Note #1: This Mass Effect 3 review is for the Xbox 360 version of the game and does NOT take into account the multiplayer aspect of the title.
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It’s finally here, huh?
For those of us who beat the second installment of the Mass Effect series in-full within approximately 35-ish hours of its release, it’s been a little over two years waiting for this final game in the trilogy. A very agonizing and painful two years, might I add. But it seems it was worth the wait.
Or at least, that’s what we’ve been subconsciously telling ourselves in order to get by these last few years…
To say that Mass Effect 3 was massively hyped and heavily anticipated, though, would likely be the biggest understatement ever made this side of the Milky Way galaxy. The fact that the game carries over choices — major, plot-bending choices — from previous games has ensured that each and every person whose played through the first two games feels that this third and final installment in the trilogy is their game. It’s the conclusion to their story. And they’re correct to assume so.
Suffice it to say, the Mass Effect 3 release just a few days ago was big. It was epic. The marketing campaign saw EA launching copies from space to several points throughout the world for goodness frigging sake! Seriously — who does that?
The important question on everyone’s mind, naturally, is how is it? Does it live up to the galactic-sized expectations heaped upon it? Can anything ever truly live up to the impossibly high expectations such as those that were placed upon Mass Effect 3? Well, let’s find out, shall we?
I hereby present to you… drum-roll please…
The OWNT Mass Effect 3 Review!
Note #2: Even though it’s common sense to assume that there are most certainly story spoilers in the following review, this is the Internet after all. So consider this the formal spoiler warning/disclaimer to prevent any unrealistic outrage in the comments. (You’re welcome!)
Hey… Who Turned Out the Lights?
Considering the impending doom and universe-wide extermination material the story deals with in its final installment, it was a pretty safe bet going into this final game that the overall atmosphere would feel a lot darker than the past two games. Which is saying something considering the oftentimes quite dark and hopeless atmosphere in Mass Effect 1 and especially Mass Effect 2.
But it would appear that Bioware decided to actually make the game look darker as well via a much more shadowy, low contrast color scheme. And nowhere was this more obvious and prevalent than on the trusty old Normandy itself — which kind of sucks at first but you’ll get over it. Pinky swear.
The effort to make the game appear darker certainly works, though — it’s almost as if you feel yourself being pressed in on from all sides by the shadows and impending doom. And by doom, I mean the almost complete and subsequent extermination of the entire galaxy. Yeah, that kind of doom. It’s pretty gloomy for sure.
It’s also interesting to note, though, that the introductory/tutorial sequence on Earth is generally free from this visual design-style theme and it appears that Bioware made a conscious decision to amp up the shadows and aforementioned doom-and-gloom immediately following the ballsy-even-for-them Reaper attack on the humanity home planet. Shit just got real, son!
The best way to describe the gameplay — in particular the combat — is to say that it’s akin to Mass Effect 2 but with Botox injections and a boob job. Sure, at first glance it looks all well and great (especially thanks to the new higher-level power upgrade customization’s now available within the level-up framework), but get a little closer and whoa! Once you get up close and personal with the engine, you see that some of the problems that have plagued past games are still present in the third one. Along with a brand-new, super-awkward and non-responsive cover/vault feature to boot. Hooray!
The actual bare bones combat, though — not taking into account the cover and vaulting-over shit problems — feels highly refined. It’s even tighter than the second game if you can believe it (no pun intended) and never seems to feel stale even though you’re essentially doing the exact same things over… and over… and over again for nearly 30+ hours. The weapon load-out/weight handicap mechanic does manage to bring a realistic flavor to the proceedings, despite the complete and utter cluster-fuck of the menu/navigation system. But many will be pleased to know that the highly-customize-able weapon upgrade options from the first game make a return here in the series finale. Just… good luck trying not to stab yourself in the face while trying to navigate through it all.