Review by Johnus Maximus
Mass Effect, an immersive futuristic rpg that despite some minor flaws offers an exciting cinematic rpg experience that most 360 owners should find enjoyable.
While the gameplay itself does not offer anything more innovative than any other game in this genre, what really makes this game special is the overall presentation of the story that takes place, especially with regard the music and dialogue.
The music in this game is reminiscent of films like Blade Runner and Escape from New York, in parts it feels subtle and progressive and at other times edgy and intimidating. It is hard to put words to the feelings the music portrays, but it is perfectly suited to the game, it feels like a logical part of it and much praise should be given to the team involved in creating it.
Innovating the way you choose your speech options, Mass Effect has a dialog wheel, which you use to trigger your responses and choices in a way that enhances the fluidity and delivery of the characters lines, and also generates a level of intuitiveness in your interactions. Combine this with superb voice acting and animation, the storyline is literally shaped by you and acted out in such a way that it is believable.
The general gameplay doesn’t stray too far from most rpg’s: run around, solve problems, talk to people, battle foes, organise party members, level up skills, buy new weapons, travel to far off places, kill more foes, repeat.
What keeps these things interesting is the sheer amount of places to go, people to meet and missions to accept. Exploration and locational travel does not get boring as you have access to a mass transit system within the Citadel (the base of operations of the galactic council), and when off world you have the Mako (a 6 wheeled combat vehicle) to play with.
The combat system is easy to grasp, when enemies attack you have to make use of cover available and the weapons/abilities at your disposal to take them out. Combat happens in real time but with the ability to freeze time to relay commands to your squad, so a little bit like KOTOR crossed with Gears of War.
The extra terrestrials that we find ourselves sharing the galaxy with are diverse and intriguing, the party members you pick up along the way all have a different playing style, character attitude and background history which you can choose to involve yourself in, or ignore.
There are a couple of annoyances I had with the game, and unfortunately on a game as polished as this, these imperfections really stand out.
Firstly, there is a really laggy texture pop-up. I haven’t seen anything this bad since Halo 2. It’s not too big an issue when you are doing something like loading a new area, but when you are watching a cut scene it can get really annoying, as you slowly wait the texture details to pop into place on the characters and their environment. I’m pretty sure this would have been picked up in testing, so whoever signed it off as acceptable really ought to feel a little bit bad.
Additionally, though not as irksome as the above mentioned issue, I feel there could have been a little more variety in the level design for the internal structures you visit across the galaxy (biotic research stations, civilian medical centres, etc) as they all seem to be very similarly laid out, which can make predicting enemy attack behaviour very easy.
Despite these elements though, I’ve found playing Mass Effect has been a really great experience, and thanks to both the great storyline and the way your decisions alter your experience, it certainly warrants more than one play through.
To write this review I played about 40 hours, which was enough to complete all the subquests as well as the main storyline, so this may not be a recommended purchase for the ‘casual’ gamer, but for those in any doubt I would have to say that this is definitely one of the best games of 2007.