This game was one of the most hyped and anticipated games of 2007, it was promoted as a game where a wide open setting and an emotional roller coaster of a story were the main driving force . It came damn close to accomplishing both. From the moment you start the game you will be in awe of the graphics and the amount of interaction that takes place. Characters are beautifully modeled and the graphics rival that of any other game out there. Then again it is to be expected of a game that is running on the unreal3 engine. The audio in the game is exemplary, especially the voice acting. The audio complements the graphics very well as characters give very good performances and the weapon effects are good too. The opening cut scene puts the basic story in place and the developers take an unique approach when you "make" your character that is very refreshing.
The first mission is considered to be a tutorial of sorts but you can immediately see that Bioware put in considerable time and effort into the story. By the end of the first mission the game will have you saying "hell no he did not do that/" This in itself is a feat that has only been accomplished by few games; games in which the first level sets the bar for the rest of the game. Mass effect for the most part meets and or exceeds the bar that was set. My only complaint about the story was that if you have seen the trailers and the ad's they give away some key plot elements. Still though its fun to be playing the game and get to a certain point and remember the ad and go "This is going to happen now".
Just like every other RPG, ME also has a number of side quests, although the number of side quests might not exactly be mind boggling, they all for the most part have different plots and lots of different characters to interact and kill. Also, bioware has gone ahead and included unchartered worlds for you to explore. However, this is where things start to break down, most of the side quests take place on these uncharted worlds and most of the building and the caves you will fight in are the same models. In fact I think they only have about 4 kinds of building and caves. Over a period of time this gets incredibly annoying. Also, unlike the main plot which keeps you guessing and wanting more, the side quests dont really get you involved. The main reason for doing these side quests comes down to credits and leveling up, both of which can easily be achieved. This brings me to my next point; you will accumulate a lot of money by the end of the game and you will frankly not have much to spend on. Most of the weapons and ammo are already available from fallen enemies. This transitions to one of the worst aspects of mass effect, that is the inventory system. You automatically pick up weapons/ammo/grenades/mods from fallen enemies and there is no clear way of managing them. They are just clumped together in your inventory menu and if you reach 150 items you will be forced to convert the excess into omnigel, while this doesn't seem bad consider that you do not get to chose what you convert to omni gel. Everything you pick up must be converted before you can move on and they cannot be dropped either. It seems like bioware really did not think this through.
Another problem is while the graphics are breathtaking to say the least, you will clearly see a lot of little quirks. Some times if you walk into an area you can see that the textures take a little while to load. However, this really isn't much of an issue and you will hardly notice it. Another problem is that the MAKO driving part isn't really that fun as I had helluva time controlling it. However, this is a personal opinion and must be taken with a grain of salt as you might like it.
The game isn't exactly long considering other games(oblivion), clocking in at a little over 20 hours but it does offer lots of replayability. Also, the game offers up a tremendous amount of "knowledge"; knowledge in the sense that there are detailed manuals explaining every species and every technology(this info is in the codecs). So, Bioware has really tried to make this universe as believable as possible. With the upcoming downloadable content ME is going to offer up even more excitement. Overall it is a very solid game that will keep you entertained for hours.