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Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) artwork

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) review

"On our five-point scale, this game probably should actually get a six."

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) image

So, here I am, having just completed the Mass Effect trilogy, looking back at my experience with the final game in it, trying to come up with words for this review. At times, it can be difficult to separate one game from another. While they might have had differences in how they play, they all told the story of a person named Shepard who went from investigating the treasonous actions of a high-ranking secret agent to leading the galaxy in a do-or-die conflict against the greatest threat it has ever seen. Each piece of the trilogy is one chapter in Shepard's story and decisions made in the first two will effect how aspects of the third play out. But I'm a reviewer and turning my personal experiences into reviews is my thing, so let's have at it.


/end review

If that's not enough for you, fine…I'll expand that "WOW!" into my usual glut of words to provide a few more details. To me, Mass Effect 3 was the perfect culmination of the tale this series told, refining several elements from the first two games, while correcting aspects I felt were missteps by BioWare, although that might not have originally been the case. In today's era of DLC and early patching to correct blatant flaws, I find that I never purchase games when they're brand new, simply because it'll take some time for them to become a finished product. In this instance, not only were multiple DLC missions eventually released, but apparently the game's ending was flawed enough to cause a fair amount of backlash, causing BioWare to release an enhanced version to alleviate those criticisms. And, as far as I'm concerned, things worked out well, since the ending I obtained was one I found to be quite fitting as a conclusion to all of my Shepard's accomplishments.

And, whoa, did he (or she, depending on your gender preference) ever have a ton of them! The first game mainly focused on his efforts to bring rogue Spectre agent Saren to justice, while also introducing the galaxy-threatening Reapers. While the second game's main objectives revolved around stopping a race of aliens seemingly in thrall to the Reapers, the lion's share of your work likely will involve Shepard simply working to get a rag-tag band of misfits together and then ensure their loyalty to the cause. Now, in the third game, it's war!

Shepard begins the game stuck on Earth -- a situation which immediately changes after the Reapers invade the planet and start wrecking stuff, much like an angry child kicking over his Lego set. While Shepard's boss, Anderson, stays on Earth to lead the resistance, our hero is ordered back into duty. All the differing alien races need to put aside their differences to confront this threat before it's too late and, with all he's accomplished, he's the man for the job!

Now, anyone who follows American politics might be SHOCKED by this, but getting a whole bunch of people with differing beliefs to band together against a force powerful enough to overwhelm everyone is not particularly easy. First, even if Shepard finished Mass Effect 2 on good terms with the shadowy organization Cerberus, that comes to a crashing halt when he realizes their leader, The Illusive Man, has shifted his priorities from "destroy the Reapers" to "control the Reapers and harness their power to make humanity the superior force in the galaxy". And that's only the first problem.

The Turians? They're having their own Reaper problem, with their home-world and its moons being invaded, so they're not going to simply pack up shop to help Earth. The Krogans have a ton of military might, but they're still holding a grudge over that whole Genophage thing that has effectively sterilized their race. However, with rumors of a potential cure swirling out there, they might be willing to help…if that cure is distributed beforehand. Of course, that course of action might serve to alienate the Salarians, who designed the Genophage and are quite reluctant to see it cured, convinced that the Krogans' war-loving culture will turn to brutal revenge if they're restored to their original strength. Then, far across the galaxy, the Quarians and Geth are still embroiled in conflict. The Quarians want to regain their home planet from Geth control, while the Geth are determined to be recognized as a sentient species, rather than mere machines. If you want everyone to put aside their desires and grudges to focus on the Reapers, you'll have a lot of work in front of you.

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) image

Simply put, this game seemed to consist of one epic moment after another placed into a package designed well enough to do it all justice. While I thought some of the RPG elements in the first game were annoying (constantly selling crap weapons and armor got tiring after a bit), Mass Effect 2 over-simplified things, with you only obtaining a couple weapons for each class of guns. Here, in 3, you wind up with roughly a half-dozen or more guns in each of five classes that all can be upgraded five times to improve power, accuracy, capacity or other parameters. You can purchase full sets of armor in a number of stores, or craft your own set from individual pieces scattered throughout missions. While I disliked using the Mako to traverse a never-ending array of drab, barren planets, 2's scanning mini-game was tedious in its own way. Now, you simply enter a system and scan it. If a planet has something for you to obtain, it'll be highlighted and you can quickly snag it with the only risk being that too much scanning will attract Reapers, causing you to have to flee the area until you've completed a mission.

You'll want to explore everywhere because this fight is about more than just Shepard and his crew. You need to collect assets to help in the war, which can be found on random planets, strewn throughout levels or as rewards for succeeding in missions. The obtaining of assets displays just how intricate the relationship between the three Mass Effects is. To give one minor example, look at the Mass Effect 2 DLC character Kasumi. If you obtained her and she survived that game, she'll show up in an early-game side-quest where you and a Spectre agent (who has been trying to track her) work together to find out if a particular diplomat has been indoctrinated by the Reapers. There are multiple ways for this quest to be resolved, but the only way to get the most possible assets is if Kasumi is still alive and you gained her loyalty in 2. And this holds true for any quest involving virtually anyone you could have worked with or even encountered in the first two games. If you kept them alive and did right by them, they'll prove to be helpful in this game. They might directly assist you in missions, they might become war assets or, possibly, both.

Battling also is an improvement over past titles. In essence, it's the same cover-based shooting as in 2, but with a superior variety in enemies. Throughout the game, you'll mainly be fighting Reaper and Cerberus forces, with a few missions adding Geth to the equation. Each faction has its share of cannon-fodder grunts, who tend to be supported by powerful and deadly foes. Reaper Cannibals might be easy to handle, but when you also have a massive Brute charging at you, you're not going to be able to hide in cover, so it's easy to be riddled with bullets while trying to keep out of range of its shield-shattering smashes. And then the Reapers bring out the Banshees, the one enemy I never could consistently succeed against. They're creepy-looking, capable of flash-stepping to avoid attacks, can stagger you with a homing projectile and will finish things with an instant-kill melee attack. Oh, and they also take a TON of damage before finally collapsing.

And in comparison, Cerberus forces are only marginally easier. Get a Phantom and Nemesis in the same room and you're in trouble. The former are ninjas capable of nimbly dodging bullets before impaling you with their sword, while the latter use cover far better than the average enemy and will cause mass damage with their sniper rifles the instant that Phantom chases you out of your cover. Centurions can conceal their location with smoke grenades, while Engineers will set up turrets capable of laying waste to you with a steady stream of gunfire. Guardians might be pretty weak, but they can also be tough to kill with the large shields covering nearly all their bodies -- allowing them to chase you out of cover right into someone else's line of sight. Damn, this game's list of adversaries puts those three mercenary gangs that seemingly compose the majority of 2's villains to shame!

Thanks to them, I found this to easily be the most challenging Mass Effect in the trilogy. When you add in the DLC, that difficulty goes through the roof. Helping mob boss Aria regain control of Omega culminates in an absolutely brutal confrontation with hordes of snipers and regular soldiers supplemented by deadly Adjutants -- best described as super-powered Husks on speed. While Citadel might have been designed as fanservice for gamers looking for more witty banter between Shepard and pals, it won't take long to find out what you're in for, as the opening mission has Shepard fighting heavily-armed mercenaries with only a pistol containing limited ammo. I both died more often playing this game and used combat skills to supplement old-fashioned firepower more than I did in the first two combined.

When I played the first two games in this trilogy, I was sucked in by the story and how much freedom my Shepard had to be a kind-hearted pacifist, a ruthless subjugator or a guy operating in some shade of gray in between those extremes to the degree I could excuse any number of flaws, ranging from tedious side-quests in the first or repetitive battles with the same groups of mercenaries in the second. With Mass Effect 3, I didn't find myself willfully ignoring annoyances because the good outweighed the bad. For the conclusion of the trilogy, BioWare was able to hit a gaming "sweet spot" where I was enthralled from beginning to end to the degree I actually felt bummed after finishing it.


overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (September 01, 2017)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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