Mass Effect 3 PS3 review
Victory through sacrifice. That’s been the central theme and marketing spiel throughout Bioware’s deeper-than-Mariana-Trench sci-fi odyssey, and man does it step up a notch or million in this concluding chapter of Commander Shepard’s dogged fight against the galaxy-destroying Reapers.
Core mechanics have been tweaked, several elements have been either dumped or expanded, and multiplayer makes a controversial arrival – but it’s the cataclysmic narrative and ‘take the losses to kill the bosses’ ethos that dominate and define this game.
It’s more epic than Commander Shepard defeating an angry mammoth with an ’80s guitar solo, turning around to score the winning World Cup penalty and hopping into a diamond-encrusted fighter jet to make his exit.
The staggeringly detailed Mass Effect universe that Shepard strives to save once and for all from a race of ancient machines bent on binning off all organic life is by far the series’ strongest asset. It’s a firmament of plausible future-science coloured by incredible diversity and political intrigue, and – crucially – the big calls that affect this amazing creation come down to you, the hero of the Alliance Navy.
The cinematic quality that Bioware has excelled at previously is even more immersive, and this time around there’s a much smoother cut-scene-to-gameplay transition that pans the camera into the third-person view just as your landing shuttle touches down.
If you’re popping your galactic cherry with ME3, it’s simultaneously an intoxicating and daunting place to be. Frankly, it’s unlikely that many people will start and end their Mass Effect journey here, so it’s as important (if not more so) to judge ME3 as a continuation of your ME2 campaign, rather than just a blank slate.
If you are importing a save, you’ll slip back into the action like a comfy pair of gravity boots, revelling in former glories and rueing past mistakes – both have a massive impact on this game’s proceedings.
Characters and their entire story arcs are entirely interchangeable depending on your previous decisions, and there are more possible romances than at 3am in a Barnsley nightclub. Talking to others and realising how totally freaking different their games were gives a real insight into a) the brain-unravelling work that went into this game, and b) the brain-unravelling genius of how it all fits together.
ME3’s story (don’t worry, no spoilers) isn’t just incredible by game standards: it puts most movies to shame. You’ll care more about Liara than Princess Leia, remember the Normandy as much the Enterprise, and when the main quest hits its final six-hour crescendo, it’s unrivalled in terms of emotional involvement. Seriously, there’s no shame in crying here.
When all this tightly crafted storytelling boils down to actual gameplay, it’s just as compelling. With the Reapers mounting a full-scale attack on the galaxy and trashing Earth, it’s time for all organic life to unite, pool its resources and counter against overwhelming odds. Oh, and you’re in charge of the whole thing. But, you know, no pressure.