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Mass Effect (Xbox 360)

Mass Effect is the sci-fi action RPG epic from Canadian developer Bioware who has produced games such as Star War: KOTOR, Baldur's Gate, and Neverwinter Nights amongst others in the past.

Mass Effect pits you as an elite human soldier named Commander Shepard. You, along with a squad of other specialists, some human and some alien, seek out a rebel soldier who has discovered the key to a powerful ancient technology capable of destroying civilizations. The story starts out as a simple cat and mouse story, but as you continue on your journey, it evolves into something much larger - a political ballad filled treason and corruption.

What makes this game so engaging is the captivating storyline, but more importantly, your interaction within the story. There are several points during the game where you will have to make life or death decisions in regards to some of the game's supporting characters and even your own band of infantry. Some of your decisions also affect your character's morality; if you make "good" decisions, you get points towards your paragon status, while conversely, if you make "evil" decisions or if you're trying to be a dick, then you get points towards your renegade status. I opted to be more of a dick in my campaign, and so my renegade points were pretty high. Just another fun aspect of the game.

The gameplay itself for the most part takes on the form of a standard shooter. Depending on what character archetype you choose, your character would specialize in either weaponry, techs (or electronics), and/or biotics (ie. spells). For my campaign, I chose the infiltrator class, moreso known as the sniper in leyman's terms. Whichever class you end up choosing, you're armed with 4 weapons (pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, sniper rifle) and an array of biotic and/or tech abilities. In addition, two characters from your squad join by your side as you go through the missions.

Alongside all the shoot'em up action are RPG elements. Basically you gain experience points as you complete quests and kill baddies which helps you gain levels. After each level you're given skill points to assign and customize what your character's more specific specialities are.

The mission system I'd say is akin somewhat to Grand Theft Auto's system where you can continue with the main plot in the story or pick up optional missions to get a fuller feel of the storyline and the atmosphere while reaping up bonuses in cash and loot. My only peeve with the optional missions is that they are not exactly creative. When taking on such a mission, the goal will variate between an assassination, delivery, or exploration... not a wide variation. However, the story involved amongst them is still interesting and adds much to the Mass Effect mythos.

The game took me about 20 hours to play through and I can't wait to go through it again. It is definitely fun traversing across the universe, visiting different galaxies, and exploring new planets. Some of the cities are so large that it is quite easy to miss optional quests, which in the end demands another play through just to pick these up.

The voice work is pretty amazing which garnered much attention and rave reviews when the game first came out. Some of the special geek guest celebrities that were involved had me excited ie. Seth Green, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, etc.

Anyhow, if you're a sci-fi nerd, definitely check out this game, I'm sure you can find it in a bargain bin for $25, and it's well worth the money. Later geeks!

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