Save The Universe All Over Again – Mass Effect For PS3 Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Like many of you, I’ve amassed hundreds upon hundreds of hours playing the Mass Effect Trilogy on the Xbox 360. I’ve played through the original game on the Microsoft console at least four times – not to gain all of the achievements, but because the story was so compelling. I’ve saved the Galactic Council, watched them burn on the Destiny Ascension, and put both Anderson and Udina on the council. Much like Captain Jack Harkness, I’ve also romanced just about every character in the game that I could get my hands on. The only option I’ve never changed was who I sent to die defending the nuke at Saren’s secret Krogan cabbage patch – sorry Kaidan, I always thought you were kind of a tool.
I’ve also played Mass Effect 2 and 3 on the PlayStation 3, and while the graphic novel introduction allows you to make some of the major choices encountered in the original game, it just isn’t the same. It’s because while ME2 and 3 were great games, none of them were as compelling as the source, and there’s just no way to replace the bond that you create with Bioware’s original outing. Every choice you made in the first game, whether it had an effect on the rest of the series or not, really gave Mass Effect more meaning than just another game for me. It was a whole other universe trapped inside my console and I was making some waves in it. So when the Mass Effect Trilogy came out, I decided to pick it up on the PlayStation 3 just for kicks.
Mass Effect tells the story of Commander Shepard, and his mission to unite a group of aliens and humans to save the galaxy from an ancient threat known as the Reapers. Resurrected by a rogue Spectre (the Galactic Council’s Special Tactics and Reconnaissance branch of the military) named Saren, the Reapers are an ancient race of synthetics (machines) responsible for the cyclic extermination of species that come around every 50,000 years or so. It’s up to Shepard to assemble an elite team to hunt down Saren, and put a stop to the Reapers before they can wipe out every sentient race from existence!
Mass Effect is a third-person shooter with RPG elements. Originally released as a console-exclusive for the Xbox 360, the game finally made its way this December to the PlayStation 3 as a title in the Mass Effect Trilogy. Mass Effect is a non-linear game in the respect that as you progress, you’ll be given a series of choices, both big and small, that will have an impact on the outcome of the game. Many of these decisions will also later have a bearing on the storylines in Mass Effect 2 and 3 (which are also included in the trilogy set). The first of these decisions, naturally, is in the creation of your character. Mass Effect allows you to go with a standard out-of-the-box male John Shepard with a story about how he was an orphan on Earth, who survived the mean streets to join the military and was a sole survivor of a conflict that had a major impact on his career. Gamers, however, can scrap the whole thing in favor of creating a completely custom character, selecting male or female, giving him/her a name, and changing his/her appearance on a granular level. You can also choose from a number of selections to determine the backstory of the Shepard character, which has an effect on the dialogue in the game as far as how some of the NPCs will react to you or treat you in general.
Mass Effect, while a shooter first, also features elements that you would find in an RPG. Completing missions or killing enemies earns you experience points that you can apply to a variety of stats in the Squad menus. These stats can boost your health, damage, unlock skills (which in turn can be leveled up as well), and even unlock additional dialogue options known as Paragon (Good) and Renegade (Bad). These additional dialogue options make it easier for you to successfully achieve goals, or acquire an outcome that would otherwise be unavailable to you. Weapons and armor, much like a classic RPG can also be collected and upgraded. Weapons, armor, and upgrades can be purchased from the Armory in the belly of your ship, the Normandy SR-1; however, I found that it’s best to just collect the weapons and armor that can be found in cabinets on your missions – at least until you get close to the end game. This allows you to save your hard-earned Alliance credits for the big purchases you’ll need to make at the end.
Mass Effect on the PlayStation 3 pretty much plays exactly as the original does. Of course, while the developers have managed to port over all of the awesome gameplay elements that made it so great on the Xbox 360, they’ve also managed to bring over some of the annoying bugs that plague the original release. The quick saves aren’t exactly quick, and make you wait to start playing until after it’s done saving. Oftentimes, these saves/loads can take more than 20-30 seconds to finish, which – considering that the game requires an installation to the hard drive – is unacceptable. The cover system in the game is still sloppy as well. Your character doesn’t get behind low cover unless you crouch first, and breaking cover is at times problematic – especially when your AI allies are right next to you, effectively boxing you in until they decide that they don’t feel like pinning you down anymore. The game also brings back the weird issue of NPCs floating in mid-air for seemingly no reason, and even invisible enemies registering that cause your buddies to continue firing off their rifles even after a level is cleared.
Graphically, Mass Effect appears to have had some touching up in the PS3 port over the original game. The grain filter that was so apparent on the Xbox 360 version has been dramatically reduced, and the models appear to be sharper in the new edition. The textures in the game have been directly brought over from the original, so while Mass Effect still looks fantastic, it also shows off a little bit of age when compared to modern releases. This most apparently rears up when viewing the alien species such as a Volus or Hanar close up, where the skin textures appear blocky or pixelated. Unfortunately, texture pop is still a frequent problem in the game, rearing its ugly head just about every time you load a new level. Moreover, the game suffers regularly from noticeable frame rate stutter, sometimes chopping for seemingly no reason other than to let you know that there are still gremlins in the system to aggravate you.
The sound also has received some retooling to support DTS and 5.1 PCM support, but otherwise sounds largely the same as the original. Of course, the stellar voice acting from Keith David (Captain Anderson), Seth Green (Joker Moreau), Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale (Male and Female Shepard, respectively) needs no adjustment, nor does the exceptional work of composer Jack Wall. While Sam Hulick and Wall share credits for the album, most of the more notable pieces in the ensemble are written by Wall and feature some of his best works to date. Each piece does an amazing job of adding to the story by providing the emotional undertone to the moment as well as creating a ‘cybernetic’ sci-fi feel with the clash of electronica and orchestral instruments present in just about every movement.
Along with the original game, Bring Down the Sky, one of the two downloadable content packs is also available for the game. This brings in some additional content that introduces the player to the Batarian species, which play a more pronounced role in Mass Effect 2.
Overall, developer Edge of Reality has managed to do a commendable job of porting over a near perfect replica of the original Xbox 360 game. If the developers had intended to bring the exact original experience that Xbox users enjoyed over five years ago, then they succeeded with extreme prejudice, as it seems that every bug, break, and glitch has been carefully recreated for the PlayStation 3 experience.
Don’t let that fool you into not buying the game, however. While bugs occasionally frustrate you during the gameplay, Mass Effect is simply one of the best games that you’ll have the opportunity to play, and the additional 40 hours or so that it adds to the Mass Effect experience is well worth the little nags that crop up here and there.
Mass Effect receives a 4.0/5.0.
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