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Level Up! We Review Mass Effect 3

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Level Up! We Review Mass Effect 3

Why Mass Effect 3 is a game of the year Candidate

By Tim Janson     March 15, 2012

 

You’ve been waiting over a year and now Mass Effect 3 is here and we’ve got our comprehensive review this week. “Wow” wasn’t do the game justice! Not a lot of news this week but one interesting rumor that came out is that the next Xbox console may not include a disc drive. Personally I think that’s BS but it’s still interesting conversation.
 
IN THE NEWS THIS WEEK…
 
Konami’s month of horror begins with the launch of Silent Hill Downpour
 
Konami announced that players can continue to piece together the Silent Hill mystery with Silent Hill Downpour, the most expansive and horrifying Silent Hill to-date, available now in North America for PlayStation3 and Xbox 360.  Silent Hill Downpour expands on the exploration theme of the franchise both design-wise and through psychological torture, ambient story, horrific enemies and self-evaluative questions of despair.
 
Silent Hill Downpour follows the story of Murphy Pendleton, a convicted felon, who has been incarcerated for several years. Due to his history at Ryall State Prison, he is being transferred to nearby Wayside Maximum Security Penitentiary—but a freak accident cuts the journey short.  Waking up in a forest next to the wrecked bus, Murphy has a clear shot at freedom; unfortunately he makes his way into the sleepy town of Silent Hill where mysterious locals welcome him into a slowly developing personal hell.
 
Silent Hill Downpour offers an all new and updated Silent Hill experience that visually stands out from the current competition.  Utilizing Unreal 3 technology, the game brings the town of Silent Hill, its characters, creatures and the alternate hell world into vivid and spectacular display. The latest in the genre defining Survival Horror franchise offers free-roaming and deep exploration that will take players into all-new 'Side Quests' unlocking areas within the game, special items and bonus content.
 
SEGA's Yakuza: Dead Souls (PS3) Available This Week
 
Yakuza: Dead Souls will be hitting stores this week. The latest installment of the legendary Yakuza  series will be available exclusively on PlayStation 3 system.
 
Taking place in the well-known Kamurocho district, Dead Souls sees the return of the charismatic Yakuza hero Kazuma Kiryu, accompanied on his adventures by three other playable characters: Shun Akiyama, Ryuji Goda and Goro Majima. In Dead Souls, not only will Kazuma have to go deep into the underworld to rescue his kidnapped step-daughter, but now he will also have to face an army of zombies laying waste to his beloved Tokyo streets!
 
In addition to melee combat featuring punches, kicks and during fights, Yakuza: Dead Souls features gunplay for the first time in the Yakuza series where everything from pistols, machine guns and rocket launchers can be employed against your enemies. Just remember to save some ammo, in case you run into something far more terrifying than zombies! With all the depth, story and the plethora of mini-games of a Yakuza title, plus the addition of exciting shoot-outs and previously unplayable characters Ryuji Goda and Goro Majima, Yakuza: Dead Souls is definitely worth dying for.
 
The Time Has Come To Shoot Many Robots
 
Ubisoft announced that Shoot Many Robots , a 2.5D side-scrolling shooter game, is now available on Xbox LIVE  at a cost of 800 Microsoft Points and on PlayStation Network for $9.99.
 
Developed by Demiurge Studios and published by Ubisoft, Shoot Many Robots stars P. Walter Tugnut, a hillbilly who stockpiles guns, ammo and beer in his dilapidated RV, awaiting the inevitable robot apocalypse. When the abandoned factory in the distance begins producing robots on its own, Walter sets off in his RV on a robot-killing rampage, hoping to save humanity from an onslaught of robot hordes.
 
For those who don’t want to play alone, Shoot Many Robots features online four-player as well as two-player local co-op, which throws players into a tidal wave of degenerated robots with an array of weaponry that would make any shooter enthusiast proud. Plus, gamers can tailor their gaming style by equipping Walter with countless combinations of items.
 

 
 
No disc drive for the next Xbox console?
 
The latest rumors regarding the next Xbox console suggests Microsoft's will ship it without what a disc drive.  Partners of Microsoft's have been told the new system will make use of a solid-state card storage instead of the traditional disc-based media that has been the staple for many years now. This directly contrasts previous reports that Microsoft would abandon DVD in favor of Blu-ray and its superior storage capacity.
 
This rumor raises a number of issues. Without a disc drive your Xbox can no longer double as a DVD player. What about backwards compatibility with Xbox or Xbox 360 games?  Certainly if the games come on flash cards or SD cards there are some benefits such as faster loading times and less opportunity for damage to the unit since there would be no moving parts.  This is one we will keep an eye on.
 
 
DUE OUT NEXT WEEK
 
Kid Icarus: Uprising (Rated E) Nintendo 3DS
 
Medusa has been resurrected and is gathering the underworld forces of darkness to fulfill her ambition. You play as an angel named Pit who is bestowed the power of flight from Palutena, the Goddess of Light. Repel the Medusa's underworld army with your choice of an array of weapons like: Blades, Claws, Bow, Cannon, Mace, Staff and others that you will discover along your journey. Multiplayer mode allows for competitive gameplay locally or over a wireless Internet connection. Its time for Medusa to meet the power of light and only you can guide Pit to victory!
 

 
 
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (Capcom) Rated M  PS3, Xbox 360
 
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a hybrid Horror-Survival/squad-based Third-person shooter game set between the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. The game features mission-based gameplay as multiple playable characters from the Umbrella Security Service, each with special abilities. Additional features include: a wide array of enemies (zombie, human and other), four-player support in the campaign, and the ability to play as iconic Resident Evil characters in an online mode.
 
It is September 1998 and the action centers on the ill-fated Raccoon City . When the Umbrella Corporation learns that one of its top scientists, Dr. William Birkin, plans to sell the experimental G-Virus to the US Government they order an elite team of Umbrella Security Service (U.S.S.) soldiers led by Hunk into their secret research facility to secure the only known sample of the virus. The operation takes a turn for the worse when Dr. Birkin injects himself with the last vial, mutating into a deadly creature, G-Birkin and over powering the team. During the battle the deadly T-Virus is leaked into the sewers and spread through Raccoon City , infecting the entire population.
 
Hearing of the outbreak, the U.S.S. team is given fresh orders to destroy all evidence of Umbrella's involvement and silence anyone that might discover the truth. The Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service (U.B.C.S.) are also deployed to help contain the situation. Meanwhile the US Government has quarantined the city and dispatched its own team of special operatives to determine the source of the mysterious outbreak. Caught up in the chaos are rookie police officer Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield.
 
Ninja Gaiden 3 (Tecmo Koei) Rated M  PS3, Xbox 360
 
Ninja Gaiden 3 is an Action-Adventure game in which players take on the role of the iconic video game ninja, Ryu Hayabusa. The Ninja Gaiden game series has a long history stretching from the original 1980's arcade classic, all the way through more recent games developed for Next Generation consoles by the legendary Tecmo-Koei game development group, Team Ninja. Ninja Gaiden 3 embraces the evolution of the series by incorporating gameplay scenarios new to the franchise, such as a closer look at the backstory of Ryu Hayabusa, the blending of realistic and modern combat situations with classic ninja warrior skills, more accessible yet still challenging gameplay and franchise first multiplayer game options.
 
One of the most iconic characters in video game history is set to be unmasked to the world. Ryu Hayabusa's name and legacy resonates with video game players the world over, and yet, there is so much that the world does not know about the mysterious man behind the ninja mask. Ninja Gaiden 3 aims to take players on a journey with their hero Hayabusa once more, but this time they'll see more from their protagonist than they ever imagined. For the first time in the beloved series, players will get a look at the world through Hayabusa's torn eyes, and find out what drives him to fight, defend and kill.
 
At the center of the conflict this time around is a masked man whose motivations and goals are unclear. Over the course of the game, more is explained and unraveled which will keep players mesmerized. Through mysterious powers, which is seen through his arm, Hayabusa finds himself changing - and the lines between hero and villain, good and evil, are blurred forever.
 

 
 
Armored Core V (Namco Bandai) Rated T  PS3, Xbox 360
 
The ARMORED CORE series is renowned in the mech action genre for its intense one-on-one battles and customization options. ARMORED CORE V is a new entry that revolutionizes the series with more content than the previous games, a completely new atmosphere, and a robust offline mode. In addition, the online mode has been newly designed to focus on huge team-based battles on a global scale.
 
REVIEWS
 
Asura’s Wrath (Capcom) Rated T  PS3
 
Asura’s Wrath is an Anime and Asian mythology inspired action game that has a lot of promise but ultimately comes up a bit short as a must-own.  While not possessing a story that has much originality, Asura’s Wrath still manages to get you interested in its main character.  Asura is one of eight Heavenly guardians who is accused murdering the Emperor, after killing his wife and kidnapping his daughter Mithra, the other seven Guardian Generals toss Asura out of Heaven and down to Earth.  12,000 years later, Asura escapes from his prison to find that his former comrades, now dubbed "The Seven Deities", have been using Mithra's power to amplify their own. Asura has to take on the forces of the other Deities to save his daughter and gain his revenge.
 
Let me just start by saying I don’t know anyone who truly likes quick time events in game.  Some of us tolerate them, some don’t care for them, and a lot of gamers positively hate them.  If you’re a member of the latter than you might want to steer clear of Asura’s Wrath because there are a lot of them in here.  The combat system is literally built on a foundation of QTEs.  On the other hand…umm…wow Asura’s Wrath puts on about the biggest, loudest, most over-the-top show you’ve ever seen, and I mean WAY over the top!  Heavily inspired by some of the more outrageous Anime, you’ll see Asura hit bad guys so hard they’ll go flying into mountains and threaten to bring them crashing down or go flying off the surface of the planet.  There’s a sword that looks big enough to cleave the moon into two halves and someone’s trying to slice Asura with it.  Rarely have I seen a game this bombastic.
 
The gameplay is meant to feel like a TV-style presentation as you fight your way through 18 episodes which come with beginning and ending titles and credits.  Each one is a unique battle or test for Asura and range from all out beat-em-ups, to rail-shooters, to others that are truly sublime like the Hot Springs level.  That said Asura’s combat system is almost simplistic to the point of becoming monotonous.  Despite his heavenly powers Asura is little more than a button-masher.  Even the quick-time events rarely require little more than the push of a single button.  Thus despite the often well done level design the game cannot escape its repetitiveness.  On the plus side it’s probably a good choice for an entry level game for kids but for experience gamers it plays almost like an interactive cartoon than it does an actual game.
 
An obvious fondness for Anime films and Manga is on display throughout the game and the gorgeous scenery never fails to catch your eye but this wears off quickly and you find yourself wanting more to do.  For $60 there’s just not enough meat on the bones to this game to attract more than the casual gamer.  Grade C+
 

 
 
 
Mass Effect 3 (Electronic Arts) Rated M PS3, Xbox 360, PC
 
It’s a rare game that gets the kind of hype and build-up that Mass Effect 3 has received over the past year. It’s even more rare when a game actually lives up to the almost impossible expectations. Mass Effect 3 IS that Game! This is the conclusion to an epic, galaxy-spanning trilogy that manages to hit the ball out of the park despite all of the pressure. It is a game that promises to tax you on an emotional level unlike any game before it because the decisions you make, no matter how well-intended, lead to outcomes where you may find yourself forced to turn your back on longtime allies. And you would not want it any other way.
 
Everything in the first two games has led to this crucial moment…the moment our galaxy fully realizes the threat of The Reapers who appear every 50,000 years to destroy all organic life in the galaxy. Long thought mere myth, the Reapers are now attacking throughout the galaxy and indeed, the game opens with a Reaper attack on earth as its giant war machines land, destroying everything in their path while their hive-like husk creatures begin their assault on the human population. The heart-wrenching scope of ME3 hits you in the face right from the get go. While trying to escape the Reaper attack, the game’s returning hero and main character (you) Shepard encounters a young boy hiding in an airshaft. Before he can rescue him, however, the boy scuttles away. Later, Shepard is relieved to see the boy being escorted onto a rescue shuttle…only to watch in horror as it’s blasted out of the sky.  Mass Effect 3 is filled with many moments like this that immerse you into its storyline unlike any game before it. As with previous editions, the decisions you make throughout the game will ultimately effect how the story unfolds. Whether you play as a paragon and try to help out any citizens you encounter, from the guy just trying to get passage on a shuttle or go more rogue being all business (not to mention a bit of a jerk) and concentrating full on the war effort.
 
It’s truly almost impossible to lean completely one way or the other. Shepard is going to have to end up going to some nasty places and doing some nasty things if there is any hope to defeat the Reapers. He’ll have to leverage favors in order to get long-warring rival factions to drop their squabbles and turn their attentions toward the reapers. This involves getting down into the muck and allying with those whom Shepard would normally be an enemy with. Hopefully you’ve saved your game file from ME2 as you’ll find that decisions Shepard made in the previous game will play a role here. But even if you didn’t, don’t let that deter you. You’re in no way put in a weaker position by starting out with ME3 as your first ME experience. You just lose a bit of the background and depth of the story. 
 
The Galaxy has seemingly one hope…a device that the ancient Protheans were working on…a massive weapon dubbed “The Crucible” may be the only thing that can defeat the Reapers. But the weapon is mere blueprints and speculation. It will take a lot of time and resources to build and until then, the rest of the races in the Galaxy must do all then can to slow the Reapers down. As if that were not bad enough, you also have to contend with the shadowy Cerberus group and its leader “The Illusive Man” who have their own plans for the Prothean technology.
 
ME3 is a blend of Sci-Fi adventure, RPG, and shooter and, in fact, you can customize your game at the beginning or throughout. If you’re not into all of the dialog and decisions you can play it in Action Mode where conversations will have automatic replies and a normal combat difficulty. In Story Mode, conversations will have manual replies and a minimal combat difficulty. In RPG Mode, conversations will have manual replies and a normal combat difficulty. To truly experience the game as it is meant to be played, you need to play on RPG mode and of course the difficulty mode is also customizable. It does pay to walk around and explore everything and eavesdrop on conversations. These often lead to important and some not so important side missions. But in the end they will all gain you experience and credits in order to upgrade your characters and their weapons and abilities. But be careful, the more you scan in a system, the greater attention you draw to yourself and the reapers will soon come to investigate.
 
BioWare has done a magnificent job and listened to its fans about what they liked and didn’t like in ME2. Gone is the tedious process of having to scan planets and launch probes to mine minerals. This universally despised aspect of ME2 needless stretched a long campaign even longer. Scanning is still a part of the game but rather than scanning for elements, EDI (your ship’s AI) now scans to find artifacts or other items of interest which result in side missions and gathering assets for the war effort. Gathering assets for the war becomes one of the major points in ME3. Also gone is the systems hacking mini-games. These plentiful pains in the ass presented no challenge and again merely served to slow the game down. 
 
The combat system hasn’t been overhauled but it has been tweaked for the better. Shepard plays more fluidly, jumping, rolling, and sliding for cover and shooting around or over said cover. Your skill tree and ability wheel is basically the same. You can bring this up at any point during battle to use one of your powers or weapon/ammo types, or have one of your squad use one of theirs although they will also use these on their own. The enemy AI is better than ever. They are more inclined to grab cover or try to attack you from a flank or higher position. They also move more quickly requiring more skill on your part to aim. In short, the battles have a much more tactical edge than they did in ME2 and you’ll want to plan more carefully whom you select you’re your missions, where to position them during battles, and what strategies to employ. In addition to the weapons of ME2 there are a trove of new and powerful new weapons added to ME3
 
Besides Shepard you’re reunited with several old friends including Liara, Miranda Lawson, Ashley Williams, Garrus, Grunt, Mordin Solus, Jeff “Joker” Moreau, Kasumi, etc…although its important to note that if you are starting ME3 with an ME2 save, most of these characters only appear if they survived the events of the previous game. One important new character is EDI who manufactures an artificial body for herself and can now join Shepard on missions.
 
Mass Effect 3 is a dazzling game. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a game whose visuals were this clear. The resolution of the gardens on Citadel are simply astounding! The detail on the various alien races makes them appear even more lifelike. There are some minor glitches. There’s the occasional stutter and momentary freeze, sometimes the voice synching is off just a tad but nothing that in anyway effects the enjoyment of the game. The voice acting is superb and features the talents of Keith David, Lance Henricksen, Martin Sheen, among others. Gameplay can easily take 40 – 50 hours to complete if you do all the side missions and longer depending on your difficulty level. 
 
Mass Effect 3 is not a perfect game but it’s quite likely as close as you can possibly get. Its taut, many-layered storyline, fantastic characters, great gameplay, and long campaign make this a certain candidate for game of the year honors. Grade A           
 

 
 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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dastallion51 3/16/2012 6:40:59 AM

Mass Effect 3 was great and deserves that A...the only fault i have with it is the Conclusion to that amazing climax. Its so exciting but then you'll say 'is that it, like forreal thats how it ends' there's got to be more (AND EA BETTER DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT). Plus the ending was kinda stupid. BUT until you get to that point the game delivers on all scales loved it even with the dumb ending.

goldeneyez 3/16/2012 8:13:57 AM

So, actually there is something HUGE going on in gaming this week.  There is a Massive (pun intended) movement by fans of the Mass Effect Series protesting the ending.

There was already an uproar about Day 1 DLC which included a character many thought should have been part of the main game given his significance.  The ending really upset seems to have upset a large portion of the fanbase.  In essence, Mass Effect when you boil it down is like the choose your own adventure books of the past.  The choices you make with Sheppard had consequences that carried throughout the entire series.  What seems to be the driving force behind the anger of fans has to do with the lack of choice the ending provided.  Without giving spoilers away, basically no matter what choices you've made all of the endings are pretty much the same, with the main difference being different colored explosions (red, green, or blue).  This anger was stoked because in much of the press leading up to the games release the developers where promising that there would be a myriad of different endings that were effected by the choice you made with your character.

There has been a lot of griping on the BioWare message boards.  There have been numerous polls there, with the most notable one to date where about 90% of 40,000 people who voted were unhappy with the ending and about 5% where happy with ending.  This has lead to a movement by some of the upset fans to ask BioWare to rewrite the ending.  There is a precident for this with most people citing Bethesda's response to fan outrage at the ending of Fallout 3 by releasing Broken Steel as DLC which seemed to have addressed many of the concerns of upset fans.

There have been articles in Forbes online supporting the fans and articles from other major gaming sites both in support of the fans and others in defense of BioWare which state that BioWare has the right to end their games however they see fit.

The most interesting item that seems to have come out of this all is the "Retake Mass Effect" movement.  Basically, some of the upset fans have tied an online petition with a drive to raise money for Child's Play, an organization that donates video games to sick children in hospitals.  So far that movement since it started on March 13th has raised over $53,000.

goldeneyez 3/16/2012 8:19:07 AM

Actually, I would like to add that I concur with dastallion51.  ME3 was amazing until about the last 15 minutes.  The ending IMO was horrible, that said there are some theories about what the ending really meant.  I've played one character so far with the different ending choices and I think some of the theories may be correct.  The bad part, however, is that if the theories are correct, it would seem that BioWare/EA didn't ship a complete game and that their intent may have been for people to have to buy the "real" ending as DLC.  This would seem to set a pretty bad precident as far the developers starting to nickle and dime their customers.  Kind of like if you paid to see a blockbuster movie and at the end you were told you would have to pay and additional $10 to see the last half hour.

Redshirt1 3/17/2012 5:01:09 AM

I am going throught the playthrough now and I am so freeking worried about the ending its driving me nuts.  So many people have commented that the the game is so amazing right until the end and then it drops.  Don't get me wrong I don't expect an ultimate happy ending.  This is war, the final battle and losses should be expected.  However like in Mass Effect 2 (which was promised as a suicide mission in which everyone could die, including Sheppard if you didn't complete certain objectives) I expected to be able to have a "happy ending" with my Sheppard riding off into the universe and having little blue babies with Liara and many of the core group of characters left alive at the end and of the story.  I have been avoiding any spoilers like the plague, but in vague terms it seems as if this is not possible.  Like Fallout the ending, frm what I've heard does not make since.  Especially since Bioware has been saying that Mass Effect 3 would have the most amount of choice of the entire series.  Anyway, I guess I'll have to wait till I get there. If there is a DLC ending rewrite coming out maybe it will be ready by the time I am I get to the ending and not have to worry about it.

ddiaz28 3/17/2012 7:29:14 AM

I'm glad it takes me a long time to get through these games.  I too am worried about all the "bed ending" talk since this is my favorite game series ever.  I don't want to play an amazing game and sereis and end it on downer.  Hopefully by the time I finish the game this problem will be resolved.  

This isn't just a problem with game series.  So many books and book series are amazing but fall flat when it comes to a satiisfying ending.  The ones that most recenltly come to mind are the Hunger Games, Eragon, Earth's Children, Under the Dome.  They are all amazing stories but the endings felt lacking to me.  Then again I'm sure some people found them perfect. 

Here's hoping that Bioware listens to the fans and has a solution to appease the masses.

On a totally unrelated note, I met Tara Perry aka Movie Maven last night.  I asked her about MM and she said she misses it and hopes to do it again.  Here's hoping.  Those were fun segments to watch.

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