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Release Date: March 6th, 2012 Movie Release Year: 2012

Mass Effect 3

Overview -

I have a secret shame: I hated Mass Effect. Coming off of Knights of the Old Republic, not only the best Star Wars game of all time but one of the best RPG's I'd ever played, Bioware's follow up was hyped as a bold breakthrough in video gaming. A new decision making and conversational system would change the way we played, so the preview features said. The game itself was less impressive, with disappointing combat and vehicular missions that made you want to tear your hair out. I wasn't even going to bother with the sequel, but the all around stellar reviews, plus the fact that I got a bonus for importing my save game, pushed me to try it. Luckily, Bioware fixed many of the problems with Mass Effect 2, creating a compelling game with a stellar cast of characters where your actions really did have consequences. Since then, gamers have been frothing at the mouth for the final game in the trilogy. Now that it's finally arrived, does it live up to expectations?

OVERALL:
Rating Breakdown
VIDEO
AUDIO
Tech Specs & Release Details
Video Resolution/Codec:
720p
Audio Formats:
Dolby Digital 5.1
Release Date:
March 6th, 2012

Video Review

Ranking:

Visually, Bioware has taken several strong steps forward since the original Mass Effect hit store shelves. Most notably, level design has taken a huge step forward and removed the linear element that frequently plagued Mass Effect 2. Rather than racing down a single path to get to the end of a level, enemies can often attack from multiple areas and flank the Commander's team with ease due to the variety of paths. Swarming husks are particularly tough to deal with and forces the player to continue to move around the environment rather than sitting behind a single barrier to shoot.

Character design is incredibly detailed and looks fantastic in high definition. You may notice occasional moments of slowdown when moving around certain planets through. It's just noticeable enough to be annoying from time to time. Planet surfaces are extremely lifelike and color schemes paint a vivid picture of each specific homeworld. The Normandy looks updated as well down to the last fish swimming in the aquarium in the Commander's quarters.

Audio Review

Ranking:

Once again, the stellar voice acting steals the show. Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale's performances as the male and female Commander Shepard is absolutely fantastic, however Hale may even be a notch above when pursuing the Renegade story choices. Other standouts include Keith David as Admiral Anderson, Tricia Helfer as the emotionless A.I. EDI, Martin Sheen as the notoriously evil Illusive Man, Carrie-Anne Moss as Aria and Seth Green as Joker.

Bioware does an excellent job using climactic swells in the music to swing the emotional feeling of tense combat or the quieter cutscenes on the various planets within the game. Sound effects are on par with previous games and there's nothing particularly out of place that we could hear within the Mass Effect universe.

Mass Effect 3 should have been a triumph. Everything was in place, all Bioware had to do was plug in some good gameplay and appropriately epic cinematics and the job was done. In some ways, the game pulls it off, especially in the emotion department. Any game that can tug on my heartstrings without being cloying or overly sentimental is worth playing. When the game goes for broke, there's little that can match it. On this level, Mass Effect 3 is a success. But a series of cynical cash-grabs on EA's part waters down the excitement, especially since you can't get the game's best ending or all the achievements without making a deal with the devil, and that's a real turn-off. Whether or not you feel it's worth putting up with EA's chicanery depends on how badly you want to see the Mass Effect story completed.

Second Opinion

Opposite from Dan, I really enjoyed the first Mass Effect. I also loved how the stories intertwine between the games and how some of the life or death decisions altered the cutscenes and playable characters within Mass Effect 3. When it comes to weaving intricate stories, Bioware's grasp on character development over the last three games is exceptional. I can see why someone would want to play the game over again to experience stories from characters that weren't included in a previous playthrough.

However, like many others, I have a serious problem with how the game is wrapped up. The three main choices at the end of Mass Effect 3 don't create dramatically different outcomes and the player doesn't get to see the outcome of the choice on a galactic scale. Even a slideshow with voiceover recaping the journey in Fallout form would have been appreciated. In addition, the brief 10-second cutscene that's tacked on if you have the galaxy near 100 percent readiness before the final battle is a poor incentive to play multiplayer. It's as if Bioware simply ran out of development time and gave up on completing the story.

If anything, the entire journey is extremely cheapened by Bioware's choice to end the story this way. If you have played all three games, it's the real-world equivalent of climbing to the top of Mt. Everest only to find a scenic view of a garbage landfill. In different colors, of course.