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
Mass Effect (Xbox 360)
Member Name: KK-Slither
Mass Effect (Xbox 360)
Advantages: Lots of space exploration
Disadvantages: Poor soundtrack
(If you're reading this feeling deja vu don't worry this isn't the Matrix... I think... I've just finally gotten around to putting ME and ME2's reviews under the right products, oops. Anyway enjoy the review)
The year is 2183 and you are Commander Shepard of the SSV Normandy... well actually it's 2007 and the highly anticipated Mass Effect has hit stores and... no it's 2010... and you're just reading a review of Mass Effect (Oh). Developed by Bioware Mass Effect had a sizable chunk of hype behind it, despite a relatively disappointing last game (Jade Empire) Bioware had a firm fan base and a good track record (particularly after Knights of the Old Republic 1&2 for those who didn't follow them on PC) and Mass Effect seemed to be another daring western RPG which promised large worlds and top notch story telling.
Well Getting right down to it, Mass Effect is a science fiction WRPG which sees Commander Shepard Earth's number one solider going forth in search of the man (alien) responsible for the murder of a Turian Spectre. To do this Shepard (you) will have to build a squad, explore distant planets and speak to many different people. Obviously I've summarised the story's premise just slightly but you get the idea. Commander Shepard is customisable, you can change the general appearance such as eye colour, hair and the first name though for script purposes Shepard as the last name can't be changed and is how other characters will refer to you in game. You also get to decide the gender of Shepard. The final aspect of character creation is choosing your class which effects the abilities your character will have. You do gain experience to spend on new stats and abilities in Mass Effect and money to spend on new fancy equipment (it is an RPG). It's also good to see that different armour actually looks different so if you equip it your character you will look different, far too many console RPGs don't do this.
Mass Effect sees you spending a lot of time talking to NPCs (none-player characters) to gather information for missions and general curiosity or to buy equipment to improve your character. Interaction with characters is controlled with speech choices, when having a conversation with someone you are given a set of choices as how to respond with different decisions yielding different answers, your words and actions also affect your morality earning you either paragon (hero) points or renegade (badass) points. If you aren't talking then you're probably fighting, this is handled with an over the shoulder shooter angle during which you can cycle between weapons and powers to defeat your foes. You have to go through a menu to switch weapons or use a power which can slow down battles a little but it's no big deal. The main story for Mass Effect isn't long (for an RPG), if you avoid side quests than your looking at between thirteen and eighteen hours depending on your skill level but add to that the side quests and it increases by a good twenty hours, these normally involve you exploring a desolate planet in your Mako, a buggy type vehicle. There are a lot of planets to explore and while it may become tedious after a while, it's clear the developers put some effort into making the universe you're in seem as large as possible. If you really enjoy Mass Effect then there's a welcome option to replay your completed file with all your equipment and stats, maybe you played the game choosing paragon options and now want to try the renegade to see the way Shepard approaches the story or perhaps on this playthrough you'd like to tackle side quests, this all adds to replay value but probably only if you really enjoyed the game first time through.
Graphics are a mixed bag, while Mass Effect certainly looks nice and attention to detail like lip syncing while the characters talk is handled very well there is a big problem with texture pop in. For those of you who don't know this is when the general detail in textures doesn't load quick enough so for about a second and a half or so while talking to a character or looking at the environment you'll find that the place or person seems to have lost any real texture instead seeing an eerily smooth surface. Load screens are also a problem, that isn't to say there is a lot of them as they are replaced in many instances by elevators, yes you get to stare at your character for ten or more seconds in an elevator while the game loads a new section of an area (I'd prefer load screens).Music is at best forgettable, I generally found myself not even realising there was music playing. Voice acting is however definitely not a problem in Mass Effect, it's clear Bioware worked hard to make sure their actors did a good job of letting you know how a character felt when they delivered their lines.
Mass Effect is a very good effort from Bioware and does some things very well, it might not be a huge revelation in the RPG genre as a whole but as far as WRPGs go this is definitely one of the finest examples of how they can be made. If you own an XBox 360 then you should definitely buy this game, particularly for the fact that there is a planned trilogy of the Mass effect series. If you don't like WRPGs then don't buy this game.
Also if you do buy this game you can carry over your save file to Mass Effect 2 so don't delete it.
At A Glance.
Gameplay ~ 7/10
Story ~ 8/10
Graphics ~ 7/10
Sound ~ 6/10
Replay Value ~ 7/10
Final Score: 35/50
Summary: KK-Slither Says ~ Highly Recommended.