Playstation 3 Game Review: Mass Effect 3
The battle with the Reapers continues in this third addition to the renowned Mass Effect series. New writer Tristan Hall dissects this game with a wargamer's perspective, informing us if whether or not this is as good as it's predecessors.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
The final part in EA’s deep space Mass Effect trilogy brings the war against the Reapers to its conclusion. You return as Commander Shepard in this riveting third-person shooter which combines action adventure with RPG character development elements, and a dense narrative which will keep you gripped until the very end. Following a devastating assault on Earth in the opening scene, the stage is set for Shepard to go on the run through the galaxy to petition the various other alien races for help. In short, you must unite the galaxy to save all of civilisation!
What is it?
Mass Effect is one of the most stunning games series on the Playstation 3 platform and is a contender to rival Uncharted in its scope and cinematic nature. This is epic sci-fi with humanity at war against an alien species—the aptly named Reapers—whose sole purpose is to wipe out organic life. Commander Shepard is like a modern day Captain Kirk, leading a crack team of inter-species alien representatives on an intergalactic crusade for justice and peace—only not. The whole narrative tone of Mass Effect is incredibly dark, and whilst visits to gilded skyscrapers in futuristic cityscapes are not uncommon, the all pervading threat at the heart of the game is the total annihilation of life. It is under this dramatic setting that you labour against the forces of evil, in what is mostly a third-person shooter action game setting you at war against an increasingly devious array of alien, synthetic and human enemies.
How does it play?
The gripping gameplay sees you exploring star systems on a 3D grid map and discovering battlefields to make your stand against the Reapers wherever you can. As you advance through the game opening up new locations on the star map, you land your space shuttle in hostile environments and explore deadly locations in third-person mode; taking up to two AI squad-mates with you. With a few simple commands you can control your squad-mates’ actions and special powers, and as you defeat more enemies you can progress your whole team’s skills using an RPG style skill tree. Each character has a unique set of power-ups, from biotic (read “magic”) blasting and levitating attacks, to hacker tech skills, to classical soldier abilities like boosting the power and effectiveness of your grenades and guns. Mixing and matching these powers together and commanding your team to attack specific targets at just the right moment, will be your key to progressing in the game.
The trickiness of "comboing" your attacks and skills successfully is exacerbated by Mass Effect 3 being the most difficult title in the series so far. Mistakes in judgement are not forgiven easily; and unless you’re an expert in this genre you’ll more often than not find yourself staring down at your own corpse in the aftermath of a bloody firefight, with the camera spiralling away from the scene as you try to figure out how these alien bastards managed to out-flank, out-think or just plain out-gun you. And this is just on the normal setting: the difficulty is adjustable as you play through the game.
The bursts of speed as you race along through the levels are less cinematic than in Mass Effect 2, the blurring camera shake is gone, but you are able to run for longer and with a clearer idea of where you’re headed. The array of weapons and customisability available to your character is truly shocking, and after one play through you won’t have even touched the surface of what’s possible in the game.
Between battlefields and customising your armaments you will travel through space to find and unite allies against the Reaper common enemy, and a huge portion of the game is the unfolding story of the events leading potentially to the end of all life as we know it. Whilst this is a great, unique experience that permits you to tailor all your character’s responses to a situation by either taking the moral high ground and choosing “Paragon” (peaceful nice guy) dialogue options or the “Renegade” low road (play by nobody’s rules, outlaw type), there is an option available that allows you to skip through any storylines—just having a blast fest. It would be ludicrous to miss out on the great scripting, brilliant acting and stunning motion capture sequences, but this could be a worthy option for those on their sixth or seventh playthrough!
Graphics and Audio
This is one of the best looking games available on the PS3. There are regular moments in Mass Effect 3—much like the previous titles—where the backdrops are jaw-dropping. Whether it’s a giant tripod alien devastating the high rise buildings all around you as you race to escape, a weird extraterrestrial jungle bristling with disguised menace, an electric storm aboard an orbiting sky-ship or a seedy neo-noir nightclub with thumping music, you’ll often find yourself stopping just to slowly turn, look and take it all in. With Blade Runner’s skylines as a jumping off point, the series continues its eye watering ability to produce visuals, putting movies to shame.
If you have an older model PS3 you may experience very minor glitching during particularly animated scenes, and at one point my old 160GB unit somehow misplaced Shepard into temporary levitation about two feet above where he should have been standing. But on the whole, the graphical experience is seamless, extravagant and beautiful.
The music is stirring and engaging and beautifully fits the epic nature of the game and the sound design, be it the ambience of the worlds you’re visiting or the meaty feel of the vast array of weapons you can use on your enemies—is of a Hollywood blockbuster standard. The game leaves you with the overall feeling that you’ve just come away from one of the most epic science fiction movies you’ve ever seen, but where you dictated the pace and the action as you went along. There are first-person shooters and lesser action games which could go through a thousand iterations and still never achieve the level of emotional and dramatic engagement that Mass Effect infects you with.
How does it compare to Mass Effect 2?
There were a number of side games in ME2, such as strip-mining planets for ore, which have been replaced and upgraded to a less mind numbing but still pretty boring level. So you can nip behind Reaper enemy lines and steal resources from planets that they occupy to help you in the war effort and in uniting the different allied races. This can be great fun at first but begins to detract from the story towards the end game, when the drama is building up to a gigantic suicide battle mission but you’re busy checking some random moon in the arse end of the universe to see if they have an ancient set of tablets which a merchant you once met will give you a few credits for. On the whole, the action, drama and overall experience is elevated slightly; but ME2 was a fantastic title and how do you improve on such a brilliant experience? The answer it appears to be is: more of the same.
In ME2 you were able to gather a crew of up to twelve comrades, each with their own back story and missions to accomplish. In ME3 most of them still show up in cutscenes (depending on narrative decisions you made in the previous title) but not all of them will join your war directly, which means you don’t have as many characters to engage with. One of the great joys of ME2 was wandering your space ship, the Normandy, and chatting to your team to see how everyone was feeling and how you could help them. In ME3 your ship is comparatively empty with a lot of random ‘red shirt’ types just milling about and occasionally saluting you. Though, you will still be able to take advantage of one of your overstressed crew members by developing a romantic relationship with them, depending on certain dialogue options you choose to follow.
Is it any good?
Yes, For the love of God, oh yes! There’s much going on in this game, and it feels like lessons have been learned from the previous releases even if they seem to be just baby steps: like having the long, boring option of mining planets for bonuses replaced with just firing off a probe and gathering the resources that you need, pretty much instantly. The nail biting close to the Mass Effect trilogy is a must buy purchase, you will be gripped from start to finish. There are multiple endings to unlock based on the actions you take during the course of the game, you’d be crazy not to have it in your collection. Jump in; it should have come down in price by now to be an extremely reasonable buy.
Review written by: Tristan Hall
About Tristan Hall
Tristan Hall is a board game player and designer, avid video gamer and movie lover who juggles life as a writer, producer and Dad. He does this by using his insatiable appetite to crow bar playtime into an otherwise prematurely grown up existence. Tristan also maintains his own blog called “Fantasy Quest”.
Forum username: NinjaDorg
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