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Publisher: Electronic Arts
Minimum requirements: Internet connection; Windows XP/Vista; 2.6 GHz Intel or 2.4 GHz AMD; 2 GB RAM; ATI X1800 XL series or higher, NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX or higher; 12GB hard drive space; DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
Genre: Action RPG
Release date: Available now
Review by: Michael Smith
Combining seemingly disparate things can produce surprising results. Gas and electric engines join to power our hybrid vehicles. Chocolate and peanut butter give us the peanut-butter cup. And now, Bioware and Electronic Arts have fused the RPG and squad-based shooter genres and created Mass Effect, a sprawling, epic port of the successful Xbox 360 game from 2007.
Humans became a true space faring species in 2148 with the discovery of buried alien technology on Mars that unlocked the secrets of faster-than-light travel, but even with this knowledge, traveling to even the closest stars was impractical until the discovery of the mass relays, ancient artifacts that act as giant slingshots to hurl interstellar ships across light-years of space in the blink of an eye. As human crews started to explore the universe, they began to find and reactivate relays that had lain dormant for centuries, leading them deeper and deeper into uncharted territory and awakening an ancient evil that threatened all life in the galaxy.
You play as Cmdr. John Shepard of the Systems Alliance, Earth’s global government formed shortly after the historic discovery on Mars. A loner for most of his life, Shepard joined the military when he became of age. During a mission to the planet Akuze, he was the sole survivor of an unexpected alien attack. He was proclaimed a hero for his actions during the battle, and the legend that grew around him forged him into a fierce, single-minded fighter. You can choose to play as the default Shepard or create a new one from scratch, using creation tools that allow you to select the character’s gender, history, morality (selfless team player or ruthless rogue soldier), facial characteristics and combat specialties.
The software installs very quickly, especially considering the 12-GB space it takes up on the hard drive. The similarly sized Gears of War took more than an hour to install, but Mass Effect was ready to go in less than 10 minutes. When starting the game for the first time, a configuration utility determines the best audio and video settings for your rig; these can be tweaked from the options section of the main menu. This utility correctly detected and selected the native resolution of my monitor, which is unusual even for the most recent games that I’ve played. The gateway menu features links to the Bioware website and to the site of any downloadable content that might become available.
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