Version: Xbox 360 Very few times do you feel like you've played a game that completely sets you back. Something that did so much that your perspective on gaming changes completely. The original Mass Effect did this for story. And now, years later, that little kid known as Mass Effect has grown up. It went from the scrawny little BioWare HD entry game, filled with ugly graphics, slowdowns, texture pop-ins, and deadbrain AI, to this fully matured, sophisticated member of the gaming community. Simply put, Mass Effect 3 is the best RPG made. Period. The Best of Both WorldsMost every long term Mass Effect player will agree on two things. One: Mass Effect (the original) was one of the best stories ever told, from plot to characters to pacing, but was about as fun to play with as a rubber band ball filled with tacs. Two: the second game blew the first game out of the water in terms of gameplay, delivering something entirely fun, but lacked a good story or equally great cast to make it top the first game's story. This gave the third game an opportunity to marry both. And it did. Perfectly. It's a story that tops Mass Effect with gameplay that's better than Mass Effect 2. I thought this was worth noting to anyone worrying about a compromise, feeling that Mass Effect 2 set a precedent of good gameplay OR good story. This blows that out of the water. All Good Things...As I mentioned before, Mass Effect 3 is the strongest story out of the trilogy. Without going into too much detail, here's the story you should know from trailers. Shepard warned everyone of the Reapers but they wouldn't listen. So when the Reapers finally came, Earth is taken as the ground zero for the war. Shepard escapes narrowly and must unite the galactic races for an assault on the Reapers, to take Earth back, and end the cycle of extinction that the Reapers have performed every 50,000 years. But with all Mass Effect stories, they revolve around your decisions and crossovers from the other games, and Mass Effect 3 hits on everything. Even the most minute details will come back to you here. Your romance can either start anew or can continue from an older game. Every plot important decision (from whether you saved Wrex or not to how you handled the Thorian situation on Zhu's Hope) will come back to either assist you or even hurt you. Everything becomes an asset in the intergalactic war. Even your fish from Mass Effect 2 carries over (if he survived). The other thing I found remarkable is the characters. Generally I wasn't a huge fan of Mass Effect 2's cast. I genuinely liked Mordin and (of course) Garrus and Tali. I can give a pass to Thane and Grunt but the rest were just... there. But almost all the past cast shines in Mass Effect 3 (if you saved them). Every thread from the past two games comes to a tidy conclusion here. There's no plot holes or anything that keeps you hanging. It's a wonderful conclusion to a brilliant series. I have to make a note on set pieces. Commonly I hear that people really like Call of Duty campaigns. Not for the story, but for the action and set pieces. Very few games can deliver an adrenaline-pumping shootout in the gritty Asian slums or a stealthy sniper mission deep in enemy territory. While no one cares about your Soaps or Captain Prices, it's all about the action. Mass Effect 3 truly delivers some amazing set pieces. Considering RPGs are generally dull, slow affairs, it's a revolution. You'll be sprinting through battlefields with explosions going off, enemies rushing at you, and when you look up, you see a gigantic world, set ablaze by a Reaper invasion. It's awe-inspiring, almost constantly, and without fail. Not A Star Trek: The Next Generation ReferenceAlso as I said before, the gameplay is better than Mass Effect 2, both from a third person shooter standpoint and a RPG standpoint. Pretty much all the elements in terms of shooting from Mass Effect 2 are the same, with new ones added. It's still a chest-high walls simulator, but now with some new added stuff. The most notable one is a small revamp to melee. Basically holding down the melee button will result in a "heavy attack", which deals a lot of damage but is, of course, slower. Each classes is usually a bit different. An Adept or Vanguard's heavy melee is weaker but can push an enemy backwards or knock them down. An Infiltrator's melee deals the most damage but is slow. There's also a "Grab" mechanic now, where you can grab an enemy from behind cover and instantly kill them. I rarely find myself using it though, I did it maybe once or twice through the entire campaign. The rest is your Mass Effect 2 TPS gameplay. You take cover behind objects and poke out from them to shoot baddies or throw powers. From a RPG standpoint, it's a bit more like the original Mass Effect than anything else. Every level up grants you an amount of points to invest in skills of your choice. You have your choice of biotic powers (like Throw, Pull, Warp, Slam, etc), combat abilities (Carnage, Concussion Shot, Inferno Grenades, Lift Grenades, different ammos, etc) and passive abilities (like higher health, melee damage, biotic damage, etc). After a few levels, each skill eventually branches off, allowing you different options on how to develop that skill. You can choose between a higher damage or a higher recharge for a skill, for example. For equipment, you can find and buy new weapons and armor. Your five standard weapon classes (sniper, assault rifle, pistol, shotgun, and SMG) are all here. They're all upgradeable by purchasing better versions of them, and you can now purchase mods for them, such as scopes (for improved accuracy and to add a scope to the weapon), damage enhancers, stability mods, improved melee damage, the list goes on. A new aspect here is also weight, which becomes a rather large factor. While you can pack the best assault rifle and the best sniper, you'll have large amounts of weight. Weight helps determine your recharge speed on powers. A low weight will make them recharge faster while a high weight will make them recharge slower. It can make running only a pistol seem completely reasonable. All these aspects make the RPG part of the game highly customizable as well as in-depth and approachable. Wars With FriendsOne of the more shocking reveals about Mass Effect 3 was a multiplayer mode. It certainly ruffled a few feathers. On the optimistic hand, it seems like the perfect idea. Mass Effect has been about having a team, coordinating to taken down an enemy. You can't just dump clips of ammo into an enemy to win, you need a team that can have the most effective approach to dealing with its health. Except now instead of having AI you have to coordinate manually, you'll get a team of other people to coordinate with. On the other hand, how the hell would this work? Mass Effect kinda worked by having you pause the game and coordinate all this, something you can't do effectively in multiplayer. When it was announced, we also didn't know if it was versus or survival or whatever it could be. After playing the demo way too much (I got to lvl 96 out of 120 in about 3-4 days) and playing a bit of the full game, I can safely say this is a success. You and up to three other players are dumped on a map and have to survive 10 Waves of enemies and then a final stand off until you can be evacuated. The gameplay is essentially the same as the single player, but it's much more simplified to fit the real time multiplayer setting. You now have only 3 activated skills, all of which are mapped to RB, LB, or Y. All the classes from the single player are there, but now with different races. Each race has different skills to use and even different passive abilities, like their melee attacks to their evasion skills. During the ten rounds of gameplay, you'll be given three different non-survival objectives (at rounds 3, 6, and 10) that could involve assassinating key enemies, remaining in a certain area to transmit info, or activating 4 different beacons. There's also a variety of maps to choose from with different layouts and 3 different enemy classes to face (Cerberus, Reapers, or Geth). Multiplayer also factors into the single player. If sidequesting isn't your thing, the multiplayer essentially provides as a substitute. You can earn better "Galactic Readiness" (a higher rating means higher success in the final mission) by playing multiplayer instead of sidequests. Even the achievements allow the game to be either single or multiplayer focused. You can, for example, complete every map on Gold (the hardest) difficulty for multiplayer or do every mission in the single player on Insanity difficulty for the same success. So if you want to spend more time shooting than scanning planets, Mass Effect 3 still has you covered. Everything else on a technical end is fine. Matchmaking was easy for me. You can join a random match or start a new one, the game only starts when everyone's ready, and players can vote to kick anyone whose being a nuisance. I never had connection issues from the game itself, although host migration isn't exactly smooth. It's still easy to invite people to play or set up a lobby. I'd say as a whole, the multiplayer is a success. It combines what makes Mass Effect's combat work into an effective team based survival game. The real question is whether it'll stick or not. With incredible sales though and a popular multiplayer demo, I have a feeling it will though. Even after attaining full Galactic Readiness purely through single player, I'm still compelled to play the multiplayer again and again. It's also one of those few games that delivers a good single player and multiplayer with a compromise to either. The LittleBig ThingsThere's a bunch of smaller things that should also be mentioned about the game. First, my only real complaint on the game: the credits. [yt]vwfJvemUIZg[/yt] Every Mass Effect player remembers this song. It was the perfect punctuation on the end of a fantastic story. You were delivered an incredible ending, blown away, and this song starts playing. That's what made the game's story hit as hard as it did. As much as I dislike Dragon Age 2, it still was able to deliver a decent end song to help make a sloppy story seem more memorable. Mass Effect 3, unfortunately, does not. Don't get me wrong, the game has fantastic music, but I wanted something to punctuate the game. The ending is brilliant. It's literally the best ending I've ever experienced in a video game. But the credits music kinda fell flat. I was still blown away by the experience as a whole, but this didn't bring me to tears (or close to tears) like good ol' M4 Part II did. If I didn't mention this enough, the graphics are breathtaking. The demo is not accurate at all of the final product's graphics. My only minor complaint is facial animations. While everything like lip movement and stuff looks great, there's almost no expression on their faces. I don't expect LA Noire here but even Half Life 2 had facial animations, and that game is like what, 8 years old now? But the model animations are fluid, the scenery is gorgeous, the lighting is perfect, and the framerate is constantly high and smooth, regardless of the action happening. For Xbox 360 users, the game is on two discs. Early on in the game I was switching them a lot, but the latter half of it had me doing this very little. I think the first disc is most main story and multiplayer stuff while the second disc is sidequests. And yeah, day one on-disc DLC sucks, there's no way around that. Collector's Edition owners get it for free though. On a plot note, they also don't give us any bullshit "open ending" so they can pack it full of retarded sequels. That's not to say there won't be any "prequel" or "intermediate" games and BioWare said this isn't the last for Mass Effect (as well as to save your completed saves from this game), but no matter which way you put it, the game wraps up. No ifs, ands, or buts. Is it Massively Effective?In the end though, I say with no exaggeration that it's the best RPG game made and the best story in gaming. It's amazing to see how the series evolved, more than anything else. To believe that it went from the technical mess of Mass Effect that was rather bad but saved by a fantastic story to a game that hits every note perfectly is a wonderful thing to say. As far as sequels go, this sets a new standard. It evolves the series in a way games should be. It learns from its mistakes and fixes those. It added good gameplay to fix a bland third person shooter, it created an amazing story to help give a stronger narrative edge than Mass Effect 2, and on top of all that, it gave us a multiplayer experience that isn't a compromise at all. BioWare has been having a rough history lately, with Dragon Age 2 falling flat and The Old Republic (apparently) not being all its cracked up to be, but Mass Effect 3 proves that the magic is still there. Presentation: An amazing story, presented perfectly. Every thread from the previous two games wraps up, there's nothing left hanging. All the characters come back and make an impact, even Mass Effect 2 characters I wasn't particularly fond of make you like them. It's remarkably well written and is the acme of story telling. 10/10 Graphics: What started as the texture pop-in ugly black sheep with slowdowns turned into one of the best looking games in recent memories. While facial animations are lacking, the scenery is mind blowing and the animations are still incredibly fluid and lifelike. There's also no slowdowns, no matter what's on the screen or what's happening. 10/10 Audio: A grand, sweeping, orchestral soundtrack that fits every situation without flaws. Voice acting, as always, is some of the best in gaming history. No great finale song is a bit of a letdown but it doesn't stop this audio juggernaut. 10/10 Gameplay: The best aspects of Mass Effect's RPG elements combine with the best aspects of Mass Effect 2's shooter elements, with some expansion and changes. Dialogue system is still as good as ever and everything runs smoothly. AI is also workable. Kinect voice commands are added now but I can't say I've tried them. 10/10 Lasting Appeal: The main story with all the sidequests took me 25 hours. Multiple playthroughs are almost a must eventually, and that goes for replaying the previous two games as well. Multiplayer adds on possibly hundreds of hours as well. Definitely something to keep nearby. 10/10 Overall: 10/10 The game's spot on, people. If you haven't played Mass Effect as a series, now's your time to buy all three games and experience the pinnacle of western RPGs. I stll feel like my review is missing things but there's so much to talk about that it's better to discover for yourself.