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I will avoid two extremes here. The one are the metacritic failures who gave it an average of 3/10, mainly because they were butthurt over the DLC. Taking this kind of approach absolves truly bad games. When one that deserves a 3/10 comes out, they can say "well look at what they rated ME3 as."
Yet we should also avoid the "establishment" reviews, which basically said the only thing better than ME3 was a one night committment free romp with Kate Upton, and only then just barely. What's funny is if you actually read the reviews, you wonder how they gave a 9.5. IGN slammed the ending and the journal system for example. When a game is 9.5, you shouldn't have these sorta things. These numbers are just given so the companies that pay their bills can slap "9.5!!!!lol!!!!" on their youtube videos promoting the game.
That said, let me attempt to give my review. For purposes, I played a Male Shep soldier that went the paragon route through the first two games. (Trying a rengade femshep next.)
They aren't bad. I actually kinda like the dark motif a lot of things have. But sometimes, they overdo it. Even with the "brightness" setting all the way up, and out during a sunny map, things are still dark. I think this was a way to mask the fact that the graphics haven't really improved from ME2. Sure, the faces are more detailed, but that's really about it. They aren't bad graphics. Sometimes the level skins are quite beautifully done. You feel like you are at war based on the graphical layouts. Haven't used a DX11 card (one will be arriving soon), but on DX10, still had absolutely no hiccups and the details turned up, and they weren't that inspiring.
Gameplay - Combat: 8/10
The combat is a bit more refined from ME2. If you didn't like the position ME2 took in regards to combat over ME1, you won't like this. I try to judge it on its merits. The squad is a bit more independent at times, which is nice for the lower levels, but on hardcore/insanity, their independence in seeking out targets and approaches to targets can really be a liability. The micomanagement factor on insanity is higher than ever. Make of that what you will. The inclusion of upgrades for weapons being installed (with varying upgrades) is a welcome return. Even changes the look of the gun in all the cutscenes and combat. Lot more weapons available as well. The actual combat is fluid. You are really fighting in an entire area, not just a flat zone. It isn't Gears of War. It never will be. Those who want that kind of 3rd person shooter combat are going to be disappointed.
Gameplay - Characters: 6/10
What made ME2 work so well was the compelling narrative of several characters. Mordin wasn't just funny, but his character presented a fascinating take on ethics and war. At least with your Normandy crewmates, that depth isn't there this time around.
Ashley ditched her racism and replaced it with a boob job and botox. I honestly found Ash a compelling character in ME1, and her character is compelling enough in ME3. Bioware should feel dirty the way they designed her. Had ash fought in stilettos, nobody would've noticed a difference. She really is that whored out. In a scene in the hospital where she is a patient, she wears a skin tight shirt (obviously without a bra) her breasts bulging out of the shirt, and it only covers half her stomach. Hospital patients don't dress like this.
Even more a disappointment is the war reporter. IGN's Jessica Chobot plays Diana. Now the idea of having a war correspondent on the Normandy doing a "reality" style show during the heat of war could've been open with possibilities. Interview the crew about Shepherd's actions. Catch a breakdown in relations onboard the Normandy live in living color. Instead, she sits in her room as eye candy, delivering every line in the most deadpan way possible. Miss Chobot stated that she now realizes how hard voice actors work. I say, no, you really don't, because you sucked. The only reason people have Diana on the ship is to stare at her boobs (in a lowcut top of course!). Which actually, come to think of it, is probably why a lot of people pay attention to Miss Chobot to begin with.
And we won't even get started on the idea that the way to make EDI a compelling character was to put her in the sluttiest fashion possible.
What redeems the characters are the return of Tali on the main squad (Tali being plastered is absolutely hillarious), and the return of temporary allies like Mordin Solus, Wrex, Thane, etc. (If they survived previous games.) When you see them, you realize how lacking the current crop is. Freddie Prinze Jr. doesn't do a bad job as James. He just wasn't given too much to work wtih, and he was given the most hillarious caricature of an appearance. Perhaps bioware could've done better modeling James not just as the newcomer to the series, but parody the utterly stupid GOW style approach to character design. Would've been a great in-joke to explore. Sadly, the best character once again is the "bad guy" in Martin Sheen's "Illusive Man." Just like in ME2, Sheen shows himself a god amongst insects with the other voice actors.
Gameplay - Story: 6/10
Before the final 30 minutes of the game, this score would've been a 9. The narrative surrounding the geth was masterfully done. As was tying up loose ends around the genophage. The side quests added some force to the narrative as well. And then the ending happened, and how it arrives. Make no mistake, losing 3 points simply off the final 30 minutes is justified.
First, it is how you arrive at the end. You acquire war assets, and that gives you the kind of ending. Now while Bioware claims "you don't need to play multiplayer to get the best ending", it is true, to a point. Many of the side quests have invisible timers, and you have absolutely no idea you've failed them, thanks to the abomination that is their quest journal. I'm okay with time sensitive quests. I'm not okay with no indication it is time sensitive, and no way to tell when that has passed. If you miss only one or two of these side quests, congrats, it becomes impossible to get the "best" ending playing just singleplayer. For those who have access to it, use the cheathappens trainer right before the final mission. That will boost your assets up more than enough.
Then there's the actual ending. Bioware stated they would not include a "Reaper off" switch in their ending. Their entire ending is one big gigantic "Reaper off" switch. At the very last moment, they pull out a deus ex machina to explain it all, a literal god of the machine. The way it is explained leaves a collective disgust. Then after the ending, you get the credits. It turns out that "The Shephard" is the equivalent of various creation myths throughout cultures. Their is no closure. Basically, all the time you invested in your Shepard? He's really just a myth a grandpa tells to his grandson to entertain him. I don't like DLC being major, but in this case, Bioware needs DLC to offer a better ending. If they had any sense of justice, it would be free. But at least offer something to replace this abomination.
Finally, stop relying so much on quick time events and artificial constructs to add emotion to the story. If you need to slow Shepard's dream sequences down to add tension, perhaps you should've never included them to begin with. Same with the "ending." It involves you limping along, going through about 15 minutes of dialogue, and then limping to your choice. This didn't make it feel epic. It just pissed me off.
Sound: 10/10. The guns sound great. The voices sound great. The music is amazing. I complained about the faults a lot, and I won't say much about the music/sound of this game. I'll just say: it doesn't get any better than this unless you personally hire John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra.
Replay Value: 10/10. There really are infinite variables as to how your Shepard has progressed over 3 games, and for all the different endings, the multiplayer (if that's your thing), etc. Easily 60 hours plus if you take the time on multiple playthroughs. If you just wanna rush to the ending, I suppose the game will bore you. To which I will say stop being a customer. It is appealing to the dumbed down masses like yourself that has gotten Bioware in the trouble they are in.
Overall: 7.5/10. Mass Effect 3 isn't a bad game. Honestly, it isn't. But it isn't a good game, to say nothing of a great game. It's an above average game. If it were not part of the Mass Effect Lore, you probably wouldn't get many fans. A terrible ending really sorta ruins the story, and that is supposed to be Bioware's wheelhouse. yet the game still has its charm, some of the side characters are great, the action is fun enough. Yet if you are expecting Mass Effect 2 style leaps for the series, you will be disappointed.
It is a ripoff of its much better predecessor. Yes, the combat is similar. But the similarities of the two stop there. If ME2 was the apex of the rpg/shooter hybrid, we are now seeing it decline "back to earth" in ME3.