Mass Effect 3 REVIEW
VIDEOGAME REVIEW Command a starship, build an army, kiss an alien
London's latest tourist attractions were a bit of an eyesore.
Release Date: 9 March 2012
Format reviewed: PS3
Also available on: Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Across two games, Canadian developers BioWare have crafted one of the most rich, compelling sci-fi universes in gaming. We’re invested in its characters, intrigued by its mythology, and fascinated by its bizarre alien cultures – and now they’re destroying it all in front of us.
The Reapers are a race of seemingly-immortal sentient machines that ‘”cleanse” the galaxy of intelligent organic life every 50,000 years. They wipe everyone out, harvest their technology, and then wait on the fringes of the galaxy for the next evolutionary cycle.
Sounds pretty hopeless, right? Mass Effect 3 is a bleak game. This is all-out galactic war, and thousands of Reapers are currently stomping across Earth, wiping our cities out, and killing people by the million.
Playing as Commander Shepard – a character whose gender, personality, backstory and appearance are determined by you as you play the game – you must travel across the Milky Way aboard the starship Normandy, forming a gargantuan multi-species army to take down the Reapers.
This is easier said than done. Most of the races in the Mass Effect universe hate each other, and getting them to work together is like trying to get the Klingons and the Cardassians to kiss and make up, or North Korea to open its borders to the South. Much of the game is spent playing diplomat, getting these species to forget years of bad blood and join your fight against the invading Reapers.
The script is superb. It’s tense, thrilling, emotional, and unpredictable. Previous games followed a clear, linear path, but the third game is more dynamic, more uncertain. It also forces you to make some hard decisions. Do you sacrifice a human colony to get a fleet of powerful alien ships on your side? You constantly have to weigh up building the strength of your army with your own personal morals.
An all-star cast and superb character animation bring the dialogue to life. Tricia Helfer plays EDI, an artificial intelligence trying to become more human; Martin Sheen plays The Illusive Man, a shadowy pro-human activist with his own ideas about how to stop the Reapers; Seth Green is Joker, the Normandy’s good-natured pilot; Keith David plays Anderson, leader of the human resistance on Earth; and Lance Henriksen is your commanding officer, Admiral Hackett.
On a more mechanical level, the game’s combat has been vastly improved. Shepard can now roll between cover, and enemies are smarter and more aggressive. Weapons can be upgraded – for example, allowing you to shoot through scenery – and you can combine biotic abilities (Jedi powers, basically) with regular gunplay to entertaining effect.
But it’s the story that really excels here. Few developers handle drama and character with such expertise, and there are 30+ hours of excitement, melancholy, romance and mystery. If you haven’t played a Mass Effect game before, however, we advise starting from the beginning: this is the end of the trilogy, and diving in here would be akin to watching Return Of The Jedi first.