Product Type: Microsoft Xbox 360 games
Newest Review: ... Shepard and his hand-picked crew are left to deal with this latest menace almost single-handed; reliant only on the few allies they... more
Your decisions can have a Mass Effect!
Mass Effect (Xbox 360)
Member Name: Stunt 101
Mass Effect (Xbox 360)
Advantages: Beautiful visuals, deep story and world, amazing acting, great gun combat, great side missions.
Disadvantages: Slowdown, weak vehicle sections, some spotty A.I.
It seems that in the year 2183, the universe can not travel across the universe faster than the speed of light, which is fast by the way. Obviously, this is going to cause some fights between the different species on each planet, which is why we have the Galactic Council and the Spectres. They both bring order to the worlds, which keeps things peaceful. You're Commander Shepard, a crewman aboard the high-tech spacecraft Normandy who does what he does best. A Spectre is tracking you to see if you're worth a shot at being the first human Spectre ever. That is, until a rogue spectre shoots him in the back. Rouge Spectre Saren has a plot to take over the universe, and it's up to you to stop him. This is scratching off the surface of the plot, as any more detail and I'll spoil the fun for you. It's deep, and it doesn't keep throwing twists at you, and instead gives you details of your true enemy, though it does have some hurricane twists here and there. What's great is how you control the plot. The decisions you make effect the outcome of the game, and other choice can make your life easier or harder. Plus, if you want to explore, there's a deep, rich world here too. It will help if you buy the Limited Edition version of this, as it explains some of the backstory here. There is even a book which is a prequel to this.
The game controls well. You move with the left analog stick and look around with the right. You can bring your guns out with the B button and fire it with the right triggers. Grenades can be used with the start button. You throw one with the start button, and press it again to explode it. You can enter a menu to choose you and your squad's weapons, as well as their tech abilities. You can also give squad commands using the D-Pad. You can heal yourself using the Y button, interact with the environment with the A button and zoom in with the left trigger. The vehicle controls well too, as they're similar to Halo where you steer the car in all directions with the left analog stick. You can also fire weapons with the right trigger and right bumper and repair your vehicle with the Y button. Overall, the controls are responsive and easier to learn.
Before you start, you must create a Commander Shepard. You can stick to the guy seen in the trailers and on the front of the box, but you'll probably have some fun creating a Frankenstein. It might not be as deep as Elder Scrolls IV where you can change your clothes, but it's still nifty. You can change their skin colour, eye colour, hair colour (if they have any) and even have a scar on them, which is cool and makes them truly look badass. You also need to choose a character class from a group of six. These effect how good you are in gun combat, hacking and computer stuff, and tech abilities. What's quite cool is that you can choose the background of these characters. These aren't just salad dressing-people will interact with you depending on your past. Want to be commended for being an only survivor of a big fight? That can happen. Once you're done you'll begin.
The trick that BioWare has been doing recently is that you can choose what you say to people. Basically, when initiated you can choose what you want to say to your characters. The difference here is that your character will actually say what you choose, unlike previous games which moved on after you choose what to say. Like KOTOR and Jade Empire, you can be good or evil. Here though, rather than being good or evil, you earn points for being good or evil and they will build up and not effect each other. This means you could be good, evil or a mix of both if you wanted to.
Decisions can effect how missions play out, as you can try to convince a guy about to kill someone not to, or just start a gunfight and take them out which is pretty cool. Making choices is really easy to, as the game will stop and let you decide move moving the left analog stick to highlight the decision you want and select it. The game continues in Real-Time, meaning the game doesn't go to widescreen when dialogue appears.
At first, you're limited to a place called the Citadel where the council is and where the main politics happen. But when you've played through the story for about an hour, you can travel to lots of different worlds and solar systems. The game is very deep in terms of its scope, as you can enter lots of different solar systems and then go onto different planets. Once you land on a planet, you can explore it in all its goodies if it's not blocked off. The worlds only end when a crewmate tells you that you're about to exit the planet's surface. You can scale different surfaces with a vehicle called the Mako. This car also has weapons on it including a machine gun and rockets. You'll need to use this car if the planet's surface is hazardous as if you travel out to a world with poison in the air, you'll die.
Unfortunately, the vehicle sections are rather weak. It's not the vehicle itself, but what can happen when in it. The game has some glitches, for example these creatures called Thresher Maws can pop up out of the ground and attack you. These are fine if you're a distance away from them, as they can be exciting and tense. It all goes wrong if they sprout under you. One of two things will happen, they will sprout under you and destroy the Mako, or you get caught in the Maws geometry, meaning you're stuck there. Another problem is the weapons on the Mako. For some odd reason, you can't fire your weapon in any direction other than forward. This means if an enemy is on higher ground, you'll have to get out of the vehicle and shoot at them, putting you at risk of dying. It's a stupid design choice, and makes these sections worse. Still, if you're just roaming around in the car it's not bad.
The combat in Mass Effect is quite different to most RPGs. It's not turn-based like Blue Dragon or even like Jade Empire where you mash buttons to kill. Instead, the combat is like a third-person shooter. But you can't play it like you're playing Stranglehold or Kane & Lynch where you go in guns blazing; otherwise you're going to die quickly. Like Gears of War, you're meant to take cover and shoot from there. You're also meant to pause, assess what is going on and perform actions based on what you see, which means it's all about planning, which means it's not a mindless shooter. You'll get a pistol, shotgun, assault rifle and more. The game doesn't use ammo, instead a heating system. You have infinite ammo, but you can't just keep firing. You'll soon overheat your weapon, which means you can't use it until it's cooled down. That's interesting and adds some more strategy to using your weapons.
You will be doing a lot of equipping in the game if you want your character to be powerful. You can equip items to your weapons to add bonus effects, e.g. shield piercing ammo, which is helpful in certain situations. You can also equip armour, which actually appears on your character during gameplay, which is pretty cool. Every time you equip a weapon or item, you'll see what the changes in your stats are so if you get a more powerful weapon you'll see it in the stats. There is also standard RPG levelling up here too. You earn experience for killing enemies and completing side missions, and you can get up to level sixty once you've completed the game once. You earn points which you can use to improve your skills with weapons, tech abilities and your charm which can help you get out of some tough situations. The good thing is that if you don't want the hassle of choosing what to level up, the game will do it for you.
There is also a squad for you to command. You can send them to move, rejoin you, target an enemy and take cover. They are helpful in tight situations but you probably won't use the tactics much. You can call up a couple of wheels of choice. One will choose you and your partner's weapons, and the other will let you choose tech abilities. Tech abilities don't focus on damaging your enemy; rather they're more about manipulating the enemy. You can use abilities to throw enemies in the air, crate a warp hole and throw enemies out of your way. There are also abilities for engineers too, like being able to make enemies guns explode, which is cool. The team A.I. isn't the greatest, but if you use the squad tactics they are better.
The interface in the game could do with some work too. It's not broken, but it's clunky. It's the little annoyances that add up to make the interface what it is. When you're selecting a power up, if you accidentally select the wrong one then you're stuck with it. If you changed your mind about using it then you'll have to use it and wait for it to charge. Another problem is that in some menus you have to select something if you want to exit the menu. If, as before, you change your mind you're going to have to select something anyways to go back. It's just an annoyance but it all adds up because you're in the menu so much. Other problems include the game jumping back to the top of the menu when you've converted your items to Omnigel.
The side missions in Mass Effect are great. Rather than making you do twenty racing missions, or kill everyone missions, these missions are varied and fun. One mission will ask you to stop a rouge training robot by going into the core and destroying the machines running it, while another will ask you to find a psychotic leader of Bionics and get him to come with you. Some of these quests ask you to do the task and that's it, while others can change as you can make decisions. For example, the mission with the psychotic leader can change depending on how you speak to the leader. If you convince him by charming him or intimidating him, you'll be able to walk out of the base easily without the Bionics attacking. But if you shoot him, they'll be angry and you'll have to take them down. Either way, you can still complete the quest, so it's up to you. It's this freedom that makes the side quests, and the main quests, so fun. Unfortunately, there's the odd collecting quest which are obviously dated.
The most controversial thing I find about the game is that it is rated 12+. Considering it got adult ratings in other countries like America, and it got banned in one country (though it was unbanned), this is very surprising. It's also totally underrated. For starters, there's the sex scene. You can watch Shepard make love to a woman (though it's not like Porn, except it's not censored enough). This will happen whatever gender you are. If you're a woman, it will be lesbian sex. This is totally rude, and uncalled for. Why couldn't they make a man in the game? Nothing against Homosexuals, but why is this needed in a sci-fi RPG? I don't believe that a game that has references of sex activity should get a 12+. Also, there are a couple of really gruesome scenes, like when you see an alien put a giant claw through a guy. It should be a 15+, or even its planned rating of 18+. Though this is from the BBFC, as PEGI gave it a 18+.
Graphically, the game is incredible. The game has tons of lavish details, like the many bumps in an alien species, beautiful environment set pieces and more. Character models have the best animation in gaming. Like The Darkness, they'll move their hands while talking, and their lip animation is fantastic. There are some graphical settings too, which means you can tweak how the game looks. You can turn off the motion blur, as well as a film grain which makes it look like you're watching in the cinema. There are also three different graphical looks to choose from, including one which lowers the resolution, but makes the game brighter. Unfortunately, the lush details come at a price. The frame rate can chop up quite frequently, especially if you have effects turned on and on the best graphical quality. Also, textures won't load up immediately at times, making them look blurry, but they do load up eventually. And there are some other graphical quirks. Still, the game looks incredible and the flaws are easier to forgive with what you'll see when the game is running right.
The sound is fantastic. The voice acting is some of the best you'll hear in video gaming. There are some big names like Keith David, Marina Sirtis and Lance Heriksen. Everyone does an outstanding job, with no one going overboard as well as sounding like a bore. The dialogue is excellent too with some great quotes, like 'Why is it whenever someone says "with all due respect", they really mean "kiss my ass"?''. The music is terrific. It's a mix of symphonic swelling with the odd bursts of sci-fi tones. It bumps in at the right moment, making for a really atmospheric game. The effects are great too, with the futuristic guns sounding quite as if they're from the future. There are also some nice computer effects and other techno effects.
-(The Replay Value)-
The game's main story is not particularly long if you don't tackle the side missions. Focusing on the story and only the story, I finished the game in about fifteen hours. This is rather short for a RPG, but then you tack on the side missions. After completeing side missions, exploring uncharted worlds and replaying the game to see all the different character classes, as well as unleash my inner Renegade, I had been playing for one hundred hours. Now that adds a lot of value to the game. There are also forty five achievements as well. You'll get achievements for finishing the game an amount of times, getting one hundred and fifty kills with a weapon and making love to someone. These will add value, as I only got about eleven of them on one play through. Plus, I found myself replaying the game multiple times simply because it's so fun.
-(The Ending Comments)-
Mass Effect is a masterpiece. A master class on how to make a Sci-Fi RPG and one of the 360's finest. Its story is fantastic, being dramatic while not piling on the cheese. The gameplay is excellent with a mix of great conversations, exploration and great third-person shooting. The graphics are outstanding, despite some odd glitches and frame-rate drops. The sound is incredible, with fantastic voice acting, a stellar soundtrack and great effects. The game may be a little short if you don't do any side missions, but if you do them then you'll be playing for months. This is BioWare's best and the best RPG on the 360. If there's one game you get this season, or even this year, then this should be a choice.
-(The Extra Info)-
This was published by Microsoft and developed by BioWare.
This was released on November 23rd, 2007 and is only on Xbox 360.
Thanks for reading. Stunt 101
Summary: Best RPG on the system.