Game Reviews XBox 360 Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360)
 
Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360)

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) Hot

Editor rating
 
5.0
User rating
 
0.0 (0)


Accessibility At A Glance Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360)

5.0

   
Precision > Maybe Read the detailed review please
One-Handed > Maybe Take a look at the detailed review before you buy
Deaf Gamers > Yes You should have no issues with this game
Subtitles > Mostly Character text is present but not ambiant
Colorblind > Yes Colorblind gamers should be okay

About the Game

Class
Commercial
Genre
Maker
EA
Release Date
March 06, 2012
Multi-player
Yes
Licence Category
commercial

Mass-Effect-3-Review

Not everyone will survive. 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. How you wage this war is completely up to you: go into combat with guns blazing or use cover to plan a more tactical assault. Utilize your squad to full effect or take a lone wolf approach. Rain death from a distance or go toe-to-toe with enemies using devastating melee attacks. Mass Effect 3 will react to each decision you make as you play through a truly unique experience of your own creation.

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Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360)
Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360)
Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360)

Editor review

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) 2012-03-17 03:12:04 Scott Puckett
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Mobility 
 
4.0
Visual 
 
7.0
Hearing 
 
5.0
Scott Puckett Reviewed by Scott Puckett    March 17, 2012
Last updated: March 17, 2012
Top 10 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews

Mass Effect 3

This review will be different from my normal reviews. In the interest of avoiding spoilers and providing information, my opinion about Mass Effect 3 (ME3) can be found in a wholly separate article, one which includes major spoilers. By now, you may have heard about what I will charitably describe as the controversial ending – the other piece includes detailed commentary on it. As a final note, my primary Shepard is male and I will use male pronouns to describe my experience with the game; I intend no disrespect to FemShep fans – I have a FemShep myself – but my personal experience with most of the game is a male Shepard.

With that said, let's get into the review.

Mass Effect 3 draws the saga of Commander Shepard and the crew of the Normandy to a close as the Reapers begin attacking Earth. Naturally, the Alliance calls on Commander Shepard, stripped of his rank and held by the Alliance military after the events of the Arrival DLC, to stop this nonsense. With his rank reinstated and the Normandy under his command, Shepard is off to the Citadel to rally the galaxy's forces to stop the imminent destruction of all sentient life, only to find the threat of extinction can't overcome politics and long-standing grudges. Once again, Shepard has to assume the Herculean task of being everyone's janitor and cleaning up the galaxy's Augean Stables as he collects War Assets (i.e. fleets, units, gadgets, etc.) to improve the galaxy's chances of defeating the Reapers.

First and foremost, people who have followed the series from the start will get the most enjoyment from ME3. Bioware claims to have tracked more than 1,000 separate variables including, according to the strategy guide, whether a player bought a specific type of fish in Mass Effect 2 (ME2) and managed to keep it alive to the end of not only ME2, but through the end of ME3 and the end of a New Game Plus restart in ME3. ME3 offers many resolutions and jokes for long-time fans, ranging from little comments about things fans found frustrating or silly (including a spirited debate about whether the Mako or Hammerhead was a better vehicle and why) as well as major payoffs, although some may not be quite as major as expected. Playing the preceding two games means there's history, and not all of it is good, regardless of how noble players may have been.

These decisions are important because they frequently determine which War Assets a player receives in ME3 as they resolve conflicts between, for example, Krogans and Turians. If a player did X in Mass Effect (ME) and Y in ME2, they may not have certain options available to them. For players who only played ME2, payoffs will be smaller or non-existent – according to the strategy guide, ME2 players will see some favors repaid, with other plots never started due to the absence of a ME save file. Players beginning with ME3 will have a much harder time and some outcomes will be entirely unavailable because those players have no history with the characters at all.

And that is why reviewing ME3 is such a fundamentally difficult task – every player will have a different experience, one entirely dependent on their previous decisions or the lack of those decisions. Players who have played the entire series to date will have a vastly different experience than those who only played ME2 or those who are beginning with ME3. And this is also why players who have not played the previous games should avoid ME3.

It's pointless to consider ME3 as a standalone game because it's a terrible introduction to the series. For players who don't know the history, it's all exposition, telling them about decisions their character made in previous games, regardless of whether they would have made those decisions. It has all the nuance of a hammer and all the storytelling finesse of a situation comedy. Players are forced into decisions that they didn't – and in the case of PS3 owners, couldn't – make. Bioware can claim that ME3 works as a standalone game; they're a for-profit business and it's their job to sell copies of it. However, speaking as a player, it just doesn't work as a title for people who have no previous experience with the series.

Players familiar with the Mass Effect games will be used to most of the combat mechanics and they haven't changed much. However, opponents can be quite a bit harder (including some opponents capable of one-hit kills). The weapon and power wheels still pause combat, allowing players to take a slight breather and plan tactically if they need it. Weapon weight now affects how quickly powers recharge, meaning that players choosing to play any class other than soldier are best served by carrying as few weapons as possible. Soldiers, naturally, will get killed for lack of shooting back and should carry everything they can.

The improvements in ME3 are incremental – there are no mini-games like the hacking and bypass games in ME2. Scanning is now done by system – you may find fuel in space debris, but if scanning a system reveals something on a planet, then players enter orbit and launch a probe. ME3 does away with resource collection, a tedious activity which was a sore spot for many fans of the game.

And then there are the minor glitches – characters whose heads seem to turn 360 degrees and at broken neck angles, eyes which disappear and so on. There are rendering concerns which appear from time to time – they don't break the game or even affect gameplay, but it is disturbing to see that such basic issues saw release in such a highly-anticipated title. Perhaps most frustrating, many cutscenes simply can't be skipped – while this is useful if the developers are trying to ensure that players don't miss key information, it makes subsequent playthroughs significantly less enjoyable.

One area where ME3 shines is in the new multiplayer mode. It's four-player cooperative play in small arenas, and requires players to fight through 10 waves of increasingly difficult opponents and a final wave as the players prepare for dust-off. The quick match option on the multiplayer menu is typically the best way to find a game – a full squad of four random players is far more likely to succeed than a team of two people, no matter how carefully they coordinate and how skilled they are. A typical match takes around 20 minutes on the lowest difficulty setting, and many players will find that the lowest difficulty setting is more than sufficient to offer a challenge.

However, multiplayer is not without its flaws – there are a small number of maps and the size makes it fairly easy to memorize them and even encounter them multiple times in the same session. An even larger problem occurs with how long it can take between matches – if even one player doesn't click ready, every other player in the lobby is forced to wait while that person sorts through equipment or changes their armor color or debates which power they want to upgrade or places a takeout order. This isn't unique to Mass Effect – most games which have lobbies and require players to indicate their readiness before starting a match experience this to some degree – but it seems especially pronounced. Likewise, in the weekend following the game's release, a number of players, myself included, experienced challenges establishing or maintaining a connection with the multiplayer servers.

One of the most troubling aspects of ME3 was the downloadable content available on release day for a price of $10. It adds a character to the squad, a mission and some conversations involving the dialogue wheel. Beyond offering a few Paragon and Renegade points and some Reputation, the content is nearly identical to the Zaeed Massani DLC which was available on ME2's release day … and that DLC was free. It's easy to understand why fans are upset – Bioware set a precedent with ME2 that release day DLC was free. With ME3, Bioware decided that the same amount of content which was free for ME2 is now worth $10. Put bluntly, players won't miss much, if anything, by not downloading it and I would recommend saving your money.

Ultimately, ME3 is a mixed bag at best. The multiplayer mode is great until people get bored of the half-dozen or so maps, provided they can get into a match. The story is fine until the end – in the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won't comment further on that subject in this review. And the action is pretty much the same as it ever was. To some people, ME3 might be a satisfying conclusion to the series. To literally thousands of fans, myself included, it is anything but.



Accessibility Issues / Concerns:

Before beginning the accessibility assessment, it's important to note that I added a list of my review hardware at the end of the review. Text and subtitles in Mass Effect 2 were effectively unreadable on a standard-definition TV screen. Since I played Mass Effect 3 on a high-definition LCD television, my experience with the subtitles and text in Mass Effect 3 was significantly improved. That does not mean that the problem has been resolved, merely that I couldn't see it and don't have a standard-definition television available to check. With that caveat out of the way, let's get started.

The first and most important accessibility issue is the number of disc swaps required. For players with mobility concerns, this can be a real problem. Before I installed the game to see if it would reduce the number of disc swaps, I had to change discs for three out of the first four missions. Installing the game seemed to reduce the number of swaps, but it did not eliminate them. However, I began a second playthrough with the game fully installed and didn't see any reduction in the number of disc swaps. Simply put, you're going to make a number of trips to your console to insert Disc 2 or Disc 1.

Mass Effect 3 seems more accommodating to gamers with precision concerns, with a few caveats. There are no hacking mini-games, which is a huge improvement, and should make the game more accessible to players with cognition concerns as well as low-vision gamers. Likewise, Bioware eliminated the need to scan for resources, meaning that players only need to find the salvage or War Assets or widgets in each system.

ME3 offers five difficulty levels – Narrative, Casual, Normal, Hardcore and Insanity. For accessibility purposes, I played ME3 on Narrative for my first playthrough to evaluate how difficult it might be. However, there really doesn't appear to be a significant amount of difference in difficulty between Narrative and Normal – the primary difference seems to be that Banshees, Brutes and other stronger opponents can't kill you with a single hit in Narrative mode.

Playing on the easiest difficulty setting, even the toughest enemies (e.g. Banshees, which teleport, and Phantoms, which are cloaked units, and both are capable of one-hit kills) weren't too difficult. However, after discussing the matter with a few other gamers, folks with precision concerns might have better luck using upgraded versions of weapons like the Mantis sniper rifle and Vindicator assault rifle. While other weapons can be more powerful, they often don't allow the player to carry as much ammunition, meaning that missing the target is much more problematic. To wit, if you have 170 rounds of ammunition, burning 30 rounds or so is less of a problem than if you only have 90 rounds, assuming you miss the same number of times.

Gamers with precision concerns also need to know that Paragon and Renegade interrupts in ME3 can require split-second reaction times – on more than one occasion, I had to reload a save because I missed an interrupt which flashed on-screen very briefly. And in some sequences, precision becomes critical – as one example, failing to dodge a laser at the proper moment will result in instant death and reloading a frustrating challenge.

Gamers with use of only one hand need to know that ME3's controller layouts haven't changed significantly – players can choose between the default and southpaw configurations for sticks (default places movement on the left stick, southpaw places it on the right) and four trigger configurations (default places aim on the left trigger and fire on the right, southpaw is the opposite), two of which swap the commands from the triggers to the bumpers. The trigger configuration also swaps which bumpers the power and weapons wheel use; when fire and aim are swapped to the bumpers, the triggers control the power and weapon wheels.

Low-vision gamers and gamers with a form of color blindness shouldn't find Mass Effect 3 to be too different from Mass Effect 2. It's still difficult to see the Normandy on the galaxy map, but that is now compounded because if a Reaper detects the player (which apparently only occurs after scanning a system too many times), it will start chasing the player until the ship leaves that solar system or is destroyed. The lack of mini-games is also an accessibility improvement over Mass Effect 2, which used color as part of the hacking and bypass mini-games.

The reticle is a pair of blue parentheses which turns to a red crosshair over a hostile target, while special ammunition icons appear on the equipped weapon. Unfortunately, ammo icons and reticles occasionally blend into the background, making them difficult – if not impossible – for gamers with vision concerns to see. Another change which may affect low-vision gamers is that players have to be much closer to items to be able to see the interaction button. In previous Mass Effect games, it was possible to sweep the reticle across the screen a few times and see items or objects on the other side of the room. Mass Effect 3 doesn't allow such sweeping, meaning players have to be nearer, if not on top of the item or object, to see it.

One frustration that gamers may have is that many of the cinematics can't be skipped through, regardless of which buttons, bumpers or triggers you mash. There are a number of occasions when this proves to be remarkably painful because players are forced to sit through mind-numbing exposition which can't be bypassed, especially at the end.

As noted above, ME3 is subtitled, and subtitles can be enabled before starting the game by going to the Extras menu and selecting Options. However, I have no ability to determine whether the subtitles are legible on a standard definition television screen.

The multiplayer mode has the same precision concerns as the single-player campaign, but players can't adjust the difficulty level beyond making it harder. Bronze is the easiest difficulty setting, and gamers with precision concerns are likely to find it frustrating. There are no subtitles in the multiplayer mode even though the objectives are described in voice-over. Objective progress also appears in the upper right corner of the screen, and objectives are marked with a diamond on-screen which can help players find them, but deaf and hard-of-hearing gamers will likely need to play a few rounds before the objectives become clear due to a lack of subtitles.

On a final note, one surprising diference is that kills in multiplayer sessions count toward achievements – achievements previously involved starting a new game as a specific class to reach a specific number of tech, biotic or other kills.

Review Hardware:
Xbox 360 Slim Console
32” LCD HDTV w/HDMI cables
Razer Onza Tournament Edition gaming controller

Accessibility Scores:
Mobility: 4
Visual: 7
Hearing: 5

Original Purchase Price: $59.99 plus $9.99 for the From Ashes DLC

Recommended Purchase Price: No more than $29.99; suggest renting from Gamefly or local video store over a weekend instead

At A Glance:

Precision: Playing on the easiest difficulty setting will make combat much easier, but players with precision concerns should avoid more high-powered weaponry due to the reduced amount of ammunition players can carry. Some precision movement is necessary (i.e. dodging laser fire from a Reaper) and quick reactions are needed for Paragon and Renegade interrupts. Multiplayer modes are much more challenging and require more precision. Recommend rating of 5 out of 10 for the single-player campaign, 3 out of 10 for multiplayer.

Deaf Gamers: ME3's subtitles and text were readable on an HDTV screen; however, ME2's subtitles and text were functionally illegible and unreadable on a standard-definition set which should give deaf gamers pause; as noted above, I don't have a standard-def TV to evaluate whether subtitles are still a concern for players who don't have a high-definition television. Multiplayer modes are not subtitled, despite canned voice instructions being provided by the game to tell players what they need to do. Otherwise, gamers can play multiplayer without communicating with other squad members. Recommend rating of 7 out of 10 for the single-player campaign, 0 out of 10 for multiplayer.

One-handed: There are a limited number of controller layouts, but it is possible to place movement, firing and the power wheel on the same side of the controller. Multiplayer controls are more simple in that there is no power or weapon wheel, but there doesn't seem to be any ability to assign an action to a different button on the controller. Recommend rating of 5 out of 10 for the single-player campaign, 3 out of 10 for multiplayer.

Subtitles: ME3's subtitles and text were readable on an HDTV screen; however, ME2's subtitles and text were functionally illegible and unreadable on a standard-definition set which should give deaf gamers pause; as noted above, I don't have a standard-def TV to evaluate whether subtitles are still a concern for players who don't have a high-definition television. Multiplayer modes are not subtitled, despite canned voice instructions being provided by the game to tell players what they need to do. Otherwise, gamers can play multiplayer without communicating with other squad members. Recommend rating of 7 out of 10 for the single-player campaign, 0 out of 10 for multiplayer.

Color Blind: Gamers with vision concerns should have few problems with ME3 – there are no mini-games, and color isn't really used for meaning in the game except for the targeting reticle, which changes color and shape when players are targeting hostiles. However, the Normandy is still hard to see on the Galaxy Map and some elements – like ammo indicators on weapons – may be difficult to see due to background colors. Recommend rating of 7 out of 10 for the single-player campaign, 7 out of 10 for multiplayer.

Checkpoint / Save System: Mass Effect 3 saves automatically and also allows saving on demand in most areas, provided the player is not in combat. Recommend rating of 10 out of 10.

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Scott Puckett
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  • As one final tip for gamers with precision concerns, part of combat success in ME3 seems to be throwing as many rounds down-range as quickly as possible; I recall reading something about this in the actual game (although I can't remember if it was a Codex entry or some other bit of text somewhere). Regardless of the source, I've been playing with the Geth pulse rifle which is fairly accurate, doesn't have a lot of recoil, and at level 10 with the magazine size mod has a clip of 144 rounds which it can empty on full auto. The Revenant machine gun has a smaller capacity, but operates much the same. In the absence of those two weapons, the M-8 Avenger, the basic assault rifle which also fires on full auto, is a good choice.

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