Mass Effect 3
Review I had my doubts whether any game could live up to the amount of hype seen surrounding Mass Effect 3’s release. I shouldn't have been concerned though, I love it. The twisting compelling narrative; the authentic character interaction; the seamless integration of cut scenes and action and, last but definitely not least, the awe-inspiring attention to detail. All these things make me invest my emotions in Lucy Shepard; becoming immersed in my own unique and intricate narrative.
Those of you who didn't play the previous instalments of Mass Effect not only missed out big time, but without previous knowledge of earlier parts of this complex overarching trilogy you could easily end up confused. The essence of Mass Effect 3 is that I am plunged into an all-out galactic war to take Earth back from the nearly unstoppable nasty bio mechanical Reapers.
Every 50,000 years the Reapers awake and exterminate the universe of all intelligent life in a rather nasty cycle of destruction – The Matrix  anyone? As Commander Lucy Shepard, I have warned the-powers-that-be of their imminent arrival, and now the Reapers are here I am the only one who can save Earth from annihilation. Dealing with pesky Cerberus and a bunch of infighting alien races while saving the world isn't a one woman job either. So, having my team of elite, battle-hardened militia definitely makes life easier in the face of such overwhelming odds.
The longer I played Mass Effect 3 the more I recalled conversations and characters from the first two instalments. Consequently, I am convinced that you need to have played them to get the most out of Mass Effect 3. This latest episode is tying up something that is very much a trilogy and, to really appreciate the interconnected narrative, you need to have some sense of your former role in the multiverse. Indeed, Mass Effect 3 reinforces this sense of previous history, as it allows character data from the last two games to be imported so you can carry on your unique story – quite a selling point.
My time on Mass Effect’s earlier versions has all been spent on a PC, but having been sent a PS3 copy I decided to start as a new recruit. I figured in the long run this wouldn't detrimentally affect me or my storyline, as it's the character that's imported and not the stats or equipment. To be honest, the Mass Effect 3 multiverse is so deep and complex – and I have played a wealth of different characters in different universes between Mass Effect 2 and this instalment – that I am almost glad decisions that I can't remember aren't coming back to haunt me.
Who you callin' four eyes?
Having completed the demo on PC, I go into a seizure at the flickering low frame rate on the PS3 version. If you invest in a console version of this game you’re doing yourself and the game a massive disservice because the Mass Effect 3 multiverse and everything in it is stunning – that Unreal Engine 3 just keeps giving. Admittedly, the graphics don't compare to Skyrim  but there will be a heatwave in Tamriel before anything does.
Paragon of virtue
Character creation is a visual feast though, with more than enough nuances to make me feel like I am a completely unique Shepard. The texture and render quality in the faces and piercing eyes of the characters are carried through into the game play with authentic expressions to match the exceptional voice acting by Hollywood royalty.
Have a heart to
heart whatever this alien has in its chest
Engaging in role playing over the combat and story choices is significant decision to enjoy the whole experience, as it’s the role playing that really makes Mass Effect 3 amazing. Selecting the dialogue options of Paragon (hey, let's all work together) over Renegade (stop moaning and fight damn you) was easy, as I'm a friendly type and an honest soul. Still, there's part of me that knows I am going to spend the Easter holidays using this game’s amazing replay value to start a new with a bad attitude.
Yet deciding my class out of the six available wasn't as easy as in Mass Effect 2. I played an infiltrator – all stealth and sniping – but this time I was persuaded to role a hybrid bio/tech Sentinel. I’m glad I did, as the visually stunning explosive Tech amour and a biotic blast did me proud.
The cinematic introduction is like one big copyright infringement, with standard War of the Worlds alien invasion noises, and me coming over all Ripley  with a lost kid in an air duct. I was guided by an old friend through the first mission and on to the Normandy to find my hours of mining from Mass Effect 2 had amounted to nothing, as it seemed to be missing my 'illegal' upgrades. It was the mining in Mass Effect 2 that left me cold, and I am delighted to avoid that grind this time round.
Being back on-board the Normandy feels like coming home and I quickly get to grips with the familiar locations on-board, including having a quick dance in my cabin to my personal sound system and checking the Galaxy Map on the bridge to formulate strategies against the advancement of the Reapers. The Normandy is the hub of my Mass Effect 3 campaign and from where I plot which course is best to save the multiverse.
To begin with, the game play and storyline are quite linear. It's not until I get to the Citadel and pick up a few missions that I get the choice of where in the galaxy to start my campaign. By using scans, planets worth visiting are revealed. As I begin to navigate the galaxy, it quickly becomes apparent the Reaper invasion has broadened and nowhere is safe. Exploring galaxies is a good way to get assets that can be used in the war against the Reapers. However, I need to be careful as the Reapers are tracking me and too many scans will alert them to my presence.
Dress to kill
Most weapons are familiar from Mass Effect 2 and can be upgraded at workbenches, and customisations can be bought and found. Due to weight restrictions, I can only carry so many weapons, which definitely made me think twice about my load out. Armour upgrades and character appearance add more individual touches – pink armour and having a fist fight in a rubber dress should never be frowned at.
You seem a bit blue, are you OK?
Also recognisable is how experience points are spent from Mass Effect 2. I started with points in Offensive Mastery, fitness and throw. The clean design and functionality of the Mass Effect UI make fiddling with my stats a pleasure. Mêlée attack is thrilling, as Mass Effect 3 introduces a new weapon, the omniblade, for when a husk creeps up behind me. As long as I use cover and keep my shield powered up, things don't get too hairy, even against the biggest mechs.
The gameplay could sometimes come across a little samey, but the depth of the storyline kept me connected. And when someone close to me died – and this happened a lot – I felt a genuine pang of sadness. All this emotional trauma is obviously getting to me, because I am haunted in my sleep – maybe I should lay off the Peruvian whisky?
Selecting which combination of my teammates would be most useful for backup before I head into battle was important but more often than not I took along Liara. Having her throwing a singularity into enemies with shields made combat with multiple baddies a breeze. Overpowered, you say? Well, I'm not complaining. No flanking tactics needed, even with that improved enemy AI.
Truly epic cut scenes – often with impressively huge beasties – play out a narrative that, at its worst, is a pompous space soap opera, but at its best had me shouting, sighing and laughing. The seamless transition into the combat sequences kept me constantly at the edge of my seat waiting for the next husk to show up and feel the sting of my omniblade.
Got ship all over the screen
Mass Effect 3 features multiplayer for the first time with Galaxy at War. All I can think is: why? I have to admit it is fun and could be more so when my mates come on-line but honestly Mass Effect 3 isn't about the multiplayer. If I wanted multiplayer I would be fragging ass in Battlefield 3 . Galaxy at War reminded me of Left 4 Dead but fighting waves of Reapers, instead of zombies. Call me paranoid, but it feels like Bioware is trying to prepare me for the imminent clusterfuck that will be the upcoming Mass Effect movie.
Mass Effect 3 is about choice and that's what drives this immense narrative. Bioware has invited me to be part a story so nuanced with action so compelling that it raises the bar. Building and refining an adored franchise wasn't going to be easy but Mass Effect 3 is everything I wanted it to be and more. ®
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