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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Xbox 360
November 20, 2007

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2

More in this Series
 Written by Patrick Mulhern  on June 23, 2008

Reviews: Mass Effect; chock full o' technical issues...

Mass Effect is a massive game. Players can chose to visit any number of systems, and read about countless planets that they cannot even approach due to atmospheric incompatibilities with the Human species. The title is filed to the brim with information, backstory, quests, tasks, weapons, armor and dialog. This is one of the reasons this review has taken so long, the other...well that is another story, literally.

Story + Quests

Like most other BioWare RPGs the story is presented as an integral part of the title. Early on the pacing is very slow, as the designer introduces the player to the world as they begin to learn the basics of combat. But that pacing continues much longer than a normal tutorial would, too long in my opinion. It takes a more than an hour to finally begin the meat of the title, but since there is just so much to do and so many NPCs to talk to, you will certainly get your fill. There is tons of meat and potatoes in this entr?e.

Story progression can move pretty much as fast as the player wishes. Should you be a completionist you may easily spend 20 hours playing the game before progressing the story very far. There are numerous side quests that can be completed, but I found them of little use. Yes they open up more backstory, journal entries and codex information. But the issue is that they simply have no substance, there really is no point to do them unless you are a completionist. Sorry, but next time make it change the gameplay somehow and gamers will be more inclined to tinker around.

Ahhhh. Aliens!


How about I just start with the bad, the Mako areas. When you first land on a planet you will often be dropped off in a 6-wheeled vehicle called the Mako. The machine's handling is absurd when you compare it to the well designed vehicles of the Halo/Half-Life 2 franchises. On top of that, these sub-missions often seem very pointless. It is as if they were added as an after thought to enable BioWare to slap "Vehicular combat" onto the box as a feature. Sloppy and ultimately pretty pointless.

The firefight gameplay is far more interesting than the vehicular combat, however the pacing is often slow here as well. Players will probably find themselves itching to get into battle while walking around, and the lack of a run ability when out of combat is incredibly illogical. The presentation just makes the title feel very choppy, a few minutes of gunplay then a few minutes of walking or driving around. Manage to get around these annoyances and you can dive into solid gameplay with varying abilities and squad make-ups. The diversity allowed by Mass Effect's character creation and leveling system is also a superb addition to the squad-based combat and keeps thing fresh as new character are introduced or removed from your squad.

Tech failings

While playing Mass Effect I balked at numerous technical or design issues that I found in the title. The faults are not game-breaking by any means. Nevertheless, they caught me like a Standing Side Kick from The Heartbreak Kid, square in the jaw.

BioWare has proven themselves time and again to be a AAA developer, and some of the issues displayed in Mass Effect simply does not fit their profile. First and foremost is the texture loading issue. After loading a stage, pretty much any stage, the game will boot up and let you start running around but the level you just entered is still NOT LOADED. Due to the human eye reacting to change the popping of the texture files into the scene can be very jarring. Why not keep players in the loading screen for another 5-10 seconds?

Two other technical issues are pretty much constraints placed upon the developers by using a console gamepad. The inventory screen is simply trash. It takes forever to scroll through all your items, for all your characters, comparing what to keep and then which upgrades to apply. Then there is the grenade button, yea, you have to move your hand off an analog stick to hit it. Terrible.

Changes for PC

Thank god for this. BioWare and new publisher Electronic Arts released the title for the PC on May 28th. Most gamers with a Xbox 360 and a good gaming machine are probably kicking themselves for grabbing the 360 version seeing as BioWare will be fixing almost everything that gamers have complained about in the Xbox 360 version for the PC version.

Fixes/updates include:
Higher resolution
Revamped inventory system
Faster elevators
Redesigned interface
Free "Bring Down the Sky" downloadable content
Mako controls tweaked
Shorter loading times

Screenshot from the PC version of Mass Effect. So pretty.

Bottom Line
So it may seem that BioWare has been taken to task in this review and their is a reason for that. Gamers expect a lot from certain companies, Blizzard is expected to make perfect RTS, Valve holds the FPS crown (sorry iD Software) and BioWare/Bethesda make sprawling, deep RPGs. You guys made the name for yourself and you let this video game journalist down a bit.

This is not to say that the game is BAD, it isn't. The issues that drag the title down are largely technical and have been rendered in the PC version. Past that, Mass Effect offers a deep, interesting story with great dialog, and voice acting all presented in fantastic, although slower, gameplay.
From the sounds of it developer Demiurge has taken the porting duty very seriously, so grab the PC edition.

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