Yes, there’s that much pressure on your shoulders, and it’s
intense. You’re constantly thrown into fantastic firefights that feel as
well-developed as what you see in blockbuster action shooters like Gears of War
These firefights still play out like that of a typical cover-based
squad shooter. Added in to the mix is a new melee “power attack” that knocks
enemies off their feet and weapon customization that allows for every gun to be
tweaked, upgraded and enhanced. Beyond that, the engine’s improvements are
subtle, refining the experience with tiny changes. Cover is better, bounding
over objects is faster, powers and abilities have been changed. The
modifications aren’t dramatic, and feel so natural and they might go unnoticed
if you haven’t played Mass Effect 2 in a while …
Above: Each class has its own, slightly different melee power move
…Or if you haven’t played Mass Effect at all. BioWare has
gone out of its way to ensure that Mass Effect 3 would be accessible to newcomers,
and it did a fine job crafting a game that anyone could jump in without being too lost. There’s an in-game journal
filled with information, and the ability to create a new character, with a few
options to make slight customizations to our back-story.
Even so, we really wouldn’t recommend starting with this
entry. While it’s a sound experience on its own, the ability to import a cleared
save file from ME2 – complete with your life-or-death decisions –make ME3’s
tale significantly more personal, profound, and emotional, and ME2 is a good
enough game that it’s worthwhile to start there to get the most out of the new
Above: Watch the trailer and prepare for the end
Those choices weigh heavily on the third game’s plot in very
serious ways. It can be as passive as characters off-handedly mentioning choices
made two games ago, and as dramatic as major plotlines hinging on decisions
made in the prior game. Characters from ME2 will play massive, important roles
in ME3… unless they died, in which case the story will shift dramatically, and
you’ll be reminded of it throughout.
The missing catalyst
The choices made in the third game are as exciting as ever. By
now, BioWare has nearly perfected the craft of weaving morally ambiguous
choices throughout its story – but this time our decisions affect the future of
entire races, making most of the first game’s choices seem pedestrian in
But while the decisions are bigger and bolder, the climax just
can’t live up to ME3’s predecessors. ME2’s conclusion was arguably one of the finest
in recent gaming history. It genuinely felt like the final level was a payoff for
all of our previous decisions, with characters living or dying depending on our
actions. That sense of build-up and delivery is missing from ME3. Our choices
and decisions didn’t really feel like they contributed nearly as much in the finale, serving
mostly as nods and winks instead of integral elements. If anything, we felt
like the choices we made in ME2 had more of
an influence over that story than the choices we made this time around.
Above: Don't worry about loose plot lines - ME3 ties things up nicely
When the credits rolled after 40 hours invested (and, of
course the 40 hours invested in ME2…and 40 hours in the original), we felt like
we didn’t really have all that much impact on the overall finale, and that was a
slight letdown. The ending was tempered to how high our Galactic Readiness was, but that's not really the same as being driven by choices, as a large chunk of the Readiness is tied to multiplayer and scanning countless planets for additional assets. It was still a tremendous, amazing, phenomenal achievement in
interactive storytelling, and the ride to that conclusion is unforgettably
wonderful, but it falls just short of the expectations when it comes to interactivity, especially when you consider the nearly
five years and scores of hours that BioWare built up. It's disappointing to see that after all of the emotional investment in choices, the fate of the galaxy is decided by how much you can collect.
Playing through Mass Effect 3 with a canon save expanding
back to the first game is a sublime experience – ultimately exceeding BioWare’s
original promise of a long-term gameplay legacy. Developers often say that
choices made in one game will carry to the next, but never before has it been achieved
on this level, providing a radically branching experience that feels as
personalized as any game ever has. Even if the end destination of this final
chapter isn’t quite as magnificent as we hoped for, we’ll never regret the hundred-hour,
three-game journey we took across the galaxy to get there. Mass Effect 3 is an
incredible experience that rewards you for those years of investment and
devotion to its stratospheric tale.
Extended Cut DLC: By now you've undoubtably heard about Mass Effect 3's controversial ending, which prompted BioWare to quickly announce work on an "Extended" version of the conclusion. Now, only a few short months later, the revision has been released as free DLC, which mostly takes the form of expanded cutscenes, some new dialog options, and still images further explaining the events that take place once the credits roll. Though we stand behind our enjoyment of the original ending and didn't have an issue with the way BioWare decided to conclude the series (we had more of an issue with the final act than the final moments, as we discussed in the review), we feel as though the Extended Cut does clarify some plot points for those looking for more answers or clarification. Those looking for a smoother, more fleshed-out end will likely be pleased with the revisions BioWare made, while those demanding a full-blown rewrite are still going to be left unsatisfied.
XBOX 360: On the box for the Xbox 360 version, a purple banner says that the game is “Better with
Kinect,” and to our surprise we actually agree. While opening doors by saying
“open” might not be all that useful or practical, the ability to issue orders to our
squadmates with our voice was freeing – adding more than we expected to the
gameplay. We even found that we'd often prefer to read our answers aloud instead of choosing
them on the dialog wheel, feeling more immersed in the story because of it.
Small glitches aside, we’d recommend using it if you have Kinect, though it’s
not worth changing consoles over or rushing out to the store to buy one just for the functionality.
This game was reviewed on Xbox 360 as the lead platform. We also played through sections of the PS3 version to see if there were any distinct differences, and we found no technical shortcomings during our playtime.