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Anthony Capone
19 Nov, 2007

Mass Effect Preview

360 Preview | One massive game.
Mass Effect marks Canadian developer BioWare's next foray into the role-playing genre. We were recently able to get some hands-on time with the RPG-action game, due to be released next week exclusively on the Xbox 360. Thankfully, Mass Effect adheres to BioWare's tradition of creating fantastic role-playing games, as it combines the developer's trademark storytelling with solid gameplay and dazzling graphics.

The events of Mass Effect occur sometime in the future following humanity's discovery of ancient alien technology, technology which has enabled faster-then-light travel throughout the galaxy. Players embody the character of Commander Shepard, an elite intergalactic peacekeeper. BioWare has previously referred to Shepard as being 'Jack Bauer in space', and indeed, this representation is fairly accurate – players must do everything in their power to ensure the peace and stability of the greater universe, whether it be above-board or not.

Mass Effect allows players to customise the personal background of their Shepard as well as his or her facial appearance. The facial creation process is extremely detailed, and you could well spend hours creating the perfect character as there are a plethora of options to choose from for every imaginable feature, such as eyes, skin tone and hair style. Players are also given the opportunity to select from one of six character classes, each of which grants specific powers and attributes. For example, players who choose to play as the soldier class are able to invest points into each of the four Mass Effect weapons types. However, if players select to play as the engineer, points will only be able to be put into the pistol weapons talent as well as numerous other technical abilities, such as Decryption and Hacking.

Saren – alien and all-round bad guy.

Saren – alien and all-round bad guy.
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Once players have created their Shepard, they will be thrust into engrossing science fiction story. A rebel alien soldier named Saren is out creating havoc in the galaxy, and it is you job to stop him. Shepard operates from a spaceship known as the Normandy – a sleek and stealthy vessel that transports your character across the universe. Over the course of the game, players will be joined by numerous human and alien NPCs that also accompany Shepard on ground-based assignments. Combat in Mass Effect occurs in real time, although the game may be paused at any time by pulling the right bumper, which brings up a menu with your squad's abilities. While paused, players can line up powers to be fired off against enemy combatants.

Indeed, Mass Effect's controls are very simple and robust. If you choose to use weapons rather then technical or biotic powers (force-like abilities that, for example, allow enemies to be lifted off the ground) when in combat, the game will control like a conventional third-person shooter, although there is an option for targeting assistance for those less versed in the shooter genre. Squad members can be told to take cover, fall in or move to a particular location by using the D-pad. You can also enter cover be pressing against a flat surface. The cover mechanic is a little more sensitive then in games such us Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and will likely take a few goes to get used too.

Conversations in Mass Effect play out similarly to Knights of the Old Republic, except this time a radial menu is used to select the various responses. Depending on choices that are made in the game, players will be able to accumulate both Paragon points – the righteous option – and Renegade points – the ruthless option – at the same time. Shepard's cumulative Paragon and Renegade meters will affect the game's ending, of which several are promised.

During conversations, responses are selected from a radial menu.

During conversations, responses are selected from a radial menu.
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Mass Effect is built on Epic's Unreal Engine, and from what we have seen so far, the graphics are looking quite detailed and polished. Characters models and animation are all top-notch, and lip-syncing is fairly accurate. The vary array of environments in the game all look very real, and the different types of skies are astonishing. From the time that we have spent with the game so far, we have found the frame-rate will sometimes drop, but thankfully not during any of the combat situations. There are also some issues with the AA, but for the most of the time the jagged edges are not really noticeable.

Mass Effect is promising around 20 hours of gameplay alone to complete the main quest, with another 10 to 20 hours to complete sidequests. BioWare is also promising post-release downloadable content on Xbox Live, although at this stage it is unknown what form it will take.

Overall, we were very impressed by Mass Effect. The story appears to incredibly immersing, and with all the different subplots, character classes and endings, this game is shaping up to be a very solid investment. With top-notch graphics and a classic sci-fi soundtrack, BioWare's upcoming title is sure to be one of the jewels in the Xbox 360's crown. Look out for Mass Effect when it is officially released this Thursday, and PALGN's review soon after.
Overall:
BioWare adheres to their reputation by once again delivering a rock-solid role-playing game. With an original sci-fi story, excellent graphics and satisfying combat, Mass Effect is looking to be one of the most outstanding games of 2007.

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16 Comments
6 years ago
Could this potentially be another perfect 10 for palgn?
6 years ago
^ I doubt it, to be honest - there are too many issues in the game for it to warrant a 10 IMO. That said, it is one of the few games in recent history that has hooked me strongly enough that I find myself looking past the flaws and playing into the wee hours.

Which begs the question - Why oh why am I at work when there is Mass Effect to be played?!
6 years ago
Quote
Mass Effect is promising around 20 hours of gameplay alone to complete the main quest, with another 10 to 20 hours to complete sidequests.
i get the feeling that's actually an under-estimation of play-length for a change, especially on the side-quests front.
i'm "only" 14 hours into my campaign, and i'd say 10 hours of that has been doing sidequests and exploring galaxies/planets.

i agree with Karai about probably not getting an overall 10. there are definitely elements that will get 10s (sound, lifespan) but i think there are a few fairly inexcusable graphics-glitches and frame-rate issues that will hold back the graphics-score (though the animations should bring it back up again - seriously watch the way Shepard's posture changes depending on the terrain he/she is traversing - it's subtle, but fantastic), and the controls are a little fiddly at times.

i also think it's funny that although the Australian street-date has been officially blown, the review embargo is still in place until the 20th.
6 years ago
ObsoletE wrote
seriously watch the way Shepard's posture changes depending on the terrain he/she is traversing - it's subtle, but fantastic)
Yes! It isn't much, but I was so impressed when I saw the way Shepard would change from a 'run' to a more appropriate posture while moving up stairs. I wasn't 100% sure at first, because it is a subtle change, but yeah - its there and I love it.
6 years ago
ObsoletE wrote
i also think it's funny that although the Australian street-date has been officially blown, the review embargo is still in place until the 20th.
Unless things have changed since yesterday, it seems that not everywhere's willing to sell early. I went through JB, EB Games at Highpoint, and Big W, and nary a Mass Effect to be found, unfortunately.

Very unfortunately, actually, as I was really hoping to start playing it last night ...
6 years ago
[quote="ObsoletE"]
Quote
i also think it's funny that although the Australian street-date has been officially blown, the review embargo is still in place until the 20th.
Yeah - what's with the 'Update' on the news item too - re: Microsof telling EB not to sell till the 22nd? I didn't have any problems picking up ME on Friday....

I'ts ridiculous really - if it's in stock - sell it!! What the hell difference does it make?

Anyway, I love every minute I've spent with ME so far (around 20hrs)...
6 years ago
I love how the characters sometimes fidget in their seat when telling the others something, like sitting on their hands for instance. It is such a small thing to add but has made the characters so much more reall. Body language in a game, how cool.
6 years ago
Evan wrote
Unless things have changed since yesterday, it seems that not everywhere's willing to sell early. I went through JB, EB Games at Highpoint, and Big W, and nary a Mass Effect to be found, unfortunately.

Very unfortunately, actually, as I was really hoping to start playing it last night ...
It's sold out. I went into EB today (to get $20 credit as I priced match with JB...which he did happily to my relief) and he said they sold out completely. I dare say it's the case all over the country.

EDIT - I read a scan of a review a week ago. It said it took him around 40 hours on the first play and he did a lot of the side quests. 60 hours if you did EVERYTHING. I think if you skipped dialogue and didn't aborb the game you could finish it in 15-20 hours. I don't see the point of playing games if you do that though.
6 years ago
Quote
Unless things have changed since yesterday, it seems that not everywhere's willing to sell early. I went through JB, EB Games at Highpoint, and Big W, and nary a Mass Effect to be found, unfortunately.
JB bourke street are still flogging it
6 years ago
Damn. I wish I could get there easily.
6 years ago
Fetidchimp wrote
Quote
Unless things have changed since yesterday, it seems that not everywhere's willing to sell early. I went through JB, EB Games at Highpoint, and Big W, and nary a Mass Effect to be found, unfortunately.
JB bourke street are still flogging it
Wow. A friend and I went to the EB and JB on Elizabeth St on the weekend to get his copy to no avail, then gave up. Total bad luck.
6 years ago
^
that sucks, but yeah it was still on the shelf at JB as of 1:30 pm today.

The funny thing for me is people on my friends list have either never heard of it, or aren't interested, which i found odd.
6 years ago
Fetidchimp wrote
or aren't interested, which i found odd.
some people simply don't like RPGs.
it's just like people not liking racing sims, or RTS games.

not even it's apparent blockbuster/killer app status is a guarantee either, there would even be people to whom Halo 3 would hold no appeal.
6 years ago
I soooo wish this was on PS3, it looks and sounds like one of the best games, I'm just amazed about it's length lol...
6 years ago
I was just in Canberra today and I picked up a copy. I didnt look in Melbourne, but In Canberra both EB had heaps of copies and the JB hi right next to it. JB even gave me the bonus pre order disc. Its the one in civic if anyone is interested !
6 years ago
Such an understatement of length. Between arriving at the Citadel, and doing the first story mission post-Citadel, I clocked up 19 hours just doing side quests. I did every single one. This game is LONG!
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Australian Release Date:
  22/11/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  Action RPG
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  1

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