|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.
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.
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.
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 dont 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 doesnt 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, Ive got all I can handle with Call of Duty 4. I dont 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!
CCC Freelance Writer