If Mass Effect was a movie it would no doubt be heralded as a breath of fresh air for the entire genre but some of the problems with Mass Effect is the fact that it is only a game. Though deciding to spend your time by playing start to finish will never leave you feeling as if you made a poor decision.
Mass Effect is trying for the seldom used genre of action-RPG, which is fitting considering that Bioware, the makers of Mass Effect, has created the other beloved action-RPG's (Yes KOTOR I & II). Bioware starts off with a strong RPG feel through allowing some limited customization of your hero/heroine looks and ability's. After you've chosen whether your going to specialize in combat, tech, or biotic (mind powers) you're hurled into a series of events that you have no control over, after all your a good little soldier and follow your orders as such. Events unfold rather quickly to begin with and before you know it you have control of a ship and are allowed to do what you will.
As you travel you can choose to stay the course of paragon or renegade which is set in this fashion because at the end of the day you save the day, your a hero and you have no say about it. What you do have a say about is which way you will save the day, will you be the kind and understanding captain or be the war harden survivalist that watches his own back no matter what. When I state you will have a say about this I mean it literally, quite a lot to say about it because while this action-RPG may have some RPG elements and is fairly action packed at times the dialog that is required to get to these parts will be extensive. John Shepard, the default name of the hero, must just have one of those faces that says "Hey I can fix all your problems, tell me your life trouble and I'll fix everything" because almost every NPC in the game seems to think this. Of course it is entirely up to the player whether or not to help but when I didn't feel the need to help someone I always walked away with of feeling incomplete. It is worthy to note that the renegade does get away with a lot less conversation though and will allow you to get back to killing baddies and leveling your character faster.
As you progress through the story you will have chance to upgrade your weapons though this process is painstaking and troublesome since you will get to the point that there is so many upgrades that navigating through them all will be extremely tedious if your not careful to turn them in to omni-gel, which is a type of currency to help through out the game. Though how this omni-gel magically opens lockers and such I will never know. Never the less upgrading your weapons is pretty much required to do well until you get to the end where it seems that your enemy has also magically stopped upgrading their weapons so you now are able to mow through them ease. Another thing that is somewhat annoying is the the menu for upgrades show all the upgrades all the time whether or not your character is able to equip it or not. This small feature of only showing the appropriate upgrades I feel would've made this aspect much more appealing considering there are several races which can't even wear some of the upgrades no matter what level they're at.
With these short comings though does come one of the best stories ever seen in video games. The main story is down right amazing and if this was put in to a movie would no doubt be critically acclaimed for years to come, some of what gets in the way of this masterpiece though is what gives the game Mass Effect it's longevity, the side missions. Though fun they all have a very familiar feel that you will instantly recognize after you've gone through about 2-3 templates that Bioware has for these ten's of side missions. Even with the fun of them the tediousness of them becomes overwhelming very shortly after doing half a dozen or so.
With Mass Effect as with any next-gen console game the graphics come under great scrutiny and Mass Effect does not fail to deliver. While they may not be winning awards they will for sure have honorable mentions where ever they are seen. The textures are smoother along with frame rates that nearly never slow down and once you consider how large some of the areas you are in this is much appreciated though loading areas may seem somewhat oddly placed and does interrupt the flow of the game at times.
Another feature that is somewhat over looked at times but is equally important I feel is the sound quality. I once had a professor quote to me that sound in media is never noticed unless it is done right or done horrible. Well I noticed the sound and it was noticed for the correct reasons. Seeing and hearing your ship pull out of a dock will get your attention almost every time even though it's a merely canned animation.
Overall Mass Effect is a great game that does have some heart pounding action and some great ways to give you the feeling of being in control of how your character progresses. Side missions may become monotonous but following the main story is one for the ages, especially the ending, that may have you playing over and over trying to get achievements and exploring the main facets of John Shepard.