Despite the quality of the cut scenes and conversations, everyone knows most problems are solved with firepower. At any given time, you'll be accompanied by two of your six crew members, who range from human soldiers to Wrex, a hulking, reptilian alien with the teeth and temperament of a crocodile with a toothache. And regardless of appearance, they can all use guns.
Thus, despite heavy RPG roots, Mass Effect's combat feels more like a squad-based, third-person shooter than anything else. You can use cover, you have customizable firearms, grenades and a melee attack, and the D-pad gives your wingmen instructions to go there, come here, shoot that, or take cover.
If you want to get even more tactical and RPG-like, pressing the right bumper freezes the action and enables you to select each team member's special moves. These range from making enemy weapons blow up in their faces to summoning a small black hole, so they make a big difference in battle. Constantly pausing to issue commands admittedly gives battle a more stuttery feel than the smooth gunplay inHalo 3orGears of War, and it can still get chaotic during the bigger battles. But it's nonetheless the shootin'-est role-playing game you've ever seen.
In fact, combat's only real weakness may be your enemies' low IQs. Few use coordinated attacks or flanking maneuvers, and many either just run straight at you or stand more or less in one place, firing away from afar but neglecting to give chase if you just back up. We'd really appreciate some more elaborate strategy next time.