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Mass Effect 3: A Review

Updated on July 7, 2013

Making an Exit

Mass Effect is a series I've followed right from the start and even though I'm not one to wait outside of shop doorways for it upon midnight release, I've eagerly awaited each of the expansions to John Shepard's story. However the reason this review has taken so long to be made is because I've only recently played the game, after some of the biggest backlash players have given for any series in video gaming. But now that people have calmed down and the rainbow ending is old news, I've decided to walk around that volatile path, but perhaps stepping into it occasionally.

A lot of people, myself included, will probably think that the choices we make don't matter if we've seen what happens at the end of this story in Mass Effect's IP. Thankfully this is one of the few RPGs where the journey is far better than the destination, and the payoff after each quest handed in and each blow to Cerberus' and the Reapers' goals is indeed great. You will be fully conscious of the ending, forever thinking "what does it matter? The ending's s**t anyway", but not long before you have to make a quick time morale choice you're immediately spamming the trigger for the right option, because that is the power of Mass Effect. The ending simply isn't an excuse to moan throughout the rest of the game.

My thoughts on the first game of the trilogy were great at first but after replaying it there are some things that ultimately destroyed my opinions of it. Some of those things exist even in ME3 hence why I am amazed at how they can still be here. The game focusses far more on combat and the political side of the ME universe rather than Shepard's personal story, however moments where it's all about him are shoehorned in such as the black and white forest sequences, the flashbacks to Earth when he saw the boy and moments where we just watch him think to himself. Unless you've taken your Shepard from the first game and imported him to two then three, it's uncertain if you'll feel any kind of bonding between what he's gone through and your emotions.

The game takes place briefly after the second where Cerberus and the Illusive Man's plans have been thwarted by Commander Shepard, and the weapon that could've been used to man's advantage (the final Terminator boss) goes without mention, though I assume it's been destroyed. I'll never know because I played ME1 & 2 on the Xbox 360, and the third on the PS3, therefore I can't see the consequences of my previous actions. There seems to be quite a lot of resentment from former allies, mostly due to your work with Cerberus for a short time (which I don't recall), and Ashley Williams is just as hissy as she was before. Thankfully her role in this game is no longer important, and her role as a Soldier in the squad has been replaced by James, the pro-Americano soldier who thinks he's Arnie. Characters such as Garrus and Liara have become awfully stereotypical rather than their archetypical selves of before; they're all blank slates and serve no purpose other than to have a bit more chatter in each mission and elevator sequences, together with shooting at your side with different weapon preferences. Remember when Garrus talked about being part of C-Sec, or when he became a rogue sharpshooter in ME2? Bioware seem to have completely forgotten about the great deeds of the characters you've had outings and sexual relations with, and if they don't care, neither do I.

"All armour serves to do in this game is take up valuable inventory space, which you won't know the half of anyway."

Some of the most important and tense scenes are early on. This, is one of them.
Some of the most important and tense scenes are early on. This, is one of them.

We've got off to a bad start and I apologise, but so much has changed in spite of it looking as though nothing has. Much of the RP aspects of the game involving side quests for civilians has been replaced by very important intergalactic missions brought up by the Council and Generals of the different races and species. Bioware have made it quite clear that they want the war with the Reapers to be taken seriously, and time is of the essence. Planet Earth is not just the antagonists' next target; it's already mostly destroyed. And things go from fine and dandy to apocalyptic, and the earliest stages of how the war against SkyNet went. You don't need to be there to grasp the essence of fear and oppression from the Reapers, as well as the need to gather allies that are constantly finding reason to argue.

Basically, shit just got real.

Your actions speak louder than words in this game, and even though the final choice you make is the most disappointing and non-leading in the entire series, everything you do from the beginning to end matters and will affect your journey to the last steps you take. The need for dialogue has been considerably reduced, which in my opinion was a well needed change. When you complete a mission this will affect the various factions of the game immediately and much later. While you may have cured the Genophage, that's not much good if you're going to allow Cerberus to detonate a bomb on a Krogan planet and throw them back into war with the Turians. Saving some scientific prisoners might seem like a good idea, but wait until you release them back into a colony and suddenly you end up with a settlement festering with an incurable plague. In this game the right thing can lead to the wrong thing, and the best part is that you can't tell how soon or late this will take effect. Yet it's Alpha Protocol that does this far better and much sooner than Mass Effect 3.

Whilst co-op seems like a good idea, the 'Horde mode' gameplay is done far better in other games. And the real cash transactions take the piss.
Whilst co-op seems like a good idea, the 'Horde mode' gameplay is done far better in other games. And the real cash transactions take the piss.

"Earth has never looked so pained, and it's a planet you'd want to fight for."

Where Mass Effect is better and more reliable than AP is the combat, which may not be for everyone but it's much better than that disaster we call the combat of the first game. When your weapons weren't overheated, your teammates were stuck on a wall or dead; when your teammates weren't dead the enemy was slowly goose-stepping its way toward you; when the enemy wasn't marching with no care for its own safety the dodge controls were all over the place.... now everything is far more refined. Except for the roll.... don't make me talk about the roll.

Mass Effect 2 however gets the credit because that game was the first to implement the ammunition and the types you would use, although everything you do here is far more important. Squad command, especially on higher difficulty, requires skill rather than just painting an enemy and getting them to shoot it. But even though Bioware want us to move our two brave soldiers around the map and use special powers, they try too hard to make us depend on it, and players will end up having to spoon feed their AI partners, outfitting them, choosing their abilities and pointing them in the right direction. While some like this system and even more like the idea, its implementation in my opinion makes me wish that I was playing the game without partners at all. Garrus can sit in the engine room and Liara can play with a test tube for all I care.

Even though the UI is much friendlier, allowing you to quickly glance at your health and shields, your AI teammates' health isn't displayed so you have to guess when they go down. The need for Medi-Gel has increased especially if you're not careful, so taking points in the First Aid tree for all characters, so they can revive squaddies, is not a want but a need.

Speaking of which, the talent trees have seen major changes, finally removing the point wasting weapon specialisations and instead reducing it down to the class. You might argue that this is dumbing down, but there was no depth in it in the first place. Did I ever notice an accuracy, damage or armour penetration buff when I invested points in the assault rifle tree? No. Did I ever notice the duration of a biotics' effect increase by 0.15%? No. Did I ever see the First Aid tree used when I invested points into it for the squad? No. The new talent tree system is easy to understand and while you're given less choice, you're given far more freedom. However upgrades aren't as easily acquired because they're all very costly, but at least getting points to invest in them as you level up is a very rewarding experience. A lot of players have pontificated about how bad the current system was, donning their tinfoil hats and saying 'Bioware think we're too stupid to make good choices'. But when they have to bring in this kind of system, there's nobody to blame but the players. However in our defence I will say that we wouldn't make such worthless choices if the talent system was given more attention to avoid these mistakes.

As per every Mass Effect game you're given a huge array of weapons to use, though armour is limited, so much to the point that it might as well not exist. But what this game does well is that it doesn't provide super upgrades like the first game, and sometimes in the second game, did. Here weapons can get worse in several areas such as rate of fire, accuracy, range, damage, shield and armour penetration, and there is such thing as "the right tool for the job". In very few shooters does this rule exist, but Mass Effect 3 I'm glad to say does it spot on. And in conjunction to the different ammunition types, the combat is even more dynamic presenting constant challenges for you to beat - it's just up to you how much ammo and health you want to throw at the problem. But changing armour is a whole different story and by far the most forgettable aspect of this game. You can't change it on the dot, but instead have to find secret weapon benches (which become increasingly harder to find with each step of progression) and even so, the chance of you remembering that you've found some new gloves is nil. All armour serves to do in this game is take up valuable inventory space, which you won't know the half of anyway.

Tuchanka, one of the most visually presentable locations in the entire Mass Effect universe.
Tuchanka, one of the most visually presentable locations in the entire Mass Effect universe.

The Speed of Light and Sound

Where Mass Effect comes crashing down is its visuals, yet it rises from the pixelated ashes by still keeping a lot of its cinematic quality - such depth and direction has made the game's graphical quality barely noticeable. For this day and age, the character models aren't good enough, as you'll see duplicates of each enemy and even if they have the same name (all Assault Troopers, Brutes, Husks, Cannibals and the like), they still look the same. Where's the minor differences such as pustule placement on the Cannibals, perhaps a few tweaks to the armour of Centurions, the Atlas robot-suits could do with far more skins and Husks could have some differences when it comes to their limbs. Everything in this game's visuals right down to the weapons is generic and hardly creative, though the environments, especially Tachunka, are gorgeous. Earth has never looked so pained, and it's a planet you'd want to fight for. The reason why the cinematic cutscene quality is so bad is down to the choppy framerate, which even though Bioware is infamous for it, I expect so much more regardless of what it's trying to load. I'm OK with textures taking their time to load, even character models, but I've yet to see a cutscene that ran smoothly and didn't make the characters look like they're made of stone. Put your resources into that rather than adding more to explain the ending.

The soundtrack doesn't contain many tracks but that one right from the start screen of Mass Effect one is forever there in moments of sorrow. It's such a simple track and yet so moving, and adds far more to the parts of the story where something dire has happened. But this game should have some exciting, memorable and kickass tunes to listen to as you're fighting for your planet, not just the sounds of guns with petty drama scores in the background. I suppose I'm being too critical but we're three games into the series; surely we've learnt by now that music adds more immersion to the game? If not, toggle the option for it.

If this game does one thing right in its technical aspect, it's the loading times. The PS3 is horrible when it comes to loading, but here the screens are far and few between, plus they're shorter than one could expect.

And now the fight on the reviewing front is over, and we may conclude this article. Mass Effect 3 is quite hard to give a final verdict to because of the ultimate disappointment that was the finale of our character's life. Let it be known that this series had one of the most personal experiences in all of video gaming, making Shepard your character, and not just an avatar in a universe full of Shepards. I'll commend the art teams for such a job and I can't fault them due to story direction and thoughtless game design, but then again, how can you blame them? How can you end such an epic saga? You can't do it without riling up most of your fanbase. It's not the ending itself but the principle of how much work we'd put into it, and we don't even get to see for years to come how much we've affected the universe and not just Earth. Instead we get a box of text, and what happens next we'll never know.

Despite all this, Mass Effect 3 scores a SEVEN OUT OF NINE for its great gunplay, improving the storytelling, going from just dialogue choices to proper actions and a memorable journey throughout. But technical issues that should've been ironed out involving bugs with cover, movement and considerable drops in framerate, as well as AI that needs more tweaks, this game gets bumped down. There's also the co-op which doesn't stand on its own very well, and at first it seems like fun and games, but there are other games that do Horde mode much better and with more features. I don't need to tell you my thoughts on real cash transactions for multiplayer gear, not when you likely know my thoughts on games at their ordinary retail price.

The game also gets a Greasy Gamer MUST BUY accolade though, because even though it's heavily flawed, your journey throughout this game will be much more enjoyable than mine as a critic. Play for fun and not out of review, then you'll know for yourself how stunning Mass Effect is.

Absolutely fun, with an engaging story, perfect third-person shooter combat and a huge universe you're free to explore, Mass Effect 3 comes highly recommended.
Mostly good, but expect glitches when it comes to rolling, getting stuck on walls and having trouble going in different directions when sprinting.
ME3 is the longest of the trilogy, giving more joy with side quests than previous games, as well as increasing their importance. Even though the game says time is of the essence, you've got enough to saunder and do everything you want to.
Character models of all kinds look samey, especially that of the enemy. Don't expect cutscenes to be an improvement from older games either.
Hardly noticeable. Can't comment on it if I can't hear it.
Replay Value
A mixed bag depending on your experiences with the conclusion. Many will just replay it to remove the thought of the ending, and some will do so just to experience it again.

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