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Mass Effect Review
|ON OTHER PLATFORMS: Xbox360, PC|
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Nov 20, 07
|» All About Mass Effect on ActionTrip|
This ties in to the core gameplay. While initially Mass Effect combat may appear deceptively real-time-centered, it's really not. As the challenges increase you will constantly have to pause the action and strategically issue the aforementioned Biotic powers or to use the soldier power-ups of all of your squad mates. Bear in mind, however, that this new combat may have a bit of a learning curve. I guarantee you though, once you get proficient at it, you'll like it. I certainly did.
Where's the food?
Put 'em up!
This coupled with the engaging story makes the core gameplay highly addictive. Of course, there is always the option of upgrading your weapons and skills, which you will incessantly do as you continue through the main campaign. My only gripe here is that there weren't more Biotic powers to use and more cool abilities to issue to your squad mates. Both the choice of classes and members of your party is relatively limited. You will gain most of your skills quite early on and they will only get better as you progress, but the idea always is to give you that extra-super-cool power as the campaign enters its last stage.
There were other issues with the game. One of them is certainly the AI of the enemies, which is definitely not the brightest. Then again, it is decent enough not to break the immersion and that's about as much as gamers could hope for these days. Another technical issue was the presence of quite a number of bugs, especially in the side quests. I would have the entire enemy base disappear while I was in the vehicle exploring the planet surface and then magically reappear as soon as I exited with my team. That sequence of bugs continued until it finally culminated with a looping load screen that never loaded anything. Fair enough, this happened only once but it still was somewhat annoying as I had to replay a good portion of the game. Speaking of replaying and save games, I had the auto-save system stop working for some reason (a save option is available thankfully; also, from some of the reports I've read this may actually not be a bug at all). After some time, the auto-save system got back to being satisfyingly frequent. (God that sounded wrong.)
Finally, Mass Effect is by and large a beautiful game, but the system (X360) was having a hell of a hard time loading the textures. As a result, every new area I'd enter, I had to wait several seconds for the bland polygonal structures to be "painted" with textures. That was very annoying and was constantly breaking the immersion.
Finally, while the main campaign will lead you through exciting encounters and many cool locations, the side quests are taking place on extremely generic planets, which make it totally anticlimactic to steer away from the main story.
Even with the aforementioned drawbacks, however, Mass Effect is still a title you'll want to own. Though BioWare has had some omissions in this one, the stuff they've done for the story, the character modeling and animation, and especially the combat system, make Mass Effect an extremely captivating experience. It took me around 18 hours to finish the game. I haven't been flying through the main campaign though; I spent some time doing side missions and exploring as well. Nonetheless, it doesn't hurt to reiterate that this segment of the game (side missions and the locales they're placed in) is underdeveloped, but such are the constraints of producing a title like Mass Effect. This, naturally, somewhat diminishes the replay value.
And speaking of which, in typical BioWare fashion, the designers made sure that the thread of the main story remains linear throughout, no matter what your choices are. I deliberately replayed certain parts and aside from being awarded Renegade or Paragon points depending on my actions, the course of the main plot remained unchanged. This all changes as we reach the finish; but, again, I don't want to spoil it for you.
The musical score is absolutely fantastic, while the voice overs are a mixed bag of blessings. Sometimes they are in synch with the quality of the visuals, while other times they feel inappropriate for the gesticulation and the mimic of onscreen "actors." The sound effects, on the other hand, are truly top-notch. I especially enjoyed the sounds of all available guns - they have a lot of that "nuts & bolts" kick to them and none of that phaser-like Star Trek stuff (a personal preference ever since I first played Halo).
Bottom line, this game is not the second coming. It doesn't live up to the hype in the way some hoped it might (and really, which overhyped game does). But, this is truly an evolutionary step in BioWare's development of single-player RPGs. I sure do miss the Star Wars panache, but as it is, Mass Effect is a title you'll want to own on the 360. The unprecedented level of cinematic quality, the fun combat coupled with the customary insightfulness of writing is what makes this game a must-have. It's what makes BioWare still stand out as one of the top in their field.
Unbelievable emotional depth given to the appearance of characters, story, combat system, interesting moral dilemmas which finally transcend the most obvious choices between our notions of good and evil;
Side quests and their locales too generic, some bad voice acting, occasional bugs, Bioware's proprietary world doesn't appear imaginative and compelling enough, needed more cool "spells" later in the game.
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