Mass Effect Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC
Mass Effect box art
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.

Mass Effect screenshot

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.

By Derek Hidey
CCC Freelance Writer

Aside from some minor shading issues, the great visuals remind us that realistic doesn't have to be dark shades of brown.
Seamless character and menu controls are only hindered by shaky vehicle controls.
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Epic music, great voice talent, and decent sound effects drown out the occasional bits of corny dialogue.
Play Value
It's a perfect example of a game doing most things right and being a sum of its parts.
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
Update: The writer modified the score of this review. The game was initially scored lower due to a missunderstanding of CCC's Review Rating System.

Game Features:

  • Non-Linear Progression: Through intensely cinematic, non-linear objectives, players assume the role of an elite soldier for humanity. Choose which missions to undertake and which to ignore. Constantly make decisions based on morality, greed, pride, justice, etc., that have real impacts on the story.
  • Next Generation Graphics : See space exploration on an all-new level. Stunning and photo-realistic renderings bring every world, alien, and environment to life.
  • Customizable Character Creation : Create your own distinct version of Commander Shepard from eye color, to hair style, to gender. Each customization is recognizable throughout the game and, in some cases, has distinct impacts on the story.
  • Team-Based Real-Time Combat : Experience real-time combat reminiscent of first-person shooters, and team-based gameplay by using a simple system that allows you to issue orders to your teammates in the heat of battle.

  • Screenshots / Images
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