I bought this as part of the Mass Effect Trilogy. I’m going to review each game by itself, and then the trilogy as a whole.
You play as commander Shepard, a man or woman (aka FemShep) likely to become the first human Spectre (a special operative working for the Council, the supreme and multi-species authority of the galaxy). After a prologue mission goes wrong, you’re tasked with stopping the rogue Spectre Saren, and his army of robot underlings.
There’s a colourful world with enough alien races to make it feel detailed and interesting. As well as the main villain, there are plenty of sidequests, and six distinct companions, four of whom are aliens.
I did almost all the sidequest missions and the game took about 35 hours, so I’d call it of middling size. The story offers plenty of scope to make your Shepard either a paragon, a renegade, or something in between.
Up until the very end (see Bugs, below) the story had a nice rhythm to it, and the last few scenes were a fantastic climax to the game.
The gameplay is pretty hands on, with Shepard and her two companions fighting as a small tactical unit. You can offer them basic commands, but they’re far less effective than Shepard (I suspect this is because the AI is slightly cautious and less decisive/aggressive than a real player). There’s a fair range of weapon types and a significant number of different weapons, which can be upgraded, as can their ammunition.
The overheating feature is a great aspect of the gun battles. Basically, if you fire your gun too much in too short a space of time it overheats and won’t work for a little while. There’s a meter to show how close your gun’s getting to the limit, and differing gun types have greater or lesser tolerance (so, three quick shots with a sniper rifle will cause overheating, but an assault rifle or pistol can fire far more). Ammunition is infinite, which I found worked well.
As well as battles on foot, you often roam alien worlds in the Mako, the bastard lovechild of a tank and a moon buggy. It took me a little while to adapt to that (keeping moving and mixing up rocket fire with the main gun works well), and I expended a lot of omni-gel fixing it.
In terms of difficulty, I had it on the default setting and found the combat to mostly be easy.
The sound effects and music are both functional, and work well enough, but are neither stand out good nor bad.
The voice-acting is generally of a good quality, and helped to make the game more engaging. I don’t think I can recall a single seriously duff performance, and rather grew to like my purple-eyed FemShep’s no-nonsense attitude.
The graphics could be better, but they’re not bad enough to be a detriment to the game. Textures (often on armour and occasionally elsewhere) take their time loading and there’s relatively little armour variation beyond colour changes.
The make-your-face aspect of character creation is a little below par, but the various aliens (particularly the turians) look pretty good. The general environs graphics are simple but look nice.
Bugs and Other Issues
For 99% of the game it’s bug-free. However, there are still some issues. The most common, and the only persistent one, is that textures (particularly on armour) can take a little while to load. Not serious, in my view.
I only had one freeze in gameplay during 35 hours of playing, when the menu became unresponsive and then lit up like a Christmas tree. Annoying, but one freeze within an entire playthrough isn’t game-breaking.
Worse were two instances of severe lag. Both occurred during set-piece ‘boss’ fights, and one almost cost me my life (obviously you can reload but if it’s Death By Pre-Determined Lag then the same thing could recur). This was pretty disappointing.
The worst bug was that after completing the game it decided the appropriate ending was a blank screen. I tried again, got the same result. After switching to casual difficulty and switching off graphical enhancements (thanks to a friend’s advice regarding this bug, which seems to affect the PS3 version fairly often) I did get through to a loading screen, but that too froze. So, try the fix, it may work for you.
I won’t spoil the story, but it was a climactic, exciting moment, the payoff from 35 hours of gameplay, and for it to just be cut off (and therefore also prevent me from importing my Mass Effect Shepard into Mass Effect 2) was seriously disappointing.
Generally a good game, with a few, mostly small, bugs and an interesting lore that’s compromised to an extent by the infuriating final freeze. Without that, I’d make it 8/10, with, it’s 7/10.