Mass Effect 3 Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3PCWii U
Mass Effect 3 screenshot
Mass Effect 3 screenshot

In many ways Mass Effect is an unlikely success story. Starting out as a slightly awkward role-playing game with big ideas wrapped around a surprisingly deep - and, let's be honest, rather nerdy - sci-fi core, BioWare's second outing saw the series somehow evolve into a bona fide blockbuster. Two years later and the end is near for Commander Shepard and crew in their battle against the Reapers, the race of sentient machines bent on wiping out all organic life in the universe, and BioWare is determined to go out with a bang.

Naturally, that means more shooting. If the original game was a very clearly-defined RPG that happened to feature tactical gun-based combat, and its sequel tilted more in the direction of the latter, Mass Effect 3 can sometimes feel like a third-person shooter with dialogue interludes. This assumes you whizz through the story missions and ignore much of that wandering-around stuff, but it's telling that there are options to streamline the role-playing mechanics significantly, and even for the game to make all choices for you. That might be a useful option for the indecisive among us, but it speaks volumes of BioWare's intent for its combat to match up to genre standards.

Yet judged as a shooter, Mass Effect 3 is enjoyable but unremarkable fare. There's a larger selection of weapons than its predecessor, all of which can be upgraded and modified, and some of them are enormously good fun. Most new guns are salvaged during missions, and you'll soon pick out a few favourites, like the burst-fire SMG, or a wonderfully messy shotgun that takes ages to reload but can take even armoured enemies down in a single blast. Though you'll sometimes find them trying to flank or flushing you out with grenades, opponents tend to overwhelm you in numbers and power rather than any strategic effectiveness.

It's up to you to shake things up with squad commands and the use of biotic powers, because while BioWare knows how to stage action, it's less confident in balancing and varying it. A great many objectives revolve around protecting a crucial asset or holding a position for a certain time, and while turret sections, boss battles and the odd shooting-from-a-moving-vehicle interlude are welcome twists, these are all still pretty familiar ideas. Meanwhile, snapping into and out of cover can be something of an imprecise science, and when your shields are down and you're low on medi-gel, that's the kind of minor irritation that can prove fatal.

But, of course, the combat is just one element of the Mass Effect experience. This represents the culmination of a tale spread across three games and dozens of hours, a story finally coming to its dramatic climax. And what a story it is. It's not necessarily that it's well-written - though it often is - but more that it's well-orchestrated. This is a script moulded by its players, a journey guided by decisions you might have made two games ago. Heck, even if you're coming to the series afresh, you get to choose a backstory for your male or female space hero, before making a couple of key decisions veterans will get to bypass, chiefly whether you sacrificed whiny boy band member Kaidan or beautiful racist Ashley.

Somewhere at BioWare there's an enormous flow chart with every decision branching off in another direction, circles and lines headed every which way, keeping track of how it all slots together. It's a remarkable achievement and it helps make every player's journey feel personal. This idea even feeds into cutscenes: it's quite something to witness your Shepard wearing the armour you've equipped coloured in the tints you picked out carrying the gun you just modded and talking to the squadmates you chose at the start of the mission. Sure, for the most part you'll be visiting the same planets and taking in the same set-pieces, but who you take that journey with and the roles they play alongside you changes significantly. It's similar but different, just enough to encourage discussion of commonalities and differences with other players.

BioWare also proves itself a master of context, making every step you take feel important. Shepard might be a bit of a blank slate (that's certainly true of male hero, perhaps less so of his spunky female counterpart) but he or she is a hero who people look up to. Make a difficult decision, and you're constantly reassured that you've made the right choice. Elsewhere, characters will frequently let you know how honoured they are to serve under you, that you're the only one brave and capable enough to repel the Reaper threat. It's hugely empowering.

Mass Effect's other ace in the hole is its willingness to up the stakes. It's never a choice between brutally bludgeoning someone and presenting them with a bouquet of red roses; instead, these are the kind of dilemmas that have you putting the controller down, scratching your head and mulling over for minutes at a time. After all, more often than not, they're a matter of life or death. Like a TV exec brought in to shake up an under-performing soap, no one is safe from BioWare's scythe.

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User Comments

GarethJShep's Avatar

GarethJShep

Best sci-fi gaming series ever!, the ending was disapointing but the game itself was awesome!
Posted 15:37 on 10 May 2012
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ guyderman

You'd still need a Gold sub at the moment, but yeah you can just start a private match and play it yourself. It's REALLY not easy though, me and a friend struggle with two of us. We're just about getting it to be manageable, him a lvl 18 Adept and me a lvl 14 Engineer.

When you get to wave 8-10 and it starts sending 2 Brutes and a Banshee with accompaniments then yeah, doing it on your own is a challenge. You dont need to finish all 10 waves to get some galactic readiness points but you have to go pretty far, round 5 or 6 I think.

I jumped in a random match though, not one person had a mic and you just run around and kill stuff as if it's the single player. Gained 3 levels and 5% readiness lol
Posted 08:43 on 21 March 2012
guyderman's Avatar

guyderman@ Endless

Didn't know that was possible? That would suit my antisocial deviant behaviour - lol!

To be honest I have no problem in having to achieve all the required goals of uniting the galaxy completely to achieve the 'Ultimate' ending as I do believe that should be the way and it gives you a goal for a future play through. My objection is more that it should be more easily obtainable just because someone has played MP.
Posted 08:30 on 21 March 2012
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ guyderman

The pure singleplayer route does seem overly strict/unforgiving by your descriptions. Maybe that was the idea though?

You can always do the online scenarios on your own :)
Posted 16:38 on 20 March 2012
guyderman's Avatar

guyderman

I got 100% assets from every galaxy and completed all N7 missions as well as main missions but I only got my EMS to 3800ish (which was still a full meter bar), and still wasn't given the option for the 'Best' ending (although I have just watched it on Youtube and I preferred the ending I got tbh).
I think that you have to get every single race to stand with you and I made a FUBAR with the Quarians, (couldn't help it I just hate them!) and the Salerians, (whoops!).

I was satisfied with the climax, the ending and the explanations I got and was really impressed with the game. However I understand that if you get your Galactic Readiness to 100% then your EMS isn't quite as vital - you can only raise your galactic readiness by playing MP - I just don't think that MP should affect SP and vice versa on any game what so ever (especially on a series that has been a SP experience for 85% of it).

It seems to be expected that there are people that only play MP and yet everyone thinks you are a weird anti-social deviant if you only play SP!
I spend all day surrounded by people and I like my gaming time to be 'me' time. I'm not interested in listening to other people or being social, having games ruined by idiots who just like to p!ss about - it all just gets on my nerves and beats my purpose for gaming as relaxation. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person who feels this way.

But anyway back to ME3 - Great game - Loved it a LOT!
Posted 12:18 on 20 March 2012
Endless's Avatar

Endless

So visual fluff is a good way to incentivise multiplayer now? Tangible relevant rewards are the way to get people to do something. I personally like the option, because I'm not one to bother finding every single little detail of everything, I just cant be bothered; It gets boring. But you can find everything in singleplayer and get the best ending, or you you can play a bit of multiplayer and find less things in single player and still get as good an ending. Sounds like a win-win.

It's a proven strategy and pretty much follows in the footsteps of every other game company: you want stuff without the associated work? you pay for it. Except in this case the multiplayer is actually really fun! (imo)

And it's not really the trend of tacking a multiplayer component on to a game that it doesn't fit with, it's simply scenarios from the singleplayer that you play with your friends. It totally works! It plays like a co-op campaign should. The equipment unlock system is garbage though, but thats another story ;)

They are assuming that most people have a gold account though, because without that you dont have that choice. Which is a shame. Are there no plans for an offline version of the multiplayer? I know that sounds a bit odd but you can still play the multiplayer scenarios online on your own, no reason for an online pass or gold sub if you're not playing with other people.

My biggest annoyance with the game so far (apart from the inclusion of an online pass) is constantly having to switch discs on 360 when I go from side-mission to main-mission, does get very tiresome.

Oh and the online pass scam rears it's ugly head yet again. I bought the game brand new, everyone on my console can play the game and play any of the DLC I download. Yet if my wife wants to play the multiplayer she has to buy an online pass. Bull*****. Why is the online pass not tied to a console rather than a user? Just like all other DLC. I dont see how it can be defended when it totally changes the user experience of the hardware.

Anyway. Mass Effect 3. Brilliant!
Posted 09:59 on 20 March 2012
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls@ Grumblecake

I spent 30 hours on single player and still didn't get the "best" ending. It's not even difficult, it's just a case of finding everything. That would be fine if the mission log wasn't utter bollocks, but it is, and that's something that people who can't play online have to suffer to get the most out of the single player experience.

For me, this was the biggest misstep in the entire franchise. Thanks, EA.
Posted 12:41 on 19 March 2012
coletrain's Avatar

coletrain@ guyderman

I agree games shouldn't be punishing offline players for not playing multiplayer. Incentivising online play with a new skin or item that merely has asthetic value in solo gameplay would be fine though.
Posted 10:30 on 19 March 2012
guyderman's Avatar

guyderman@ Clockpunk

My issue isn't with there being a MP mode, that's all fine. My issue is having the MP have any sort of impact on the SP game. I've bought Mass Effect 3 on the 360 as I knew it was gonna run smoother than the PS3 version - also my main games save that has carried over from the first game is on the 360. But I am only a Silver member as I have no interest in any MP so no point in me paying for Gold - but now I can't take advantage of the additional points required from MP to aid my SP play through. Very disappointed indeed!
Posted 21:28 on 08 March 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

I'll admit to sharing such sentiments upon hearing about the inclusion of multiplayer, but did you chaps try it out in the demo, while the servers were switched on? Playing it changed my opinion, and I cannot wait to dive into the multiplayer with friends.

That said, EA have Behaved most tiresomely predictably and added a way to further milk the weak-minded by offering purchasable 'consumables' that may (or may not) unlock better equipment/races for use in mp... That marrs it slightly.
Posted 17:35 on 08 March 2012
guyderman's Avatar

guyderman

Once again I say it - I wish MP would just F**k Off! - It shouldn't have any bearing what so ever on the SP aspect of a game!
Posted 17:15 on 08 March 2012
Grumblecake's Avatar

Grumblecake

@Bloodstorm You do NOT NEED to play multiplayer to get the best ending. It's even mentioned in the original article that the one you linked is based on.

"It is possible to get the best ending in single player without playing multiplayer, but it’s twice as hard."

Sometimes games are hard.
Posted 16:40 on 08 March 2012
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

Why not mention the fact you NEED to play Multiplayer to get a decent ending?

For a game that doesn't need multiplayer, this is a slap in the face
Posted 17:31 on 07 March 2012
squidman's Avatar

squidman@ scaz2244

I'm sure you'll get to hear my take on the game soon enough! I stepped away from doing the review because I am way way waaaaaaay too much of a Mass Effect fanboy to be able to give it a fair and balanced write-up.
Posted 17:20 on 07 March 2012
scaz2244's Avatar

scaz2244

great read think il wait a month to get it, slightly pissed off that the score is on the right hand side so it shows you what it gets even before youve read the review!.

shame martin didnt do this review either would of loved to hear his version on this. but solid read never the less
Posted 14:21 on 07 March 2012

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Mass Effect 3
8
Out of 10
Mass Effect 3
  • Beautiful Clint Mansell soundtrack
  • Narrative finds welcome time for touching personal stories
  • Looks incredible in places
  • Mining replacement is weak
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 06/03/2012
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC , Wii U
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Action
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 931 12
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