padrino's Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360) review

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Dude where is my ... Something.

After completing the the game, I felt that as a whole, this game is just about as good as ME2 (except for the miserable ending). That being said, the bulk of this review is spent highlighting a number of negative points. I did not include most of the good stuff because most of the other reviews have already done that very effectively. Even though ME3 is really good game experience, that you can't find elsewhere, I am critical of ME2 and ME3 because these games set a new bar in the quality of story driven games. And, as such, they get graded on a different curve.

I know I am going to get a lot of flack here but I have to say, this third installment is just a bit flat. Its missing something. Its just missing the character interaction pieces that make ME1 and ME2 great. The old characters they brought back seem to continue the coda from ME2 with nothing new to bring to the table and the new playable characters are about as flat and dull as you are going to see in the series.

Keep in mind, I still think ME1 is the best in the series because ME2 became more of an action game. But if you are a fan of ME2 (and I was) you will be immediately familiar with the structure of ME3. In fact, its a bit too familiar, a bit too much of the exact same structures and story patters of ME2 but with less compelling and fresh ideas. And what was left of RPG questing from ME2 is now all but a faint memory. You almost never interact with NPCs and when you do, you don't get to chose any dialog. For example, when you walk around the Citadel, which is pretty much the only place you can explore, you will see NPCs in conversation and highlighted for you to interact. When you do, most often you just get a pop-up telling you that you did something to impact the dialog but you never had any dialog. In previous Mass Effect titles, these would often lead to "side quests" of a sort. They were not that great but at least they gave you some sense of exploration. That sense of exploration is also missing here.

What is left is a story driven action game. The makers of this series have boiled the game down to its essential elements. The best parts of ME3 are the action set pieces, good combat, decent weapons, and even a bit of squad control. And this is why its still a good game. But its not an epic game because its just going through the motions in terms of story and characters. And the music in the game is too dark and sparse. I am a huge fan of Clint Mansel and I like the somber piano pieces played in the more introspective cut scenes but during the rest of the game, I just felt like a lot of the sound design was out to lunch. There was parts of the game there were just too quiet and the dialog seemed flat and stunted a bit too often.

While, I have wrote a lot of negative thoughts, ME3 is still a good game worth playing and if you liked ME2, the action and combat of ME3 is sure to please. And Bioware certainly know how to put together a good, story driven action game. I also like that there were a few more guns and upgrades to chose from. They also dropped the mini games since they could never seem to make those all that much fun. I have heard it said that the developers were able to get this game done faster than ME2 because it was the last chapter and therefore there would be no character story arcs left undecided. They also thought they could have released the game in 2011. I think this may be the key part that is missing from ME3. Its the part where the characters had interesting story arcs. These missing pieces are what left me feeling that this third installment was lacking in comparison to the first two chapters.

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