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April 15, 2012
Mass Effect 3 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
8/3/2012EA GamesEA GamesBioware12-4
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Mass Effect 3 has great characters.
When Michael reviewed Mass Effect 2 around a year ago he was full of praise for the title and it's not a review I can disagree with after playing through the game in recent months myself. In fact, I may have even scored that title a few points higher the Michael did. Now, in March 2012, we have the third game which concludes this epic trilogy but has Bioware kept up the quality? Read on...

Mass Effect 3's story continues on from the second game... An ancient alien race, known only as Reapers, has launched an all-out invasion leaving nothing but a trail of destruction in their wake. Earth has been taken, the galaxy is on the verge of total annihilation, and you are the only one who can stop them. The price of failure is extinction. You are Commander Shepard, a character that you can forge in your own image. You determine how events will play out, which planets to explore, and whom to form alliances with as you rally a force to eliminate the Reaper threat once and for all.

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Shepard takes on a giant mech!
The above plotline is such a brief touch on the amount of detail in this game that it really does the title a disservice but to give you many more details would only spoil the many surprises which this game holds. When you start this third game in the trilogy (second on PS3) it is possible to import your save game from Mass Effect 2 and, we'd recommend this as long as you completed the game with a decent result (eg most or all squad mates survived), your actions in that game carry over into this new title. Relationships - good or bad - continue, deceased people won't appear in the game, strategic decisions may impact your options and opportunities. It really is phenomenal how well this all integrates, and I don't think I ever seen this level of decision making altering the storyline in any other game I've played.

As with previous games in this series Mass Effect 3 is a third person action-RPG which includes a wide range of locations - literally dozens of locations or worlds - a character who can be modified with dozens of abilities and stats as you earn experience, complete missions and earn credits to spend. While the combat in previous games was very slick Bioware have polished it off further here with Shepard able to jump over objects during battle, climb ladders, take cover, using a variety of weapons (which can be modified with different attributes such as scopes, larger clips, increased damage among others) or objects and of course the special powers which, depending on how you develop your character, and squad mates will vary. Speaking of which, yet again, you are able to take two others into battle with you, and your choice of allies can certain affect the ease at which you'll complete the missions.

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Mass Effect 3's battlegrounds are frantic.
Speaking of missions one new, and pretty cool addition to this third game is the pre-mission briefing. Often taking place on the landing shuttle, this gives you a little more background info about the location, characters, or scenario in which you are about to enter. Objectives within these missions are often "get from point A to B" to retrieve the objective, be it an object or character of some kind, but the locations are varied enough that you rarely feel like you're treading the same ground.

Besides the lengthy 30+ hour campaign (depending on how many side-missions you complete) Bioware have, for the first time, included multiplayer modes to extend the game length. With a selection of six classes the online mode allows 4-players to work together in co-op missions which are just as polished and frantic as the single player campaign. While the online mode requires an online pass (that is included free in new copies of the game) while Electronic Arts have also released a free Resurgence Pack which includes two new maps to the six included on the disc, as well as six new characters, three new weapons, and four new consumable items. Unfortunately some people are reporting an increase in bugs after installing this pack, however we expect Bioware to remedy this pretty quickly. There's little doubt that gamers could, and likely will, spend just as much time in this multiplayer mode as the main campaign.

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Playing Mass Effect 3 in co-op mode.
We do have plenty of issues with this game, although each is rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Much has been made online about the rather linear game ending, and the lack of a "final wrap" for characters we've come to love over several games. To be honest I didn't mind the ending, it wraps things up, however it would have been nice to see what comes of other surviving characters (and indeed, depending on your choices it may be that a lot, or a few survive). Fortunately Electronic Arts have promised a patch later this year that will offer additional endings.

Our biggest complaint, and what seems a step backwards for the franchise on PS3 is that while there is no install for the game, the load times are now much longer as a result, and it becomes quite annoying especially when walking around the Normandy and, on the main level there's a load point between the back and front of the ship. This is made all the more annoying that after every mission you return to the War Room, but then have to travel past the load point to the front of the ship to travel to the next mission or location.

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Garrus is a close ally in Mass Effect.
Speaking of the War Room, this seems rather an odd inclusion. If you only play this game in single player modes you'll be plonked in the War Room after missions, but will only ever see your "War Readiness" sitting at 50% maximum. To go above this you need to hit up the multiplayer modes, or the iOS application, so it seems rather disjointed in a way from the main game. We also found the scanning disappointing to an extent. While many found scanning in Mass Effect 2 a chore we enjoyed it, but in this game it seems scaled back too far. Perhaps a middle ground could have been reached, or if the mining from the last game retained, perhaps excess minerals could be sold for other items or credits.

As you would be aware Mass Effect 3 has been released on all three main platforms - PS3, XBox 360 and PC. We don't normally look at each to compare but gamers should be aware of benefits and issues with each. The PC game has the best visuals, albeit roughly on par with consoles, but with better frame rates, but lacks gamepad support. The XBox 360 includes Kinect support so you can use voice commands (why not just a headset?) as well as a better frame rate then PS3, but the big drawback is that with the game on 2 discs gamers need to switch when moving from primary to secondary missions and with the game allowing you to do this at any point that could become annoying. The PS3 game unfortunately struggles visually with the lowest frame rates (more on them in a minute), although detail levels are close to the other systems, but the PS3 benefits from Blu-Ray capacity to remove disc swapping and of course improved sound formats over the 360 version. The choice is yours...

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Commander Shepard takes cover during battle.
Turning to the visuals Mass Effect 3 there really are some massive highs, and a few lows. Starting with the positives it's clear that Bioware have put considerable time into developing a full, lively, interesting game world. We're not talking a planet or two here, but dozens of them with different locations and battlefields from cities, to ancient ruins, deserts, space ships, and alien worlds. Everything is covered here with distinct looks to each location. Characters can't be overlooked either. Commander Shepard is fully customisable in his, or her, appearance while NPC's have some of the most amazing modeling and impressive animations ever seen. Cut-scenes too are simply astonishing, especially those with large battle scenes, however it's the smaller moments that are often the most touching in the scheme of the storyline.

There are, however, some negatives to the visuals which manifest themselves on all platforms, but primarily the PS3. Powered by Unreal Engine 3 this is a visually stunning game but the PS3 struggles to maintain a smooth frame rate, often during the cut-scenes more so than the gameplay sections. This frame rate maxes out at a v-synched 30fps but drops to around half that on occasion which is visually jarring and disappointing. Less common but still in evidence is the fact that characters "jump" location during cut-scenes and you'll also even notice the camera be placed in a position in the middle of a character model.

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Using a force field to protect allies.
Sonically Mass Effect 3 really is a tour de force with a large variety of sound effects from gunfire, to explosions, to ships, to ambient effects within cities, on the Normandy or on the battlefield. Surround sound channels are used aggressively and assist in pinpointing enemy fire. The highlight though is certainly the dialogue which is superbly written and equally well delivered by the myriad of voice actors. The music in this game has been composed by Clint Mansell (who has scored films such as Moon, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain) and it truly is a masterful score which matches that in any major motion picture.

There is simply so much to love about this game it's not funny. We do strongly recommend though that if you're a PS3 owner you pick up Mass Effect 2 before you plunge into this game (the first game was never released on Sony's system) as the payoff for decisions made in the game are enormous in this third game. While it's not quite as polished as we would expect in terms of frame rate, the wonderful locations, gripping gameplay, great cut-scenes and superb story telling make up for this. This is a superb release, and an essential purchase.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSEpic in scope, detail and artistry. Disappointing on PS3 technically.
SOUNDSuperb voice acting, music and sound effects makes this an audio delight.
GAMEPLAYThe action has been refined and improved, storyline engrossing, great multiplayer but graphical glitches deter and scanning disappoints. Still, superb.
VALUESingle player is 30+ hours, and you could play through several times, and then at least that again with multiplayer. Superb value.
OVERALLMass Effect 3 is the perfect end to one of the greatest trilogies of all time (or the 2/3 we've played at least). This third game gets so much right, but misses the mark oh so slightly. Still, an essential purchase - but start with Mass Effect 2 first if you can.

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