Mass Effect 3 Review
- Posted March 16th, 2012 at 16:08 EDT by Michael Harradence
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Mass Effect 3 is unequivocally the game to beat this year. If you're not a fan, this is a great time to hop on board the Normandy.
- Superb plot filled with gripping twists and thought-provoking choices
- Finds a great balance between ME1 and 2 in terms of combat/upgrades
- Multiplayer is surprisingly solid
- Some minor performance issues
- Quest management not as good as ME2
One of the most poignant moments of Mass Effect 3 took place 10 minutes into the game. Cautiously making his way through a dilapidated building in the midst of a Reaper invasion, Commander Shepard spies a young boy taking refuge in a nearby ventilation duct. Clearly terrified, the lad finds little comfort in Shepard’s words of reassurance, refusing to be coaxed out of his cramped sanctuary. Later on, as Shepard extracts via the Normandy, he spots the same child scrambling on board an evac shuttle, only to see it obliterated by a nearby Reaper. As Shepard looks on, devastated, the emotional impact is palpable. The image of the wide-eyed youngster looking daggers at our hero before boarding the doomed craft, juxtaposed with the mechanical behemoth laying waste to everything in its path, succinctly and effortlessly conveys the sheer sense of desperation that players are facing in BioWare’s epic sci-fi spectacle. This is war; the Reapers are invading, Cerberus is up to no good, millions are dying, and the fate of all organic life hangs precariously in the balance.
Mass Effect 3 doesn’t tinker a bunch with the design philosophies laid down by its predecessor, though does make a few welcome tweaks to the series paradigm. For starters, combat is now a lot more intuitive. Shepard boasts increased agility, able to perform an evasive role in any direction by hitting the analog stick in conjunction with X. Furthermore, you can also transition between nearby cover spots seamlessly. For the most part it works great, affording greater freedom and maneuverability in combat, feeling less clunky than previous installments. In fact, aside from the inherent niggles of mapping multiple functions to X in combat (Shepard exiting cover while I selected a weapon proved annoying, or not sticking to cover at all), this is the most refined Mass Effect experience yet.
Other improvements turn up in the A.I. and sheer diversity of your opponents. I made the mistake of thinking I could sit back behind cover and snipe foes until the cows came home, but I was quickly forced to eat humble pie. Foes now come thick and fast, lob grenades at you to try and flush you out, and provide covering fire for their comrades. They'll push you to utilize everything in your arsenal and apply tactical decisions at the drop of a hat, making for a much more rewarding and challenging experience on the battlefield. Fortunately, Shepard and co are more than equipped to deal with the onslaught of enemies - which include regular grunts, zombie-like Husks, hulking mechs and massive Reaper abominations - with a revamped weapons and upgrade system.
To put it simply, ME3 feels like an amalgamation of ME1's RPG sensibilities and its sequel's more streamlined accessibility. Shepard can equip all five weapon types, while squad mates - from familiar faces such as Liara and Garrus to testosterone-fueled newcomer James Vega - are limited to two pre-determined types. However, you can now pimp out guns with additional trinkets such as scopes, increased ammo capacity etc, and powers now have a bifurcation of sorts when evolving a particular ability beyond Level 3. For example, my Shepard made firm use of his grenades, and one of the options I was given was to either increase the power of each explosion, or the blast radius. This allowed me to tweak my Shepard to near-perfection and allowed me to play how I wanted, rather than be shoehorned with a style I wasn't particularly comfortable with. It's a great system, and combined with the improved combat, adds a fine degree of strategic depth to the proceedings, ensuring battles are a frantic, tactical playground where I was always forced to make quick decisions on how to deal with a specific enemy or situation.
Of course, your overall goal is to stop the Reapers by rallying the galaxies numerous races for a last-ditch battle. This forms the nucleus of ... (continued on next page) ----