just beat the Xbox 360 game Mass Effect last night. it's a third-person shooter / RPG that has this sci-fi epic story that centers around the human race being accepted by the galactic community. i've been playing it almost every day for the past few weeks. ended up clocking in at about 35 hours of gameplay.
overall the game was good. really good. the main story was well written and it had a pretty damn satisfying ending. however, they should have peppered the villain in a bit more... just seeing what's up from his perspective (behind the scenes sorta) would have been nice once in a while - as it was, in the way i played the game, i saw him at the start and then again at the end. that's it.
the game is broken up into main missions and side missions. you pretty much decide what main missions you tackle when, when you do the side missions, etc. story-wise, the way things were revealed, i think there's a better way to play through the main missions than i did, but oh well.
the leveling-up system is a little broke, though i was playing on normal (maybe it'd be tougher on hard). you're kinda underpowered at the start of the game, and then get pretty damn strong pretty fast. i stopped using the cover system in most encounters after the first 1/4 of the game.
same goes for money. kinda broke system. you're hurting for it at the start, then in the latter half of the game you rake it in to the point where i was maxed out at 9999999 for the last 1/4 of the game. oh, and you really don't need to buy that much if you keep decrypting crates and lockers when you find them.
the controls suck. first, let me preface this by saying there are secondary force-like powers called "biotics" that many of the characters have in the game. they're cool, but i hardly ever used them. the reason i never/rarely used biotics is because you need to pause the action by holding down the right bumper and bringing down a menu. well yeah, who wants to constantly do that?!? you have the option to map ONE of your biotic powers (out of approximately 8) to the right bumper, but that's it. on the other hand, you've got wasted face buttons. X brings out your gun, but so does the right/left trigger. B puts your gun away. all Y does is replenish your health. WHY AREN'T THESE MAPPED TO THE D-PAD?!? that would free up 3 freaking buttons to map biotic powers to!!! it's sad really, because i wanted to use the powers and just didn't because it was too much of a hassle (especially when shooting things kills them pretty easily anyway). oh, and what the HELL are grenades doing mapped to the back button??? NOBODY uses the back button! as a result i used maybe 15 grenades total in the game (and most of them came from a mission where i had to use them).
the dialogue system was not all it was promised to be. in previews for the game the development team had talked about this robust system where you could change the tide of a conversation with a look on your face and you never knew what response would lead to what reaction. however, in the game, 99.9% of the time the "good boy" answer is at the top, the neutral answer is in the middle, and the "bad boy" answer is at the bottom. oh, and there's no interrupting people or turning the conversation with a look. also, some dialogue branches were obvious where they were leading you (i won't say more than that). at any rate, they promised a lot and didn't deliver. that said, the dialogue was still good, and so were the voice actors.
side missions were fun at first but ended up becoming repetitive and rather boring. they followed a pretty typical pattern: 1) go to a rather-bland cookie-cutter planet, 2) explore and survey the planet, 3) defeat the bad guys on the planet. these bad guys were holed up in 1 of 4 standard base types. there were at least 15 side missions like this.
there were other minor frustrations with the story that i won't go into here... one of them involves what one of the main mysteries ends up being. it's... not what you think it is. and it's a lot less... epic... than i thought it would be. that's all i'll say. it was a bit of a letdown.
the ending, however, was epic. honestly, if more of the main missions had felt like the ending did... wow. the main missions, as they were, were good, but not great.
there was a TON of texture popping and framerate issues. these are all technical issues that lessened the experience and took me out of the game a few times. it's unfortunate that the game couldn't have went through a bit more polish before being released.
the soundtrack is amazing.
when/if i play again, i'll be a class that nets me a sniper rifle, i'll play it "bad boy" style, and try it out on the hard difficulty setting. i'll also take 2 different people in my party. as it was i kept the same 2 people in my party for the majority of the game.
it may sound like i hated the game, but really it had a lot going for it. i guess i just tend to focus on the negative more than the positive. mainly i was pulled into the world by the great story, backstory, and characters. it was a very cinematic game. it's a pretty great game that lived up to my rather high expectations. if they can correct even half the things i listed above for the inevitable sequel, i'll be extremely happy.
9.0 out of 10 (+/- .25)