|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: BioWare, Demiurge Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May. 27, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Mass Effect certainly comes with a variety of graphical issues and bugs, many of which appear to be the result of its conversion to the PC. For example, there are several times during the cutscenes where Shepard's cheeks seem to completely disappear while talking. Oddly enough, this particular glitch seems to occur sparingly and at random, making it easily forgettable. Of all the graphical issues in the PC version, the shaders seem to be the biggest trouble, sometimes appearing not to work at all. Occasionally, when the player catches a glimpse of their own shadow on a wall, they'll notice that either their head has vampirism or there is a definite glitch.
Regardless of these visual glitches, Mass Effect still maintains the same beautiful visuals of its console counterpart. And, with the help of ever-evolving PC hardware, it looks even better. Everything from the harsh, snow-blasted planet terrains to the rustic interior halls of human vessels is vivid and colorful. This is definitely one next-generation title that isn't drowning in the brownish and dark-tinted pool of "realistic" visuals.
The music, ambience, and sound effects are all down very well-there really isn't much room for criticism here. The voice acting is exactly the same as the Xbox 360 version, boasting such talents as Lance Henriksen and Keith David, which is to say that it is very good when stacked against most video games. Unfortunately, what they are saying isn't always as impressive, which has more to do with the writing than anything. Nevertheless, most of the corny lines seem to be delivered by specific characters, making the player question whether it is, in fact, bad writing or just a bad character. The character development really depends on the player, but the ability to learn more about each character is given to the player from the start. If a particular character didn't have enough back-story, the player probably just didn't talk to him or her enough.
As a whole, the main plotline makes for a decent "save-the-galaxy-from-a-terrible-and-seemingly-invincible-threat" story. On its own, the main narrative probably wouldn't amount to much, but fused with the side missions and background stories of all the characters, it just works. The only weak element to the main narrative is how short it is. Someone can complete all the side mission and the main plotline in roughly 25 hours. However, only a small fraction of time is actually dedicated to the main missions. Therefore, if the player decides to skip most of the side missions, the game's story may not seem as deep.
While the player gets to make most of the critical decisions, which affect how the story plays out, a lot of the narrative is told through short cutscenes. Generally, the cut scenes make for immersive entertainment, especially coupled with dialogue decisions that take place within them. However, there are brief moments where these cutscenes lack an extra bit of something that makes it fall slightly short of amazing. All things considered, Mass Effect's story is one just about anyone can enjoy, whether you're a ruthless enforcer who doesn't care about the rules or a vanguard for law and justice.
One of the only drawbacks to Mass Effect is, while having a "do whatever you want" feel, it lacks a definitive open world. For example, each planet feels more like a giant, circular level rather than a connected part of a galaxy. Most of the interiors of stations, planet bases, and starships seem like they are all generated by a few templates, which makes them feel less intimate. This isn't to say Mass Effect lacks attention to detail, but the detail was given to other areas instead. Therefore, unlike games like Oblivion, which gets its replay value from that open world, Mass Effect attempts to draw its replay value from the myriad decisions made by the player. Unfortunately, the player may find it hard to justify replaying the entire game just to see a slightly different outcome because of linear elements. On the other hand, the idea of playing through a second time to see a love scene between a female Shepard and a not female or male alien counterpart may just be too much to pass up.
Despite some of the minor problems, the free downloadable content provided directly by BioWare, the free patches to enhance gameplay, and the new tweaks for the PC platform make Mass Effect a must-buy for those who just couldn't pony-up the dough for an Xbox 360 when it was first released.
CCC Freelance Writer