Update: In Mass Effect 2, you will be able to continue the storyline as your old character if you have beaten the first game!
Politics don't change much in the future.
Mass Effect was a game that I was constantly putting off, not because I thought that it would be a bad game, but exactly the opposite. I thought that it was going to be so good that I would emerge from my room days later a drooling, incoherent husk of my former self. Most of this fear stemmed from two things: firstly Mass Effect is an RPG and I have a long and abusive history with RPG's, and secondly Mass Effect is an RPG by Bioware famous for Knights of the Old Republic, and most people who've played KotOR will tell you how addictive all the little nuances of the gameplay mechanics got in that game. Mass Effect is no different.
Right, let's start at the beginning. Mass Effect allows you to choose a predetermined character to sow terror and torment across the galaxy, or create your own, and while the custom character creation screen might look detailed, the lack of drastic facial changes makes the total amount of individual versions of Shepard (the main character) stay relatively low compared to what they could have had if, for example, I'd been able to put my left ear on my chin.
Despite my love of KotOR and my initial excitement to play Mass Effect, I almost put the game down after my first day of playing solely because after about 5 hours of play I'd only been in a firefight once. Granted I took it upon myself to travel, by foot, around the entire main city talking to everyone in sight, but 5 hours still seems long. Once I'd passed the first dialogue heavy beginning section and became the commander of my own ship, the fun REALLY started to happen.
Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.
The game plays like any other third-person shooter of the current generation. You run, you take cover, you shoot, things die. Lather, rinse, and repeat. The RPG element comes in when you pick up weapons and armor off of the floor and kit your 3-person team out with the best gear for the current situation. At first I thought this would take me totally out of the game every time I had to do it, but to my surprise I felt it actually added to the immersion of the game as a whole.
At this point you might be thinking, “Well, this game just seems like a Gears of War rip off!” and that's precisely the point where I rip your head off, and here's why. Story. The only word in the English language that most closely describes the story is 'amazing', and that doesn't even start to cover it. The story is so deep, so immersive, and you find yourself caring about these characters so much that while in the beginning of the game I was thinking, “Oh wow, your shining city of spinning lights so cool, not”, by the end I found myself screaming, at the top of my lungs “THE CITADEL, THE CITADEL, OH MY GOD THE CITADEL!!” and I truly believe that you will be too.
Short-Term: Although I normally write about how fun a game is to play for half an hour or so, I think this section is totally irrelevant for a game like Mass Effect. While you COULD technically play for 30 minutes, you WON'T, and while I can't really criticize a game for making you want to play, I can criticize it for not having anything to do that doesn't take massive load time and long-winded dialogue. - 80
Long-Term: This game is perfect for long term play, the amount of options in the speech alone mean that no two players ever have to be the same, and completing the game once unlocks a hardcore mode and the ability to achieve levels greater than 50, and with it, a whole slew of extra achievements for the achievement whores among you. - 100
Overall: Mass Effect is one of the best games on the Xbox 360 and PC, and every fan of either RPG's or Third-Person Shooters should at least give it a rental. Even someone who just enjoys good, deep stories will enjoy this game. My only problem is that it seemed a little short, it took me just under 19 hours to complete, and I completed all the side quests too. So that might put some people off. Oh, and you get to have sex with a freaky blue alien. What more could you possibly want? - 90