Mass Effect 3--gaming's Empire Strikes Back?

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Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006

I just completed Mass Effect 3 on my 360 and thought I'd share a few thoughts. First off, I absolutely LOVED this game; I started playing it and basically did nothing else until I had won it. If you liked the earlier games, it's mostly there--the great story, characters, dramas, etc. However, this one feels TIGHTER to me. The side quests are all connected to the main story, so you never feel like you're just doing "busy work." At least during my play, the sex was toned down--sure, you have a feel nice butts and busts, but it's mostly Romance. By the time I finally managed to bed Liara, it was definitely Love, not Lust. ;)

A lot of the stuff that annoyed people in the first two games is gone. The planet scanning has been reduced to a very simple process...The lander thing (which I actually enjoyed) is gone, too--just Gears of War style combat for the most part. Indeed, this feels very much like Gears of War to me.

The negatives--the biggest is the camera angle and cover system. They're usually fine, but occasionally you get in sticky cover hell where you just can't seem to line up right. The difficulty is such that standing out in the open for more than a few seconds usually gets you killed, so that can get REALLY ANNOYING FAST. Most battles are fine, but when you die of sticky cover, you really hate it. There's also creatures called banshees and brutes that force you to abandon cover and go running around. Running around is where this game just gets painful. The button for running is the same as for cover...starting to get the picture?

Thankfully, though, those are rare situations. It's mostly like gears; start off on a big run uphill with lots of cover along the way. Hit the cover; shoot a bunch of grunts from a distance, advance, lather, rinse, repeat. I did the straight-up soldier, but you still get to play around with powers (magic) and ammo types. Weight is a heavier issue here, too--if you carry more than two weapons, you'll take some penalties. May not be a big deal if you don't use powers much, but you'll probably want to use at least a couple. I was firing off concussion shots and adrenaline rushes pretty hard; no way I could won the tougher battles without them.

All in all, if you're a Gears fan, I think you'll at least LIKE the combat. But what really sets the game apart are the aforementioned story, character, and dialog elements. This ain't something you will want to click through (if you are, I pity you). The voice acting is top notch, and the story is just complex enough to be interesting without overwhelming you with detail and subplots. The Elusive Man is a really cool villain--my favorite kind; the kind you can relate to. There's no black and white, "THIS GUY IS JUST PLAIN EVIL" kinda crap here. Sure, what they DO might be evil, but their intentions are good. ;)

To sum up: If you like Gears of War style gameplay and can really appreciate a good sci-fi story with fun characters and some really tough ethical dilemmas, you'll definitely want to play this one. I think a comparison to Empire Stikes Back is actually quite apt. Folks who want a good clean "good vs. evil" kinda story that ties up all the loose ends will not like it. Those who hate all the action segments in Star Wars and just want dialogue will be disappointed. If you like both, though...GET IT.