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Mass Effect Review

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Developer: BioWare Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: November 20, 2007 Also On: None

The legendary team over at BioWare, now owned by Electronic Arts, has had many successes in the console realm. 2003’s Knights of the Old Republic was voted Game of the Year by many sites on the original Xbox. The team also created Jade Empire which was one of the best RPGs on the Xbox. Shifting onto the next-gen consoles, BioWare has finally released the highly anticipated title Mass Effect for the Xbox 360. Taking the influence and play style of KOTOR and Jade Empire and turning it into more of a shooter, Mass Effect is one of the best role playing games in recent memory.

Taking place in 2183, you will take control of Commander Shepard. Earth has just recently joined the intergalactic planets and are really considered vile and unwanted by the other races of the alliance. When one of the members of the council is deemed a traitor, it is up to you to try and stop him from taking over the galaxy by bringing back an ancient race that could destroy all life as they know it.

You have three primary classes to choose from when you first create your character: the solider, the engineer, and biotic user. There are also classes that are hybrids of these classes as well. Each class plays significantly different from one another with various armor, weapons and powers. This will allow you to try and play multiple times in order to experience them all.

While Mass Effect plays a lot like a shooter, you will have squad members with customized weapons and abilities that are important to strategize about before going into missions. Also, there is no good and evil in Mass Effect. It is more of a good cop, bad cop system. You will be forced with many hard decisions in Mass Effect, but it is up to you how you deal with it. You can be the nice guy that helps everyone or the brutal guy who only cares about his personal goals.

Visually, Mass Effect is quite the eye-catching title. Using a film grain in their engine, Mass Effect looks great in the many different environments that you will find yourself adventuring. Characters were developed very well and the animation is very solid. The major areas in Mass Effect are full of life and much larger than other BioWare games. Like most of BioWare’s games, however, the frame rate has a hard time trying to keep up with the action. The slowdowns are frequent and really detracts from the game significantly when in battle. The cutscenes are rendered beautifully, though, making the storytelling feel amazing.

As always, the voice talent is phenomenal and makes the storytelling in Mass Effect flow that much easier. You will be doing a lot of talking as there are so many unique lines of dialogue that was scripted throughout Mass Effect. What is different is that even your character will speak this time, making the conversations seem less one sided. There are also a lot of familiar voices in the game, but I will not give anything away. There is a lot going on in the background to keep the player feel like they are traveling through a real-world rather than dead space. The sound effects are pretty inspired and allow a high powered shooting experience in your living room. Be sure you crank Mass Effect up loud to fully enjoy the outstanding audio.

If I had to best describe how Mass Effect plays, I would say it is a hybrid of Knights of the Old Republic and Gears of War. The shooting feels a lot like Gears because you will be using cover a lot since a few good shots will take you out. The good thing for you is that the AI really is not the brightest on the lower difficulties. Even on Normal you can run and gun a bit before you are in trouble. In addition to that, you have powers that are like The Force that you can use and technical skills to open chests and doors. The problem with it is that you cannot queue them up or have a hot button to use the power. You actually have to pause the game and select the power to use beforehand. It really is a killjoy during heated gun fights. The combat, though intuitive for the genre, just does not hold up as well as the story.

There are a countless number of subplots for you to find and complete, as well as a lot of different planets to explore and loot. At the end of the day, your first play through should last about 20-30 hours, but you really will not find all there is to do the first time. You will more than likely devote hundreds of hours into Mass Effect as different types of characters and classes just to get different experiences and missions available to them. There really is a lot to do that makes Mass Effect a must-have for RPG and shooter fans alike. Storytelling this good makes you wonder why so many people like movies. If only the combat and frame rate issues were addressed, Mass Effect would be a perfect game worthy of its place in gaming history, but that does not mean this game isn’t awesome.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.3
Written by Shawn Review Guide