Initially wasnt a fan of the original Mass Effect, picking it up one bored Saturday afternoon from the pre-owned bin, a game that even though constantly praised by a few, it took a long time to settle. But now after numerous games, this has turned into one of my favourite franchises of the current generation with it offering intense battles, deep team mechanics, multiple styles of playing and to top it all off an epic story of galactic proportions.
Mass Effect 2 was the opposite, with an instant appeal that even though was action packed, waned a little when you felt the story had been a little separated from what all happened before. Thankfully I will say now with some pleasure that having played ME3, it makes sense now. With all the changes and choices made in previous games it works well and left me satisfied overall, though to mention any of these would spoil any of the revelations held within.
As with Mass Effect 2, you have a choice to bring over your old commander or start afresh, though with both you are able to re-choose what class you wish to play as. If recovering an old save it will list some of the more important decisions made, who died, who you killed etc. whereas a new character will have all of the background chosen for you. Now for all gamers looking over this you really should of played one and two, (or at least ME2 with its quick story DLC). Just like Star Wars, you wouldn’t just walk into Return of the Jedi and totally get it (though I am still confused about the Ewoks), the same applies here, however if you are willing to sacrifice some time you can just read through the encyclopaedic journal entries to give you a rough idea what’s going on.
With a choice of male or female character and plenty of classes to choose from including: Vanguard, Adept, Infiltrator, Engineer or just plain old Soldier, each one offers a variety of play styles and powers that are all fully upgradable as you rank up; with plenty of new powers like grenades, holograms and turrets compliments the classic warp fields, infernos and cloaking abilities.
As it has been built up over the past two games, the Reapers have finally arrived, an ancient race of beings that are tasked with “resetting” the universe, wiping out all organic life. This has happened many times before but this time things may be different. The Protheans, a race wiped out by the Reapers, have managed to communicate with Shepard granting him forewarning of the impending doom that awaits all of civilisation. Sadly many don’t believe him, right up until the point where the Reapers unleash hell on Earth and the rest of the galaxy, causing a planet wide evacuation. Recently reinstated following his exploits in the previous games, Commander Shepard is ordered to get his arse to Mars, where, conveniently a ray of hope is found. If the Reapers weren’t enough to contend with is appears that the rest of the galaxy is at breaking point. The Geth are in an all-out war, the Krogans still upset about the Genophage virus and whilst everyone is focusing elsewhere, Cerberus, who were the benefactors against the war on the Collectors from ME2, are up to no good again. Who would of thought a company named after the three headed dog that guards Hades would have turned out to be so bad? It’s then up to Shepard and crew to travel and collect War Assets, carrying out favours for dignitaries and lowlifes alike and prepare for war.
Many familiar faces come along for the ride with some returning team members plus plenty of cameos from the past games and a few new team members to take on the battle field, a few offering great surprises but also a rather generic army grunt who seems a little one dimensional when compared with everyone else.
The single player mode has three areas of gameplay; with the fighting being main; battles are cover based affairs going up against many different types of enemy, with Geth, Cereberus and loads of new Reaper incarnations, allowing you to mix it up with biotic powers and weaponry on the battlefield with a varied team.
Rather than an almost unlimited inventory, carrying weapons now directly effects your power recharge rate, so proper consideration before going out on the field is required. As if you load all your arsenal, pistols, sniper rifle, assault rifle, shotgun and SMG, your Biotic powers will recharge at a crippling rate; though this can be altered with the many weapon upgrades that can be picked up from worlds or purchased from the many dispensers that you come across whilst adventuring. With every shop visited you are then able to purchase their wares direct from the Normandy, allowing you to purchase them from one area, but at slightly higher costs, sadly there is no free P&P in space.
A wide range of armour is also available, with a few full suits unlocking if you have played other games or taken certain pre-order specials, though there are plenty of others to choose from later in the game, with full suits of armour each offering their own boosts to shields, health and melee attacks, or you can go custom and create your own set-up.
The second gameplay area is in the conversations and this time, with the huge roster of characters that inhabit the galaxy, Shepard becomes a little more political than normal. Though the Paragon and Renegade options still arise from time to time allowing you to slap or shoot someone if you just don’t like them; the main aim is to gather forces for the final push. Therefore there are lots of quests to be carried out, all earning you reputation points, cash and, of course, vital information to progress the story plus even earn some new bonus powers earned with special conversations with certain characters. Though not vital to complete the game, side quests are also available some of which are picked up just by overhearing a conversation. These are more focused on the main story than before and lead in the third play style.
Exploration is the area of the game that was the largest surprise as it has all but removed the mining modes, something I really enjoyed in previous titles. With ME1 you could land on planets to locate minerals and ores, on ME2 you had the planet scanner that was required to gain materials to upgrade not only your weapons but the Normandy itself. This time around you are loaded with a ship scanner that allows you to “ping” the immediate space around the Normandy, with EDI (the ships computer) alerting you to any anomalies. From here you do a very brief scan on area, be it a planet, asteroid belt or space wreckage and collect what is there. This can be a majority of items, from fuel and cash to quest specific items and even recruits and data to help build your war resources. This, however, comes at a great risk as with every “ping” you make, Reapers will eventually pinpoint your location and hunt you down, in what has to be the biggest mistake of the game. Once they enter your local space you need to escape as quickly as possible, with Reapers coming from all directions. If you get out of the area you are unable to revisit it until another mission has been completed, get caught and you are taken to a rather abrupt “Mission Fail” screen and have to reload, not even a fancy video clip of the Normandy under attack.
The controls are mainly your basic third person shooter affair, with plenty of running and taking cover and a radial that can be brought up with the bumper buttons that will pause the action and allows you to select weapons and power selections for both yourself and any other party members. The gaming experience is made even better with the Kinect (I can’t see why a headset would not work?) and plays a large part in this game, through it is not essential it will really change the way you play the game. Other than movement and shooting everything else has been voice mapped for you to bark commands not just to Shepard but to the rest of your team. There is however an large delay from issuing the command to it actually taking effect, so a mix and match of conventional controller and voice support is a decent balance, with you being in direct control of Shepard and then commanding your team mates with an easy to use system of saying their name and then the power required, so “Garrus”, “proximity mine” will cause our Taurian buddy to throw down a mine, easy and very effective.
With a huge galaxy spanning story and a lot of side quests, to complete ME3 will take an awful long time, made even longer by how the multiplayer has been filtered into the grander scheme of things. As you planet hop during single player trying to gain more followers for the cause you will hear news of the N7 Special Forces and the work they are carrying out to help protect, inspire and also prepare for the final battle, where the aim is to get every race to work together and defeat the Reaper scourge. Online allows you to be one of those troops, selecting from a huge range of customisable characters from Taurians, Salarians and Humans, each with their own unique power sets under the same classes as per the single player. With a decent selection of maps to play on the aim is simple, survive. Each level will throw wave after wave of enemy troops at you, with kill everything rules interchanged with killing specific boss enemies in a certain time, protecting a data pad or turning on items, with the general idea of these to move you around the map, not allowing you to keep under cover all of the time and creating plenty of fire fights. Every wave you complete earns a higher percentage on your war map in single player plus plenty of cash and experience, so even if you do not finish the whole level you still earn something. This can then be spent on upgrading your character with more powerful moves and also spending in the shop, which grants a selection of differently priced boxes with random items inside. Most of these are one off use like armour boost, health packs or extra ammo but they also unlock even more characters to play. Even though it is new to the franchise, the idea of playing in a team that is separate to the main storyline feels like you are helping out with the war efforts against the Reapers and doing your bit, a clever idea that will keep Mass Effect 3 in your console for a lot longer than normal.
Mass Effect 1 and 2 has been trimmed and fine-tuned to create this outstanding final part of Shepard’s long and twisted tale, from the amazing graphics, full speech and sweeping musical score, it is amazing this can all fit on just 2 discs with even loading times direct from disc being minimal. I do have some personal problems though, this feels more like a third person shooter than the more RPG style action of the past, maybe because it has been streamlined so much, that said, it is still an absolute thrill to play whichever way you look at it, the jury is still out if it is better than ME1 on a personal scale but that will require a few more goes to decide.
Rating: ExcellentReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360)
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