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Mass Effect 3 is an unfitting finale for an outstanding franchise (review)

WHAT YOU WON’T LIKE

Technical issues & cut corners
I may have praised Mass Effect 3’s visuals in the previous section, but it’s not all rainbows and space hamsters in Unreal Engine land. For some reason, BioWare is atrociously bad at rendering humans. Throughout the entire series, human characters have shared more in common with creepy animatronic mascots from Chuck E Cheese than actual humans, and that remains true in Mass Effect 3. Even Diana Allers, who was modeled after the beautiful Jessica Chobot, looks like a run-down caricature of herself.

And BioWare’s failed quest to needlessly “sexify” Mass Effect is perfectly personified by the revised Ashley Williams, who now looks like Michael Jackson with eyeliner. Bioware embraced nuance in the sensual nature of the asari culture, but sadly devolved to simple parlor tricks when it came to individual human females.

But that’s all just bad design. From a technical standpoint, Mass Effect 3 also manages to be the most haphazardly constructed of all three games. The wonky eyes are back with a vengeance, and they’ve brought friends. During cutscenes (of which there are countless, obviously) you’ll quickly be introduced to berserk hand and arm animations, poor lip-synching, and there were more than a few times where the camera would be aimed at absolutely nothing while a character was speaking.

“This rote survival mechanic has bled into the single-player campaign, and rears its ugly, lazy head far too many times for comfort.”

I also experienced severe freezing during my playthrough, and again on a second console. At a handful of points throughout the game (generally during combat), the game froze upwards of 30 seconds. This happens very rarely (especially nowadays) in some games due to Achievement checks in the code, but that didn’t seem to be the case with Mass Effect 3. I’m not sure why it happened, but it was annoying nonetheless.

Lastly, while a great amount of attention has been given to the game, there are some very obvious cut corners. The reveal of Tali’s face, for example, is one of the most anticipated moments in the entire series, and BioWare’s execution of it boiled down to a poorly Photoshopped stock picture from Getty Images.

Likewise, even years after the events of Mass Effect 2, most characters are still wearing the same exact outfit as before. I understand that Miranda might literally be stuck in that skin-tight catsuit, but what about all of the ex-Cerberus operatives still wearing their Cerberus-branded gear? I can’t get into it much more without spoiling something, but considering active squad members have several unique outfit choices now, would it have been too much to ask for a wardrobe update on other key characters?

Bland, greedy multiplayer
Mass Effect 3’s tacked-on multiplayer revolves around up to four players surviving 11 waves of enemies on one of several different maps. To be blunt, it’s Horde Lite.

While it does provide basic levels of entertainment when playing with friends, it’s about as much of an afterthought as humanly possible. BioWare attempted to supplement the repetitive gameplay with a trading card-esque unlock system, where purchasing reinforcement packs with in-game Credits or real-world money will provide the player with randomized weapons, characters, and items. However, as our case study shows, the rate-of-return is potentially so utterly low that it’s not worth the effort. We can’t help but feel like the required Credits were purposely amped up in the hopes that players would instead pay for them using Microsoft Points, as there is no alternative way to unlock anything in multiplayer.

Worse yet, this rote survival mechanic has bled into the single-player campaign, and rears its ugly, lazy head far too many times for comfort. Whenever you approach an objective, there’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll need to assign one squad member to interact with it while you and the other hold off waves of attacking enemies. You’ll even visit each of the multiplayer maps during the story, so BioWare really wanted to get their money’s worth out of these assets.

Joker

DLC
I wasn’t particularly fond of the DLC practices in Mass Effect 2. I played through the game nonstop upon release, only to have BioWare trickle out new characters and new story missions over the next year. It’s a bit pointless to go back and play this content after you’ve already concluded your entire playthrough, and in the case of Liara and Lair of the Shadow Broker, the paid downloadable content seemed like it belonged in the original retail experience.

Mass Effect 3’s day one DLC has seen no small amount of controversy and lashback from the fans. Now that the game is out, is it vital to the main game? Absolutely. While the DLC’s gameplay was clearly rushed out with “B team” quality, the story elements provide much-needed insight into the backbone of the Reapers and the underlying mythos that BioWare has been building up for the past five years. Not just in the games, but in comics, apps, novels–From Ashes gives the answers everyone has been waiting for, and without the DLC, there’s a gaping hole left in the Mass Effect lore.

With so few playable characters available in Mass Effect 3, it’s an absolute insult to restrict one for DLC, let alone what is arguably the most interesting new character in the entire lineup.

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