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Mass Effect 3 360 Review - -
Mass Effect 3
Reviewed by
Edwin Millheim
Mass Effect 3 XBox 360 Review At this time we can only muse for the future and enjoy the awesomeness that is Mass Effect 3.

Gameplay 10
Graphics 8.5
Sound 9.0
Value 10
Distributor: EA
Review Date:
Mar 2012
Edwin Millheim


Mass Effect 3

Blare the trumpets and get ready for the next installment in the most immersive, story intense game series of all. Mass Effect 3 is here and it is good. We check out Mass Effect 3 for the Xbox 360 with Kinect abilities, freaking awesome. This adventure takes place following the events in the DLC for Mass Effect 2, the expansion called Arrival. Once again we are with the hero of the stories Commander Shepard.

Gamers who played Mass Effect 2 and still have that information on their drives have the option of importing them into Mass Effect 3, though this is not something that is a must. New players coming into the world of Mass Effect 3 will find a spectacular robust gaming experience that brings it all together in one spectacular gaming storm. The full experience that is Mass Effect, everything that was leading up to this point is designed so masterfully into Mass Effect 3, that new players coming into it just on this game alone will find a full rewarding game experience. Also gamers that have been with the game since the first Mass Effect will be pleased to find the experience and storyline executed in such a way as to not be redundant in anyway, even if you know some of the mythos. What is truly awesome is that the game story line changes and can be different for a new player as opposed to the longtime fan who has saved a character from the last game.

For those that do not know much about the world of Mass Effect, sometime in the 21st century, humans find a network of cosmic relays that can enable huge distance space travel. Humanity finds the cosmos is full of other life forms and space traveling races. At the center of this there lay a controlling body, housed at the Citadel, the very intergalactic capital of all the space travelling races. Once it had been inhabited by the Protheans, they had vanished 50,000 years ago. The Prothean species left behind warnings of a powerful race known as The Reapers that destroyed them. The writings and warnings all pointed out that The Reapers would once again return.

In 2183 Commander Shepard Captain of the Alliance Warship the Normandy, managed to destroy the vanguard of the Reaper invasion in a brutal battle for the Citadel. The victory was just a won battle not the actual war. There was still a vast Armada of The Reapers, waiting in the deepest parts of outer space, standing by to launch the full out attack. Some two years after, on what should have been a routine mission, Shepard was mortally wounded.

A pro-human terrorist organization known as Cerberus, recovered and then resurrected Shepard. Cerberus recognized the grave threat that the Reapers posed on humanity. Enlisting Shepard’s help, along with a diverse crew of soldiers, scientists and outlaws, the Normandy set forth into what was a suicide mission, far beyond the Omega 4 relay. Once again to confront the Reapers, leading to what surmounts to a delaying action against the Reaper forces, now the much bigger war is coming to the very doorstep of humanity. It’s a cosmic shattering aggressive force, which will consume the Milky Way Galaxy. Welcome to Mass Effect 3!

Story and characters interactions have a rather diverse branching style. There are multiple outcomes depending on your characters choices. This makes replay-ability on the high end of the gaming pool for this one. Now interaction with characters and NPC’s during the game may not be something you have to worry about depending on your style of play.

At the beginning of the game you can make a choice to play the game geared more towards action, this way all the interactions play as cut scenes only, leaving you to handle all the intense action. You may be a role player and decide to emphasize Role Playing ala the traditional Mass Effect experience. You get to do more character customizing and also choose dialogue responses during the cut scenes. Or if you want to play through more for the story, you can have the ability to customize the character, experience, and control the interactive story without worrying about the combat at all. Truly the designers came at this game from several angles and listened to a lot of the gamer feedback from past games.

With the coming of such a huge invasion Shepard’s adventures this time around start out on Earth, but soon finds us galaxy hopping again, leading into various adventures, situations and fire fights (well fire fights depending on how you chose to play.) Locations visited are exotic and from a sci fi sense believable that the overall looks of the locations match the imagination of what a place must be like, we also visit the Citadel once again with its varied races wandering the halls and lounges. Mass Effect fans will be seeing some of the familiar races during this latest adventure. Asari, Drell, Elcor, Hanar, Keepers, Salarian, Turian, Volus are some of the Citadel races that are seen. Not all are interacted with, but as the player wanders around the station they can pick up on side conversations if they stop to listen. These side conversations make the world seem that much more alive and believable.

Furthermore as we had been pointing out earlier about starting in the game and the player’s choice to play a certain way; be it action or otherwise, depending on how you choose to play at the start players may then be taken to an appearance menu where they can adjust Shepard’s features and then also choose the character class. Long time and even new Paper and Pen role players will know that different classes have different perks and abilities and can make the gaming experience a lot more customized to your style of play. Depending on the forthcoming challenges, the character class choice can also make the game that much more interesting because of the way the character class is able to handle a situation in different ways from one another.

Here are the basic run downs of what each class has going for it.

Soldier class is as one would expect geared towards combat mainly. With weapons training and special ammo use including grenades, they are war machines. Add in special hardware that connects to their ocular synaptic and that’s how they can do a focus aim to deadly effect against an enemy. Their special abilities include being able to accelerate their reflexes and use of special ammo such as incendiary rounds and disruptor ammo just to name a few.

Infiltrator is a tech and combat specialist combined with a special ability to cloak themselves from visual technology. They can carry a wide mix of weapons and are a deadly at any range, though they excel with the sniper rifle.

Adept are biotic specialists. Using the power of their minds with devastating telekinetic attacks, they can throw objects and enemies and setup traps all with their minds.

Engineer is the tech specialist. They are the best class for disabling the defenses of an enemy or destroying them. The Engineer can create combat drones that can do harassing attacks that can distract or draw out entrenched enemies.

The Vanguard class is a close in fighter. Closing into an enemy and taking them on at short range with weapons and biotic abilities.

The Sentinel class has a nice cross between most of the classes, creating several unique skills and abilities. Both weapons and biotics are what this class wealds, as well as a more advanced shield, making them more resilient and able to wade into the thick of a fight.

Whatever class you choose to play through Mass Effect 3, you will be doing it with some lethal weapons at your disposal. The weapons include heavy pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, grenades, heavy weapons, and sub-machine guns. Weapon modifications are a cool part of the game. Players can modify and customize firearms by changing out scopes, barrels, for instance. These modifications affect the weapons functions, performance and how they look. This is all done by way of a weapons bench that players will find sprinkled throughout the game. It’s a robust mix of what you can do with customization and upgrades to a weapon, so for instance modifications to be able to carry more ammo in a clip for the weapon, or pack more of a punch even. Though something to bear in mind is also how much weight your character is hauling through the mission. The more weight they are heaving around, the slower their movement, and recharge speed is also affected. The more you’re carrying, the slower the recharge. There are only two upgrades per item, so think about your needs.

Other things that can be upgraded over the course of the game are the character and the crew’s powers. Level up with experience points and spend them on Shepard or the crew. View the squad screen from the pause menu upgrading the abilities and also unlocking new ones and develop new powers through a skill tree. Evolving a power there are two choices and once you make one, the other is thereafter unavailable.

Choices made between aggressive negotiations with weapons blazing or non-aggressive negotiations…actions taken both in gameplay choices and dialogue has an effect on Shepard’s alignment towards Paragon (Compassionate) or Renegade (ruthless) and the balance can fluctuate. Depending on what the character is leaning towards the most new dialogue options and paths open up…so there’s that replay ability poking through again. This makes me want to play it through in a more thoughtful way once and then another play through as a real hard charging ruthless force.

Battles and combat movement, to me anyway, feel stepped up from the past games. While the enemy still has moments of what the heck are they doing, that was stupid. More times than not they are combat advancing and almost as if they are laying cover fire down for some of their unit members. They advance and move in different positions and you as the player have to move to not only get into a better position, but sometimes have to move just to get out of the line of fire. Moving your squad mates around for better covering and flanking moves is also a good tactic to finish off the opposing force. For the most part you do not have to worry about your team because they seem to handle themselves well, though if you have some tactics in mind as noted you can move your team around for best results and order them to use a power or weapon, my favorite was having a team member use a grenade be it a explosive grenade or incendiary to flush out a group of enemy…while they are dancing around trying to put themselves out lay into them with heavy weapons fire. The final results…no more enemies.

Moving to and from cover is a lot smoother feeling, pop up and fire from cover also is very smooth. Again be aware the enemy has some tactics as well and they use them to some degree, so popping up at the wrong time will get you as the center of attention for a barrage of enemy fire. There are also diving rolls, the better to dodge that enemy weapons fire.

Since the enemy also has armor, shooting for the vitals/center mass don’t always get the fastest results. Shooting for the head also does not get an instant kill because of the helmet. Though depending on the weapon and ammo used the punch the weapon does to the target can bring them down faster. I found in interesting that when hitting an arm or leg with incendiary rounds, the target would shake the flaming body part trying to put out the flames. Enemy also lay down smoke screens to cover whatever they are doing. This makes them a tough target because you cannot even see them till the smoke clears. Since there are different troops you will be facing or character classes, you will notice different tactics and the way they work together against you.

Now one of the things I keep getting asked about is the optional Kinect control for Mass Effect 3. Well as you may or may not know, the controls are limited to voice commands. The voice commands work rather well with the Kinect only once in a while not catching what I was saying, though I think it may have been because things had been in the heat of battle. Most of the time integration is well done indeed. Calling out a team mates name and ordering them to a position that your control cursor is pointing at or ordering them to attack an enemy that you have your reticle over, or even changing weapons…all of it makes for an incredibly exciting experience. One of my favorite voice command Easter eggs has to be with the homage to Army of Darkness, when changing to the shot gun… you can call it a book stick. “Swap Boom Stick”

Love it. “This is my BOOM STICK!”

Getting around to the different worlds players will be flying the Normandy to different star systems and using a landing craft to get down to locations. On the Normandy there is a Galaxy map that the player uses to navigate to different locations and around different star systems once there. Exploration and scanning for assets and fuel is an important part of the adventure, if you do not have the fuel or the assets, then you are finished. Though getting around and scanning planets and systems is a bit dangerous because the Reapers have spread out and are invading all over the place. If they detect you, they will enter the system and you may well have to run for it, and do a mission elsewhere before it is safe to come back to the planet or system in question. There is also a station on the Normandy where the player can view the war assets. Viewing the military strength on this screen shows the units and fleet that the player has gathered, at what strength they are. The higher the military assets strength is, the better chance at taking Earth back.

There is also a private terminal where Shepard can view personal emails, information about missions and even better training tutorial videos. Almost any place in the game with a press of a control stick button the game has seamless clever ways to assist the player along if they are lost at what to do next. These help screens all seem like part of the adventure and never feel like it is taking you out of the moment or the gaming world, your just accessing computers in game.
Graphics in the game are ok, they are a slight step up from the first two games… depending on you monitor or screen settings you may notice some banding in some scenes like space scenes and anything with a gradient change in the sky line, or light and darkness in a scene. This is by no means distracting at all. Though I was the tiniest bit disappointed in some load screen and cut scene jaggies. Now as for the cut scenes, they are close to seamless, walk into a situation that triggers a cut scene and it loads up with no break in the action, same for when it exits cut scene, the game play is a part of it…it ends the cut scene and you almost don’t realize it and that you have control of the character again, now that is cool.

Sound wise voice acting and all…everything is up to the high standard that the Mass Effect series has set. Voice acting is good, though the script they are following at time leaves something to be desired at times. Sound and sound effects all provide that extra pop to the game, with explosions and weapons fire delightfully working the surround sound speakers and making me feel like I physically have to duck and dodge for cover. It may have just been my setting, but I did have to lower the music sound levels so I could actually hear the dialogue.

The style and at times deep story are all here in Mass Effect 3 including relationships. As with other parts of the game it all depends on the players’ choices and where any of the relationships go. It’s no real spoiler since designers and heads of the design team made ever one aware already long ago that romances can blossom during the game, in fact same sex romances are possible in Mass Effect 3 regardless of which sex you're playing as. Not very sure if this was handled as well as it could have been, and I am sure this alone will have a fire storm of different opinions and of course the usual folks that feel threatened by others opinions that do not agree with their strong opinions….BUT, the whole same sex relationship as well as some interactions with characters came off at times a bit cliché. Some would argue that the introduction and handling of same sex relationships in the game had been a political or move to seem more avant-garde. You know sometimes a duck is just a duck, same sex relationships have been around a long time, and the writers saw fit to make it part of the story, it is just part of a story.

Not all fans will be happy with the changes made to try to accommodate as many player styles as possible, and that’s the dangers of progress and change. Sometimes what you change is welcomed and other times folks that are comfortable only with a certain style and way, only want the same old thing…..

Discovery of plot points and back story and character/player choices is all part of the fun of gaming, so no spoilers here folks. I can say that Mass Effect 3 is indeed an epic conclusion for Commander Shepard’s role in the Mass Effect Universe.

Does this spell an end to the Mass Effect Universe itself? We have nothing official, but I would doubt it. With such a deep history to the gaming world and so much more adventures and tales to be told, a sequel or even a prequel would be something to explore, what really happened between the Protheans and The Reapers? Would it not be interesting to go through a game and switch to different characters and races and viewpoints during an adventure? Sure it’s been done in other games, but for Mass Effect…how cool would that be? At this time we can only muse for the future and enjoy the awesomeness that is Mass Effect 3.

Have fun play games
Edwin Millheim



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