Mass Effect Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC
Mass Effect box art
System: X360, PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: BioWare Corp. 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Microsoft 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Nov. 20, 2007 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Like any true RPG, throughout the game you will amass experience points through specific actions and achievements. The XP that you gain quickly translates into important character benefits known as Talents. Talents vary depending upon the class you have selected or have been given for the principal character and squad members. Classes include Soldier, Engineer, Adept, Infiltrator, Vanguard, and Sentinel. The former three classes specialize accordingly in combat, technology or biotic talents.

Mass Effect screenshot

The latter three classes allow you to take a more balanced approach by combining either combat and tech skills, biotic and combat skills, or a character comfortable with both biotic and tech abilities. You also can use and upgrade your infantry fighting vehicle. The Mako, as it is known, not only gets your squad from point A to B, it kicks some serious butt meanwhile. Cruising through uncharted worlds in the futuristic Hum-V is a real treat. Making the vehicle your lifeline in hostile atmospheres adds amazing realism and a stern challenge.

Combat Talents include various weapon and armor proficiencies, Assault training, Fitness, and Spectre training. Assault training increases melee and weapon damage, Fitness boosts your health and constitution, while Spectre training increases the accuracy and effectiveness of all attacks and powers. Tech Talents govern Damping, Decryption, Hacking, and Electronics. Damping makes your use of demolitions more potent and gives you the ability to suppress enemy tech and biotic abilities. Decryption allows you to use and override security systems. Hacking increases tech recharge speeds and will eventually allow you to control the A.I. of robotic enemies. Electronics further increase your ability to breach security systems and strengthen your shields while weakening those of your enemies. Finally, Biotic Talents equate to magical abilities. They tend to be related to telekinesis and allow you to throw, lift, and smash objects as well as warp space, create force field barriers, and entangle approaching enemies. The powers under the Biotic Talents are divided into Throw, Lift, Warp, Singularity, Barrier, and Stasis. There are additional Talents that anyone can use including Charm and Intimidate, as well as class specific benefits.

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This may all sound like a lot, but this is a very straightforward and user-friendly approach that allows all players to role-play relatively hassle-free. As a player, you can go ahead and take the time to analyze what character Talents to upgrade or you can take the easy way out and let BioWare choose for you. Furthermore, the inventory menus are easily navigated and the benefits and detriments of each piece of equipment you want to equip or upgrade are clearly demarcated. Players can take as much or as little time as they want and feel confident that they aren't missing out on anything.

Mass Effect screenshot

The graphics, sounds, and controls are all remarkably well done. The visuals are awe-inspiring and epic in scope. The environments and ambiance are truly unique. Unfortunately, the lips don’t seem to be synced well, there is the occasional glitch to be seen, and often the graphics look a bit grainy and fuzzy rather than completely crisp. The graininess doesn’t quite achieve the desired cinematic effect it was meant to portray. However, you can turn off the grainy effect in the options menu. The sound quality is incredible. The sound effects are very realistic, and the voice acting is something special. The use of sound in this game to enhance the overall experience is tremendous. The controls are clear-cut. Any veteran FPS fan will have no problem picking up the controller and laying waste to the evil Geth. Sadly, all of this wonderful content is limited to a single player adventure. There is no online play to be had, which may discourage some. As for me, I’ve got all I can handle with Call of Duty 4. I don’t think the lack of online multiplayer will hinder your enjoyment one iota. All in all, the technical aspects of the game do more than support the intriguing story and awesome gameplay.

If I could only choose one game this holiday season, it would have to be Mass Effect. Fortunately, I review games for a living so I can take advantage of a number of the wonderful titles coming out before the first of the year. If you're looking for a title that tells a great story, is loaded with content, has a surprising amount of re-playability due to customization, and will keep you glued to your couch, Mass Effect is a great choice. It's unfortunate that the game has a mature rating and only comes out for the Xbox 360. If you're under 17 or are a Sony snob, you are going to miss out big time. For the rest of us it's smooth sailing across a galaxy full of adventure!

By Jonathan Marx
CCC Freelance Writer

Features:

  • Incredible science-fiction RPG with a rich, engaging story line. Explore uncharted worlds and uncover a mystery that defies imagination.
  • Real-time, squad-based combat. "Mass Effect" features a real-time, squad-based tactical combat system. Players will enjoy intense, challenging and exciting third-person action and squad-based combat.
  • Credible digital actors. "Mass Effect" will feature a huge cast of incredibly realistic nonplayer characters, enemies and party members.
  • Character customization and deep role-playing systems. Players will be able to choose from and customize a variety of stunning, photo-realistic character appearances at the start of the game, and can increase various statistics that will affect their performance during gameplay. The reward system in "Mass Effect" is deep, well-integrated and extremely engaging. New equipment, weapons and armor that are acquired during the course of the story will change the appearance of the characters.
  • Next-generation gaming defined. "Mass Effect" takes full advantage of the hardware of Xbox 360, providing players with exciting new experiences, including photo-realistic, high-definition graphics on an epic scale, and amazingly realistic characters who bring the world alive.
  • Science-fiction Role-playing: Perfected. Mass Effect allows you to create your own customizable version of Commander Shepard (or jump in and use the pre-created character) and plunge yourself into the center of an epic science-fiction story.
  • Customization also extends to the MAKO - the rover with which you will explore the surface of hostile alien worlds. You can improve your vehicle's grip, speed, armor, boosters, weaponry and more.
  • Lead Your Squad in Intense, Real-Time Combat. The struggle to stop the return of the machines will ultimately be a violent one. You will assume responsibility for the lives of your squad as you lead them into often uncharted, hostile alien environments. Each decision you make could mean the difference between victory and disaster.
  • Screen Resolution: Up to 1080p (Full HDTV, Widescreen).


    RATING OUT OF 5
    RATING DESCRIPTION
    4.2
    Graphics
    The environments are gorgeous, but the poor lip syncing and grainy textures foil the visuals a bit.
    4.8
    Control
    Inch perfect controls will feel familiar to all, but nothing innovative was introduced.
    5.0
    Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
    The sound quality, music, and voice acting is about as good as can be.
    5.0
    Play Value
    Lots of fun to be had for a wide variety of gamers.
    4.8
    Overall Rating - Must Buy
    Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
  • Screenshots / Images
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