Published by: EA
Platform: Pc, Xbox 360, PS3
Play it if: You have a heartbeat
Skip it if: Don’t
There was a point early on in my play through of Mass Effect 3 — it couldn’t be more than an hour and a half in — that took my breath away. When it was over, I set the controller down, turned off the system and walked away. I needed time to come to grips with what just happened. That’s the first time I’ve ever been that emotionally moved by a game, and that’s when I knew that Mass Effect 3 would be even more special than I thought.
Bioware’s finale for Commander Sheppard is, in a word – -stunning. In even more words, it’s gripping, engaging, emotionally charged and painstakingly well done. The entire Mass Effect series has felt like a symphony leading up to this, the crashing crescendo that outdoes everything before it. Most importantly, Mass Effect 3 is a fitting tribute to a universe we’ve spent the last half decade caring about and will leave you thinking about it long after you’ve finished it.
Mass Effect 3 tells the final chapter in the story of Earth’s struggle for survival against the menacing Reapers — an ancient robot species that looks to eradicate all life from it’s chosen target planet. At the end of Mass Effect 2, Commander Sheppard learned of the impending invasion and thus tried to warn everyone, only to be brushed off like the town crazy. Guess what happened? ME3 opens with an amazing scene featuring the entire Alliance attempting to mobilize against the Reapers, only to fail tragically.
I’ll admit that at this point I was a bit worried — the story seems awfully familiar. The only man who warns the people of their impending doom is locked away just before it happens — it’s the plot of nearly every 50s sci-fi movie. Luckily though, Mass Effect 3’s story only gets better from there. You’re of course quickly released, and it’s off to rally any allies you can find in a frantic effort to save mankind. (note: be sure to read our interview with Mass Effect 3’s lead writer Mac Walters)
Much like earlier installments of the franchise, Mass Effect 3 is a game that believes that getting there is half the fun, and while you’ll still have the epic Buck Rodgers style planet hopping moments that the series is known for, but the real attraction here is the amount of choice you’ll have over just how you battle for the fate of the universe. The story of ME3 is dotted with poignant, touching and sometimes even heartbreaking moments that define how strong a relationship with a series of video game characters can be. This is undoubtedly one of, if not the greatest storied ever told.
Player choice in Mass Effect 3 spreads beyond the game’s narrative, and into very structure of how the game plays, which will open up the series to a an incredibly large new audience (believe it or not, there are still people who don’t play Mass Effect). At the beginning of each game, you’ll have the choice of just what type of game you want you want, between action, which gets you straight to the robot shootin’ without any of the conversational mechanic, story; which does the exact opposite and role playing — which is a mix of the two, much like your traditional Mass Effect game.
Regardless of what you choose, Mass Effect 3 features brilliant pacing that not only pulls you through the game, but always leaves you wondering what’s going to happen next. I’ll confess that in the two previous games, there were sections, specifically some of the combat sections that seemed to go on forever, but thankfully I never felt that way throughout my time with Mass Effect 3. The game is filled with thrilling set pieces and locations like Mars in a sandstorm that you’re going to want to explore again and again. It all culminates in a fiery conclusion that puts the entire trilogy in perspective.
What truly impressed me about these set pieces are the scale of some of the battles. I’m an admitted scale-whore, I love sections of games where I’m up against enemies that dwarf me in size, the feeling is incredibly rewarding, and it often takes a bit more strategy to bring these enemies down, and Mass Effect brings that in droves. One battle towards the later half of the game comes to mind especially, and without giving much away, it was easily one of my favorite moments in the entire series.
The truth is that the combat and AI have been greatly improved from Mass Effect 2 to 3. Battles don’t have that ongoing feeling, and you’re going to need to have adaptable strategies to get past some of the enemies, especially at the later stages. Enemies will flank you, they’ll use grenades to get you out of cover and they’ll do pretty much anything in their power to stop you. Luckily, your squad’s AI has also been beefed up, and you rarely feel like you have to completely carry the load in a battle. In fact, there were a few times when my squadmates quickly killed off enemies I was carefully targeting with my sniper riffle.
There’s a fairly more robust strategy element to Mass Effect 3 than there were in the previous games. Leveling your character and your weapons (one of the coolest features in the game is the ability to customize every weapon in the game) up is now much more RPG-centric in a manner similar to that of the original Mass Effect. There’s also a new mode that tracks how ready you are to fight the reapers, and adds an interesting mix to just how you go about completing the game’s tasks as you’ll have to plot your course using the game’s map to see where you’re needed against the Reapers.
Mass Effect 3 marks the first time multiplayer has been introduced into the series, and it’s a surprisingly welcome addition. Galaxy at War is a Horde-esque survival type mode where you’ll start as a human character (other races open up as you play) and attempt to get through wave after wave of enemies to improve your military readiness rating. I’ll admit that I was worried that the multiplayer modes would feel tacked on, but the compliment the main campaign very well.
The Blast Factor: When you’re in the gaming industry for a bit you realize one thing very quickly; don’t believe the hype. Mass effect 3 is the exception to that rule as it doesn’t only meet it’s expectations — it blows them away. It’s an emotionally charged, and often touching tale that doesn’t skip out on the action one bit. Most importantly, it’s a fitting ending to a world and characters we’ve spent the last five years getting attached to.
This review is based on a PS3 retail copy of Mass Effect 3 provided by the publisher.