Microsoft Game Studios Mass Effect
- The game features an absorbing story that is expertly told; there is a tremendous amount of depth to the game, from the character customisation options to the world at large; the overall presentation is also fantastic with pleasing visuals, a vibrant galaxy and an intuitive interface. Variety is also key: the game offers you a ton of things to do; we could go on and on here but we're running out of room so let us just say that Mass Effect is one of the best games we've played this year...or any other year for that matter
- The enemy and ally A.I. is surprisingly dim; having to use the Back button to throw grenades sucks; the elevator rides are also ridiculously long
If you are an RPG fan, you should definitely give this game a look; it is good enough that you'll find yourself disappearing deeper into Mass Effect each time you play and demanding the inevitable sequel long before it's due.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
Let's move onto the battlefield: When you're not talking, exploring, or looting containers with a simple button-pushing decryption mini-game, you're going to be killing something from an over-the-shoulder view. This being an RPG, your class has an enormous impact on how you battle. Three of the class options focus on combat, technology, or biotics respectively while the three remaining classes offer a balance between two disciplines. For example, Soldiers get improved health, can train in all weapon types, and can quickly learn to wear heavy armour, but the Adept can lift and throw objects and shield your three-humanoid squad. Anyone with a combat emphasis can get right into the thick of the action, while tech and biotics specialists are better off using special abilities to hinder approaching thugs.
As you level, you'll climb ranks in existing talents and unlock new ones, earning special abilities along the way. An assault rifle user might invoke Overkill to keep his weapons cool while another character might temporarily diminish damage taken via Immunity, or raise a one-way shield by manipulating dark energy.
During battle, you can give your squad mates complete autonomy, but holding down the left or right bumper lets you dictate which weapon or skill they should use at key moments. You'll also find a couple of upgrade slots on most equipment, and a huge library of enhancements to plug into them.
Adding special effects to weapons is awesome and you'll be constantly tweaking your layout to get the best results. The game's automatic cover system also works remarkably well, but the crappy AI behaviour is a glaring fault. You'll easily survive most skirmishes against alien dipsticks unless you bump the difficulty to hard but don't expect your squad mates to lend much of a hand, even the most rudimentary tasks seem to utterly baffle them. I lost track of all the times I got shot in the back of the head by a buddy or had a team-mate walk right into my line of fire. Your boneheaded mates resurrect as soon as the encounter is over, but this level of stupidity is hard to accept from a game that does everything else so damn well.
The remaining quibbles, like the indefensible use of the back button for grenade tossing, and the ridiculously long elevator rides, pale in comparison to this one conspicuous problem.
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GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.