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Friday, March 16, 2012

Mass Effect 3

9.9 out of 10

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Well, once again intergalactic politics has made a mess of things. You tried to warn them. For two freaking games, Command Shepherd tried to warn them all. The Reapers are coming! No, really, they're coming! And they're going to destroy all life as we know it because that's what they do, man! That's allllll they do!

And how did the Council react? By sitting on their thumbs. Bickering. So guess what? Mass Effect 3 has you cleaning up the mess. In a satisfying sort of way.

Let me stop right here and mention two small quibbles. I have to mention them because the game is so fantastic that it would be a great disservice if I didn't air my minor grievances. First, the game starts out with a bang: the Reapers have arrived to wipe out life as we know it, and they land on earth and begin wiping everything out in a visual feast of awesomeness. What you don't get during this opening scene is tension. Why? Because the music is about as pathetic as one can expect. This is no God-of-War 3 opening, primarily because the music just isn't there. It sounds like something you might hear in an elevator, and it hurts an otherwise awesome opening scene.

Let me get the second quibble out of the way quick, too. The Reapers are here. Every second that passes, they're killing people. And you're still wandering around space in your awesome spaceship, going on entertaining side-quests because that's what you do in these types of games. Because they're fun. But on the other side of the galaxy, during all of this, the Reapers are still reaping. There's not much sense of urgency when you're free to roam.

OK. That's it. Now let's talk about all of the great things:

1. The visuals are still mind-melting. It's beautiful. A space opera under your control, even better-looking than Mass Effect 2.

2. The voice acting and the characters are great. No, there's nothing incredibly original overall, but it's the little things and the back-stories that make the characters so compelling.

3. The story is still great. You get to save the universe, and along the way you'll be tested and expected to take matters in your own hands, and how you react will determine future events. The ending wraps everything up in a neat little package (although some people might have a problem with it … I didn't).

There's more. Since you're the universe's only hope, you'll have to ensure you get the job done. To do that, you can expect to travel around the galaxy and increase Galactic Readiness. What does this mean? It means if you ain't ready, you can expect the rest of the game to adjust accordingly. Get ready.

Expect some minor changes from Mass Effect 2. The combat is almost unchanged, which is good. The planet scans are gone, thank god. The side quests are … well, they definitely feel like SIDE quests.

Still, it's hard to dislike this game even for a few moments. It's good to see Commander Shepherd back. It's good to be back. And if you've stuck around for both of the previous games, you're finally rewarded with a satisfying conclusion … maybe. Depending on how you play the game. Which is what has always made Mass Effect so much fun.

Multiplayer

I can honestly say that multiplayer was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, it has some interesting storylines and modes that have you and your squad performing a variety of actions in small arena-like areas that are designed with specific purposes in mind.

On the other hand, you may find yourself playing through wave after wave of enemies and getting a little bored. When does the level end? I kept asking myself. More importantly, you may find that despite multiplayer having a slight connection to the single-player game, it's not worth sticking around the arenas for too long simply to collect a few extra achievements.