Mass Effect 3: catchup review

  • Platform: 360 (version reviewed), PS3, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: EA
  • Developer: BioWare
  • Players: 1 (offline), 2-4 (online)
  • Site:

His name was Jeremy Shepard, a no-nonsense renegade space commander that put the mission before anything. He sacrificed the Citadel council, punched a journalist, killed a giant robot skeleton and successfully pulled twelve squad members through a mission that everyone dubbed as ‘suicide’. This was one of the many millions of unique Shepards that stood before Mass Effect 3. How different would the final act of his story be to yours?

The Mass Effect trilogy has the most ambitious narrative of any series out there, each game focussing on your hero and your decisions at several key points. These decisions were dragged over from the first game to the second, and now number two’s major decisions can be stacked on top and pulled into the third. This last game is all about your investment in your hero, and how your past decisions will affect the future. We never got around to playing through the game with a default, ME3 fresh Shepard because we had so many veteran space heroes with stories left to tell. However, from what we’ve found on various message boards you would be doing yourself a disservice to not import a character, as BioWare’s vanilla Shep is missing a lot of content and nods to previous missions that can only be acquired from an imported save.

New 'least favourite squad member' James Vega backs up "FemShep".

It all kicks off with Shepard on Earth, about to receive a major telling off before his ultimate “I told you so moment” arrives in the form of a Reaper invasion. The first mission acts as a scene setter and tutorial, reintroducing you to guns, movement and a couple of new things, such as heavy melee attacks. You eventually scuttle off onboard one of the few ships that gets away and start your new mission: to unite the galaxy for war.

As you travel around the universe and help acquaintances old and new, you will gather war assets that add to your military forces. New war assets are added to the console in the Normandy’s war room which shows what forces you have amassed to launch against the Reapers. It’s a neat way to track your progress in the game, and gives you a way to score the decisions you make in certain conversation trees.

Storytelling has always been the strength in the Mass Effect games, with the action gameplay always lacking behind more dedicated third-person shooters. As ME2 improved the first game’s mechanics, ME3 further expands on this with movement that feels significantly smoother and more natural. A handy rolling mechanic has also been added that helps you dodge projectiles, dance out of melee range and move in an unnecessarily dramatic way across open areas. It still doesn’t feel quite as refined as Gears of War, but at least Shepard now has more manoeuvrability than a Krogan with his quad set in concrete.

Shooting a brute in the neck won't make it happy or sad, just very angry.

All other new gameplay additions are generally welcome and positively add to the game. Weapon customisation returns, but is nowhere near as complicated as it was in the first game. Every gun can be equipped with two mods from a selection of about five that improve various stats, such as damage and accuracy. Unlike previous games, each class can use all weapons. To offset this, guns have a weight value that affects your ability cooldown times when equipped. More guns mean more weight and lengthier cooldowns. Therefore it is better for ability dependant classes like adepts to carry lighter weapons, but you still have the opportunity to pack something heavier should you choose. This brings a great layer of tactical depth to your loadouts.

The ending has attracted a lot of controversy throughout the Internet and gaming press. We found the conclusion quite disappointing if we’re honest, but it’s a topic that has divided everyone. You are likely to have your own, very personal reaction to the outcome that will depend on how invested you are in your particular Shepard and if the ending is anything like the kind of end you were hoping for. The problem is that BioWare gave us the story to meld our way, but then gave themselves the impossible task of ending it for us. However, no matter how you feel about the outcome, there’s no denying that the 25 hours of game preceding it are brilliant.

Multiplayer allows you to play as such species as Turians, Krogan, Salarians, Asari, and *yawn* humans.

Multiplayer is a very welcome addition, with the four player co-op survival-like mode being a fun experience with six different classes to play as and level up. Each class has three abilities similar to those from the single player which can be upgraded in exactly the same way through XP earned in online matches. The unlock system is random, with three tiers of supply packs that are purchased with in-game credits. They mainly contain filler content like supplies, but you can occasionally get rare weapons, characters and upgrades, especially in the pricier packs. It may not have the addiction power to keep you engaged long term, but it’s fun and can easily extend the game’s life by 20 hours. However, we must note that unless you have the Datapad app for iOS devices, it is necessary to play the multiplayer in order to get the ‘best’ single player ending due to the galactic readiness mechanic that links multiplayer and campaign.

Mass Effect 3 is a fantastic conclusion to Shepard’s tale which is arguably one of the best stories told in gaming. Okay, there are plot holes that could engulf the titanic and the ending falls flat, but the real genius is in the mostly brilliant dialogue and believable characters throughout. It is one of the best examples of narrative and gameplay being interwoven, up until the last 20 minutes or so at least. If you have a Mass Effect 2 Shepard saved on your hard drive then you owe it to them to complete their story. If you don’t, there is enough here to enjoy Mass Effect 3, but you will be robbing yourself of a lot if you do not play previous entries first.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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