Review: Mass Effect

Review: Mass Effect
Review: Mass Effect

Every so often you get games that feel like great movies. Take Star Wars for example. Remember that feeling you had when the words "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." came on the screen? You knew from that moment on that you were going to be a part of something.

Mass Effect is like that. You know from the moment you start playing that the story is going to be intriguing, the action intense, the deceit suspenseful, and all manner of other plot twists as good as they can be.

Created by the people responsible for the revolutionary Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect sees you as Commander Sheppard, a human officer in a galaxy that is just beginning to accept humans. And all of this sits underneath a feature rich story that spans as far back as the universe in Mass Effect allows. You'll travel from world to world as you attempt to uncover a plot that could destroy all life in the universe.

From the first moment you start playing, you can already feel the tension that cuts through this game. There are underlying emotions & xenophobia, and even though someone could automatically expect that issues like this could ruin a game, they actually go a long way to bring out the richness of this game. The characters have a lot of back story to them but before I get this far into it, I should step back and tell you about your character.

You can either go with the stock-standard soldier hero character OR you can make your own character. Your own character can be beautiful, ugly, beautifully ugly and can have his or her own back-story which changes attitudes throughout the game. Probably the more interesting part of customising your character though includes the sort of skills you give the protagonist. You can make them a soldier, an engineer, or even someone with telekinetic abilities that you can use while you're fighting others. Or you can pick characters that combine those classes.

Throughout the game, you'll encounter other characters that will join your team and from here you can select the various squad members for each mission. You'll get a choice of two plus yourself and whoever you choose will change what happens on the mission. For example, if you decide to bring the dark Wrex on a mission, you might find yourself with someone dead that you might not have killed.

It's elements like these that truly make Mass Effect memorable. As the story progresses, and you'll see your squads personal stories get fleshed out along the way. You could probably say that the dialog fuels Mass Effect but it's almost as if there's too much dialog. There'll be times when you'll have wanted a short answer from the person and now they just won't shut up.

Mass Effect's tremendous amount of dialog seems to suffer from what appears to be a dialog loop in that you'll ask a question, get an answer, and a few seconds later, you'll get to choose that same direction and end up in a loop. It really forces you to select a response and while you do get the choice of how a game ends up, certain dialog choices are forced on you.

Presentation wise, the game excels far beyond what you'd probably expect. The camera work is fast and lifelike while the graphics and textures are all of a very high standard. At points, you'll probably have a hard time believing that this is a game.

The sound is spectacular too with an excellent cast including notable actors like Seth Green, Keith David, and Marina Sirtis. I'd probably say that the music isn't as good as the acting, but that's only because it feels a little too inspired by films like Blade Runner.

Some bad things pop up from time to time though and usually in the form of graphical lags. It's usually in the cut-scenes, but depending on how much of a perfectionist you are, this might dampen the experience somewhat if it starts lagging badly.

The inventory is also organised badly and unless you've previously played a Bioware game, it's not made clear just how you'll have to upgrade your player as time goes on.

I'm not entirely sure why they included the Mako missions. Driving around in a car that performs much like a wet rug possessed by the spirit of an angry dead car salesman isn't as fun as you'd expect and the weapons don't have quite as much control as they probably should have. But it does break up some of the third person combat and talking areas quite nicely.

Even with its flaws, Mass Effect brings one of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences the gaming world has seen in ages. Seeing as you can get anywhere between 12 and 45 hours of gameplay out of the first time you play it, chances are that you won't be left scratching your head wondering why you got this game. Basically, Mass Effect is a game that you won't want to stop playing.

Should you buy it?: Yes. Go buy this. It's a role-playing game with action, suspense, and a whole lot more. An excellent package.

Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Classification: MA15+
Formats: Xbox 360
URL: Mass Effect

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark

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