Mass Effect 3 Preview


Written by Chris Price
09 Friday 09th March 2012

Today is the long awaited release of the concluding episode of the Mass Effect series. Protagonist Commander Shepard, service no. 5923-AC-2826 - the man tasked with saving all intelligent life in the milky way from an interstellar bunch of biomechanical Langoliers (or Therns if you’re feeling remotely topical – google it) known as the Reapers in Mass Effect 3. With a very definite full stop hanging over the series, it’s likely that 'Shep' (or 'Femshep' – gender assignment from the get-go has been present in the series since its debut) will need to make serious choices, with severance of allegiances, death, turmoil and betrayal on the menu.

Developers BioWare have chiselled the series from a bold catalogue of envelope-nudging narrative-led releases including expansive PC adventures Baldur’s Gate & Neverwinter Nights and (one of my personal favourites) the spectacular action-RPG Jade Empire on the Xbox. But its sci-fi cub scout badge was really earned by delivering one of the most respected Star Wars licensed video games of all time, the epic Knights of the Old Republic. From a franchise now famed for giving up the goods for a Marlboro Light and a swig of own-brand lager, produce a tie-in with any degree of integrity for a Star Wars fan and they’ll gladly take a bullet for you.

Both previous Mass Effect titles have received increasingly rapturous reception, supplying enough solid role-playing character evolution amongst an expansive and diverse outer-world expanse. Add to this the rattling chops of some hefty cover-based gunplay elements, and you’ve got enough to sedate two core camps of videogamers. Insulated in an interstellar opera bold enough to allow it to grind it’s space heels into the collective scrotums of big-screen opuses, and you’ve got the ingredients for a classic gameplay experience. But Mass Effect’s real stickiness has been from it’s measured and mature approach to elements rarely broached with any degree of integrity in the gaming medium – that of sex, sexuality and racial tension. Three things you’ll need to get right if you want to recruit an interstellar band of alien soldiers to help you stop the erasure of the known universe. How Mass Effect 3 sets about lashing all four of these elements into a seamless experience is something we’ll come to in our review on Monday.

But having shipped 3.5million copies to retailer worldwide to date, with a healthy 890,000 copies already sold in the States during the game's first 24 hours on sale, it’s looking like Mass Effect 3 will prove to be one of the biggest money spinners of 2012. It promises to be every inch the spectacular conclusion to the series that many videogame fans are hoping to see. But is this a sentimental fan-boy smokescreen? Will Mass Effect 3 really provide the emotionally wrenching final act that will turn grown men into babbling snotty babies, emptying the contents of their eyes onto living room floors across the country and running to Twitter for emotional solace? Read more on Monday when our in-depth hands-on goes live.

Mass Effect 3 is out NOW on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC

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