Yes, it's a late review - But I'm a big fan of BioWare's previous titles, and I'd been looking forward to this one for a while, hence I wanted to give the game a fair amount of play time before I spurted out my random thoughts. If, a month and a half ago, when I'd had the game for a week, and invested a couple of handfuls of hours into it you'd asked me my thoughts, I'd have said, 'Great looking, intriguing story, shitty fighting, shitty driving, utter pap AI'. I'm happy to say my opinions have changed on two out of the 5. Ahh, but which 2' Read on'
The game looks amazing from the off. Gazing out the window of the Normandy I thought it was some sort of FMV scene until I noticed it was my created character doing the gazing. Very, very impressive stuff, and easily one of the sexiest looking games currently available on the 360. While most of the indoor areas are exceptionally well realised - the planet surfaces, though well made and still very pretty, are a bit, well, bland in comparison. On a more technical level, texture pop in is a very noticeable problem, as is the jet engine noise your 360 will put out when playing. It's not a quiet console at the best of times, but Mass effect will really pump the decibels up - it's by far the noisiest game, hardware wise, that I've seen.
The storyline is probably the games most impressive feature. From my initial thoughts of 'intriguing' it developed into something more than that. I'm not a literary expert, and I'm sure die hard science fiction fans will keel over, fitting, when I say I thought it was a great sci-fi story, but I did, so nurr. The sheer quantity of information available to you is daunting, but welcome, and the whole thing definitely grabbed me. The conversations are varied, interesting, and the voice acting it superb. I also thought the idea of giving pointers to towards how the conversation should go, rather than just choosing the reply was a good idea. Basically, the story and the characters made the game for me, and helped gloss over some of the faults.
The driving sections being one of them. They were annoying, latched on and pointless, and thoroughly unpleasant. I can see why they had them, the idea of exploring the planets is interesting - but basically, when you enter a system with a planet with something to do on it, you get a message over the radio, so you know exactly where you're heading anyway. The parts where driving was involved in the main storyline were better - as they actually lead to something, and involve a bit of action, but the drunken shambolic handling of your vehicle just irritates all the good things away.
The actual standard combat was something I went into thinking I wouldn't like. In previous RPG games, I've always opted for the slower more tactical, non real-time approach, as I think it fits in better with an RPG play style, but, as I love a good shooter, I wasn't completely against the idea that the two could merge. As it turns out, it almost works, in that, it shows it could work, but doesn't quite pull it off. For my first character, I went straight for the adept - what I took to be Mass Effects version of a standard caster class. Unfortunately it wasn't quite what I expected, as the emphasis still lay heavily on using weapons, and did so throughout the game. The use of your abilities does grow in strength, and they definitely become more useful, but it became clear that the adept is generally a support class, letting others dish out the damage. This gave me a pretty dim view of the combat, as your other team members are a bunch of morons, never do what you want, move to stupid positions, and generally act like headless chickens. When you have to do most of the work yourself, being support for a bunch of muppets doesn't pan out well. Deeper into the game, as your abilities improve, the glaring inefficiencies of your comrades lessen, making it a lot more enjoyable. All of this is completely eradicated if you go straight in, guns blazing and opt for the soldier. They get the big guns, and get to shoot stuff. Boom. The combat itself is reasonable - its cover and fire system, while workable, doesn't hold a candle to Uncharted or GoW, and moving around generally seems a little awkward and not quite as fluid as you'd expect. Aiming and firing itself worked fine for what it was - you're not really picking off headshots here, but you're definitely pointing at the bad guy, rather than your foot.
To sum up, it tasted like a great slice of rustic, fresh RPG wholemeal bread sandwich filled with a cheapo Tesco own brand shooter, with lettuce and tomato. Oh, but the lettuce has a driving section slug on it. Obviously most sane people would take the slug out before eating, but its still a great sandwich, the bread is so thick and lovely that you hardly notice the cheapo filling, and hey, that can only get better with a sequel right' I really did enjoy this game a lot, so if you own a 360, you really should own this game as well.
Oh, and its got some lesbian sex scenes. Score.
8 / 10