seamlessly and smoothly, secondly and possibly the biggest addition is the melee combat. With the new omniblade tool Shepard can now bitchslap husks and slice Cerberus agents effortlessly and impressively. Equally you are now able to wield every type of weapon regardless of your class, a first for the series and helping with combat greatly, especially when you’re facing impossible hordes and realising there’s still ammo in your much-underused SMG.
Customisation plays a huge role in the series of Mass Effect, throughout everything Bioware has been focused to making your Shepard feel like an extension of yourself, to look the way you want him/her to, and for every decision that you would make to be able to happen in the game, and that continues into this title. Granted the game does have certain issues with the physical importation of your character, making the player recreate the facial features of your Shep, but on the other hand facial creation features are easy to use and as long as you remember what your character is meant to look like this will only take a moment, and allows you to make a few changes if necessary. Equally the customisation of play style is just as important, if you want to focus on just being a flat out soldier of fortune then you can, and at the same time if you want to be primarily a biotic weapon then that’s fine, you will have different perks depending on it and these will help you in battle.
War. Lots of games claim to be war games. When you think of what game would fit the title you’d consider the Call of Duty’s, the Battlefield’s and the Medal of Honor’s. These aren’t war games, these are shooting games, soldier games, grunt games. You may be a one-man army in them but you’re just battling, you’re not leading. This is where Mass Effect 3 is different. Every single mission and interaction, every aspect is catered to showing the player that they aren’t just a cog in a big wheel, they’re running the show. Your main goal is to recruit all the different species in the galaxy, put a band aid over their various disagreements and unite everyone in a grand, decisive battle against the Reaper threat. Through these actions you can see your progress and the likelihood of victory, and how much harder you need to work before you’re truly ready. Thanks to the new Galaxy at War system Bioware have created, things you do outside of the actual game help shift the tide of battle, integrating a Facebook app, iOS game Infiltration and also the multiplayer component of Mass Effect 3, proving it hasn’t just shamelessly been tacked on for the sake of it.
Bioware have, unsurprisingly, taken a very mature look at war. Instead of making it seem like Shepard is having a great time, flying around the galaxy, meeting people and shooting at big metal robots, it sits down and shows just how stressful, how terrible war is. At the beginning of the game as Shepard takes a flight off of Earth to the Citadel he takes one last look at Earth, and his last view is a small child getting on a shuttle that swiftly get ravaged by the Reapers. This small child haunts Shep through his experience though the inclusion of several playable nightmares, illustrating just how broken he is, how he regrets losing everyone he hasn’t been able to help, and we slowly see him unravel as the war rages on. At the same time not all of your friends will be safe throughout the entire game, some will end up in the hospital, and worst of all some will sacrifice themselves for the greater good (I don’t intend on spoiling anything for anyone, but there’s a heart-wrenching segment around half way through the game…).
When me and my friend were kids we watched a lot of war films, and came to learn that in every one there’s what we coined as “consequences of war scenes”. Everything slows down, the battlefield is scanned, music goes sombre and we see just the amount of losses and what’s truly happened. Mass Effect 3 has a lot of these and we see not only how everything is affecting the Earth and humans, but also other species, how them helping Shepard affects immediate issues with their own species and the guilt that we feel because of their losses. It isn’t all sad moments and regret though; Bioware makes a very good job of creating some of the most impressive, balls-to-the-wall hardcore battles imaginable. More than once you’ll jump out of the cruiser to be greeted by troops in the double figures, you’ll have cover and your two squad-mates, and nothing but the Gods and skill on your side. It’s tense, it’s exhilarating, and it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had in a shooter.
Graphically the game is astonishing, much like the previous additions to the series. Everything shimmers with vibrancy, warzones are beat up and broken shells of their former selves. Character designs are amazing, with some of the creatures being truly horrific, and other characters completely beautiful, it’s a testament to Bioware’s skill to see such an amazing world on the screen, and to be a part of it.
With a game so focused on storyline it makes sense to have top-notch voice-acting, and ME 3 really pulls out all the stops with its. In command of Shepis Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale, who truly embody the character perfectly. Joining them is the likes of Seth Green, Martin Sheen, Keith David, and Yvonne Strahovski reprising their roles from previous titles, and newcomers such as Freddy Prince Jr and everyone’s favourite geek Jessica Chobot, all of which are fantastic, comfortable and believable with their roles.
Unfortunately, for a game so brilliant it isn’t completely flawless, and does come with a few issues. There’s the odd framerate issue, and a few glitches such as Shepard’s tendency to get stuck in things such as blocks and Asari doctors (that wasn’t a joke about Liara, literally at one point an Asari cornered me against a desk and I had to load the game to get free), and enemies on more than one occasion ended up running through cover. Equally the mission menu structure could do with some tweaking, being hard to tell what mission you’re doing, where it needs to be done and who you need to talk to to do it. But honestly, these can all more or less be forgiven.
I came across the first Mass Effect by chance, about a year after its release. It was cheap and I liked Bioware so I gave it a chance, and fell in love. There were flawed elements of the game (Makomissions, inventory and elements of combat at times) but at the heart of it was an amazing storyline that kept the player truly invested. You felt Shepard’s plight, the frustration he felt at the lack of support he received, the disbelief over the discovery of the Reapers, how this man struggled with everything and persevered in the face of adversity. As well as this you had one of the most tortured, deep, puppet of a villain in the form of Saren and his minions, and a game with one of the greatest endings in history. Add as a cherry on the cake that every one of your choices made real and lasting changes to the game, controlling the very lives of your team, and it was obviously something special.
And then there’s Mass Effect 2, which took those niggling issues with the first and made it more streamlined, concise and accomplished, with a story to back it up and a real importance of trust and the bond between your team. The bigger scale of the story didn’t detract the simple, powerful backbone of the game and those final moments of Mass Effect 2 where you panic, endlessly, about the fate of your team prove this.
Mass Effect 3 takes the best elements of both games and puts them together. It has the epic scale of ME2, times 10, with the very galaxy in the balance. It remembers every bond you made with every character over the series, whether positive or negative, and uses it. It looks back sadly and sweetly at the lives that have been lost in the games, memorialising them and showing that their plight, Shepard’s plight, and everything the characters of the Mass Effect games have come to this particular point when you must fight for what you believe and stand up for what you care about. It takes everything from mission structure to character integration and perfectly encapsulates the best of gaming.
Basically the game reminds me why I love the series, why I’m glad all those years ago I took a chance on a game I knew nothing about, and why Bioware are so damn good at their jobs. Instead of just making a generic space-based third-person shooter, Bioware have made a truly emotionally gratifying and investing series on par with the finest games and films out there, proving themselves to be in the upper echelon of reasons why games should be considered art. Mass Effect 3, for all its glitches, is the finest send off the series could have.
Writer, gamer, and general all-around awesomeness compressed into human form. Co-founder of Reset Gaming.
Love it or hate it, leave your comments below !
comments powered by Disqus