Mass Effect 3 PS3


By: Conrad Reyners    On: PlayStation 3
Published: Monday 12 Mar 2012 9:45 AM
 
 
 
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It’s difficult to know where to start with a title as massive as Mass Effect 3. As a role-playing, narrative driven, third person shooter, the series has been setting the standard since 2007. In the following five years a wealth of history and lore has developed behind this title, and come March, there is a tsunami of expectation charging at the game.

Does it meet our expectations? It sure does. But does it exceed them? Perhaps not. Mass Effect 3 is a brilliant title that is set to make the fanboys weak at the knees and sate the desires of any gamer. It easily meets the standards we’ve come to expect of Bioware, but as spacious as it is, it’s still no supernova.

Mass Effect 3 kicks off right where Mass Effect 2 left off. The indomitable Commander Sheppard has been put on gardening leave, while the galaxy’s political hacks wonder what to do about his doomsday prophecies. They don't have to wait long, the game is only minutes old before the Reapers are literally on Earth’s doorstep, and (thankfully) Sheppard’s little Casandra act is over. Before long you are rampaging your way across the Milk Way, building together an alliance of aliens, so that when that one big blow is swung, all organic life has a chance of survival.

To go too much further into the story would be be unfair. I know a good many gamers have been champing at the bit to get their hands on this title, so I’m not going to ruin things. All I will say is that the writing team have done a masterful job of the meta-narrative. Mass Effect 3’s narrative development hangs together in a much more uniform way than any of its peers. Part of this has to do with the way the game is structured. Unlike its predecessor’s - which often took a little while to build up a head of steam - Mass Effect 3 clearly sets up the game’s narrative arc, and then promptly sends Commander Sheppard off on his (or her) ass-kicking way. There isn’t much waiting around here.

This clear meta-narrative is undoubtedly one of the game’s greatest strengths. I’m the kind of gamer that will put down an action fueled experience if the story-line is making me snore. But I don't need to worry about any of that here, in fact, if all you care about is what happens next, then you have the option to set yourself to narrative difficulty, which lets you romp through those annoying running, shooting and fighting bits.

Whatever you choose you won’t be bored. At any level there will be enough depth, complexity, subtlety and surprise to keep you engaged. But I’m betting the majority of gamers out there will want as much shooting as storyline - and Mass Effect 3 gives you plenty of that too.

One of the problems with Mass Effect 2 was that it took a very ambitious approach to its role-playing mechanic. The result was an expansive game, but a disjointed one. In all honesty, I’m a fan of when developers push the envelope, because it means they can learn from their mistakes. Bioware have certainly learnt from theirs. In the series’ third installment everything is connected. Side quests feed into the overall story in a more believable way, and character building-exercises (such as siding with different citizens in disputes, or enticing pissed off humans to join the Alliance navy) all clearly fit within the ethos that Bioware have woven. And its a pretty good ethos - nothing gets the heart pumping and the emotions cracking like a balls-to-the-wall race against the clock for the future of humanity.

It’s just a little bit of a shame that (once again) the writing team seem to have dropped the ball when it comes to snappy one liners and conversational dialogue. Often the conversations Shepard has seem oddly stilted. Part of this is out of the writer’s control - one of the reasons this game is so engaging is that gamers are given the option about which emotional path to trod down next, but still sometimes I had to wince. This criticism is hardly a deal-breaker, and the more you play the less it seems to matter. But it’s worth noting all the same. The voice acting is also uniformly quite good, and given the sheer amount of dialogue that this title offers up, just getting it all done is impressive in itself. But given the talent on show here (Seth Green, Freddie Prince Jr, Martin Sheen, Michael Hogan and Mark Meer) I was expecting something with a bit more zing.

Perhaps it was the facial animations that have made me turn my ire on Mass Effect 3’s vocal characterisation. It sure isn't the rest of it: the back-stories, lore, relationships and unique abilities of your squad-mates and NPCs are impressive and engrossing. But annoyingly, when they talk to you, their lips don't seem to move. Its a niggling concern that makes you look at the rest of the title’s graphics through slightly narrowed eyes.

Perhaps it’s evidence of the Playstation 3 showing its age, but there were moments in my play-through when Mass Effect 3 looked a little, well, unpolished. In some environments, the textures appeared spartan, and in the heat of battle, frame-rates were jumpy. In addition, not much thought was put into the game’s GUIs. This is surprising, given the amount of time you are expected to pause the action in order to use them. However, their clumsiness is only made all the more remarkable due to the rest of the game being so sleek. Holistically, Bioware should be proud of the visual feast they’ve put on for us.

And there is one aspect of the Mass Effect 3’s visual aesthetic that can brook no criticism. The designer set pieces are simply stunning. From the game’s first few moments it’s apparent that Mass Effect 3 is a title that is painted on a broad, wide canvass. Some of the backdrops and settings that you fly to, fight in and forage across are literally breathtaking.

One of the title’s earliest missions sees you fly to a moon just off the Turian homeworld. In the distance you can see the planet below glowing with death and destruction. All the while, Reaper exterminators are marching sentinel-like across the surface of the barren rock you are standing on, obliterating everything in their path. It’s almost surreal, but it’s definitely magnificent.

Bioware also deserve praise for Mass Effect 3’s combat. While it doesn’t quite deserve to be called “magnificent”, it’s clear that the developers took a good hard look at its immediate predecessor, and have improved on the game’s action in almost every-way.

Mass Effect 2’s often linear combat sequences were engaging, but they were a little boring as well. Thankfully, just by getting the basics right, this time around the combat feels both more entertaining and more authentic. Gone are the cookie-cutter environments that plagued Mass Effect 2, and in have come more realistic settings, with the combat improved to make better use of them.

Other additions give the combat a special edge, and some of them - such as introducing height as a tactical imperative - are so simple, yet so, so effective. Additionally, the abilities and load-outs of your squad members are more fluid this time around, meaning that gamers are not forced into the combat style preferred by Bioware’s developers, and can put more of themselves into the game.


Personally, I’m a fan of this flexibility. Gamers lead busy lives too, and sometimes we don't have the luxury of trying things differently in a second, third or fourth play-through. But even in that first experience, the customisation options on offer give you enough scope to shape your combat to fit you, rather than in most games, where it’s the other way around. Making use of this customisation has also been made easier, as credits are gifted to Sheppard as he (or she) progresses. Fans who nearly broke their thumbs grinding planets for minerals can take a heavy sigh of relief.

But alas, Bioware is still plagued by that old Achilles heel - crappy artificial intelligence. Poor enemy reactions and frustratingly idiotic squad mates makes the combat mechanic more challenging and problematic than it needs to be. On a practical level this can be countered by throwing your hands in the air, and setting the difficulty to “ridiculously easy”, but even then some problems arise. Poor AI wouldn’t be such a problem for this title if it was consistent, but unfortunately it is not. My play-though ran the entire gamut of poor AI decision making; I had idiotic Cerberus soldiers gazing at walls on the one hand, only to be insta-shotted by boss units from halfway across a map on the other. This frustrating fluctuation between easy and insane was matched only by my fluctuations between bemusement and rage.

But perhaps I am gilding the Lilly. Mass Effect 3’s AI isn’t perfect, and it has a few problems. But it’s by no means terrible. By god, we’ve seen far worse. It’s just that in a title that is as well balanced and as tweaked as Mass Effect 3 is, the sore spots stand out all the more.

Because in the round Mass Effect 3 is an excellent title, and a fantastic game. It has everything that gamers want in a solid RPG title. It has an engrossing storyline that links well with its forebears but still offers something new. It has great graphical set pieces, with atmosphere in spades. And it has solid combat that, while being a little rough around the edges, is still worth the price of admission. Bioware’s third installment in the Mass Effect saga is sure to give hardcore fans exactly what they wanted, and it will almost certainly bring a smile to the face of the not so familiar player.

When we put gaming in perspective that's all a great title ever really needs to do. But while it improves on its predecessor and providers gamers with an engaging experience, there was still something missing from the Mass Effect 3 experience.

What Bioware offers is certainly worthy of high praise, but just like its forebears it lacks a tipping point. It is hard to say exactly where this tipping point should be. Each individual aspect of Mas Effect 3 has great strengths, followed only by a few minor weaknesses. But what separates the truly stupendous from the merely amazing is that often elusive je ne sais quoi. Mass Effect 3 burns brightly. But that extra spark would have transformed it from a shining star, into a blazing supernova.


The Score

Mass Effect 3
"Meets our expectations, but does it exceed them?"
9.1
Excellent
Rating: R16   Difficulty: Easy   Learning Curve: 15 Min

 

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Comments (13)

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ReaperCrew NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Monday 12 Mar 2012 10:35 AM Posted by ReaperCrew
Thanks for the review, however since it was reviewed on a PS3 shouldn't the review be filed under PS3 rather than XBox?
 
 
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Ron NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Monday 12 Mar 2012 10:57 AM Posted by Ron
12 March 2012, 10:35 AM Reply to ReaperCrew
Thanks for the review, however since it was reviewed on a PS3 shouldn't the review be filed under PS3 rather than XBox?
Good spotting, sorry we're hoping to cover it on both Xbox 360 (for the Kinect functionality) and PS3.
 
 
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GuyIncognitoNZ
On Monday 12 Mar 2012 12:36 PM Posted by GuyIncognitoNZ
I am pretty excited about playing this game, but am a little worried that it has received too much hype and i'll go into it with too high an expectation. ME2 was very addictive although a little repetitive with the game play, and can't wait to see what improvements have been made and simply continue with the awesome story line.
 
 
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NetPirate68
On Monday 12 Mar 2012 3:43 PM Posted by NetPirate68
Is 9.1 an overall personal score that you give it after playing it? I ask as when I add up the four values at the top and then average them I get 8.875. I'm pretty keen on getting this game but want to wait until I have read more from people who have played it for a day or three.
 
 
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Kegz NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Monday 12 Mar 2012 4:44 PM Posted by Kegz
12 March 2012, 03:43 PM Reply to NetPirate68
Is 9.1 an overall personal score that you give it after playing it? I ask as when I add up the four values at the top and then average them I get 8.875. I'm pretty keen on getting this game but want to wait until I have read more from people who have played it for a day or three.
The score isn't an average it's an overall impression of the game. It doesn't always equal the sum (or average in this case) of it's parts.
 
 
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fauzman NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Monday 12 Mar 2012 8:25 PM Posted by fauzman
I have heard alot about this series and have been interested in picking it up when the price goes down. However, the fact that each game relates to the previous and people tell me that you really need to start the game from the very 1st ME1 to really get into it (and I have a ps3 so can only start from ME2) makes me feel a bit intimidated. Im wondering whether the 2nd or 3rd ME game is a good place to start with this franchise, or not?
 
 
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Amscray
On Tuesday 13 Mar 2012 8:53 AM Posted by Amscray
"It easily meets the standards we’ve come to expect of Bioware, but as spacious as it is, it’s still no supernova. "
Has got to be one of the worst lines I have read in a while.

Also if you average up your mini-scores the game gets an 8.8 - but I guess giving it below a 9 would mean you would get yelled at.
 
 
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This comment has been down-voted by the community.  
Ubercuber NZGamer.com VIP VIP Silver
On Tuesday 13 Mar 2012 10:31 AM Posted by Ubercuber
13 March 2012, 08:53 AM Reply to Amscray
"It easily meets the standards we’ve come to expect of Bioware, but as spacious as it is, it’s still no supernova. "
Has got to be one of the worst lines I have read in a while.

Also if you average up your mini-scores the game gets an 8.8 - but I guess giving it below a 9 would mean you would get yelled at.
"Mass Effect 3 burns brightly. But that extra spark would have transformed it from a shining star, into a blazing supernova."

^^ Thats the worst line Ive read in a while....like something from a 3rd form speech.

And using supernova twice? Ugh.
 
 
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nimrod76 NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Tuesday 13 Mar 2012 11:40 AM Posted by nimrod76
12 March 2012, 08:25 PM Reply to fauzman
I have heard alot about this series and have been interested in picking it up when the price goes down. However, the fact that each game relates to the previous and people tell me that you really need to start the game from the very 1st ME1 to really get into it (and I have a ps3 so can only start from ME2) makes me feel a bit intimidated. Im wondering whether the 2nd or 3rd ME game is a good place to start with this franchise, or not?
I started from 2 (PS3) there is a mini catch up thing at the beginning. I know I have missed out on content from 1 but I don't feel like I have missed anything, if that makes sense.

ME2 can be picked up for about $30 now and it's well worth it.
 
 
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captain-x
On Wednesday 14 Mar 2012 12:32 AM Posted by captain-x
I think you might find it's Shepard not Sheppard, unless that's a PS3 exclusive.
 
 
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KatalystaKaos NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Wednesday 14 Mar 2012 10:20 AM Posted by KatalystaKaos
I'll be picking this up in few months time when the price has dropped substantially. Having and enjoyed the previous 2 instalments I am interested in seeing how the trilogy is closed out.

I was going to fork out the dosh for it next week but having just learnt that the release date DLC From Ashes is actually already loaded on the disc but needs to be either purchased separately online or via the price inflated N7 Collectors Edition, I'll hold off. Frekin' greedy Gaming Corps are giving me a very sick feeling in my gullet this week.
 
 
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fauzman NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Wednesday 14 Mar 2012 6:46 PM Posted by fauzman
13 March 2012, 11:40 AM Reply to nimrod76
I started from 2 (PS3) there is a mini catch up thing at the beginning. I know I have missed out on content from 1 but I don't feel like I have missed anything, if that makes sense.

ME2 can be picked up for about $30 now and it's well worth it.
Thats good to know. I have heard about the comic-interactive thingy but wasnt sure how well it did at getting you invested in things. I will pick this eventually up but there are games I still need to finish.
 
 
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CheeseTastic NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Wednesday 14 Mar 2012 8:53 PM Posted by CheeseTastic
14 March 2012, 10:20 AM Reply to KatalystaKaos
I'll be picking this up in few months time when the price has dropped substantially. Having and enjoyed the previous 2 instalments I am interested in seeing how the trilogy is closed out.

I was going to fork out the dosh for it next week but having just learnt that the release date DLC From Ashes is actually already loaded on the disc but needs to be either purchased separately online or via the price inflated N7 Collectors Edition, I'll hold off. Frekin' greedy Gaming Corps are giving me a very sick feeling in my gullet this week.
The opinions on whether or not the DLC is actually on the disc have been divided. There are files pertaining to it on the disc, but not all of it. Apparently, the disc just contains models (character, objects etc) - which is what Bioware has also said they did with Zaeed and Kasumi. The 600mb download contains all the actual details.
 
 
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