Every game has its flaws, and Game of the Year candidates are no different. Mass Effect, hyped up for its RPG glory, is one of these games. Though still a great game that you should not miss out on, it does have one considerable massive flaw. The Mako. That car, tank, whatever you want to call it. The exploring element is great, and it reminded me of an old PC game, Frontier, where you played the role of a guy who basically freelanced in space (The closest comparable game is Microsoft’s Freelancer) and explored worlds, made deliveries, mines remote planets and such. The Galaxy Map that lets you check out all the planets in the systems, land and drive around to find ruins, minerals, could be a bit more in depth, but is nonetheless a great element to the game. The Mako, though, is the problem. This is the tank that your ship, the Normandy, deploys so you can roam around these planets to explore. This tank just ripped the near perfect aura this game had.
To begin with, the controls are a bit awkward as they are exactly the same as for when you control Commander Shepard. You drive with the left thumbstick and aim your turret with the right thumbstick. Problem is, if your car ends up sideways (which it definitely will), it’s a little tricky to get it driving forward again. Well, not exactly tricky, but frustrating after a while.
Climbing hills in the Mako is a riot. This mobile of six interstellar off-roading wheels can pretty much drive up vertical walls no problem. This thing should be a candidate for the next mode of extreme sports. On more than ten occasions, I have run into a hill, the side of a tunnel, or other obstruction and actually done barrel rolls, or just driven up the side of a wall. The little jumping jets also lets you humorously hop, skip, and jump over enemy rockets. This aspect of the game just makes it kind of silly, as you can bounce up and down (like bunny hopping in Counter-Strike) to dodge enemy rockets. On many occasions in a firefight, you will bounce around and end up in awkward positions.
BioWare does an amazing job with this RPG game: the story telling is spectacular, the character creation is great, and the fact that you can pick what your character is like by his actions and what you chose for him to say in conversations – well this experience is just one of a kind. However, BioWare fails with the Mako, and as you play through the game, any instance that requires you to drive this thing just knocks the fun factor down a notch. I actually had to replay a mission because I somehow wedged the Mako between the landscape and a piece of rubble, and no matter how I tried to drive out of it, or jump out of it, the tank was just stuck.
Another inconvenience in Mass Effect are the textures loading slowly. It takes a few seconds for the textures to load on objects when you approach them, and this cuts down on the smoothness of the game during gameplay, but this is just a small thing that, depending on your tolerance, may or may not become annoying.
Despite the flaw that is the Mako, Mass Effect is an experience that definitely should not be missed. Not many RPGs are made in the Sci-Fi realm as most games turn out to be plain shooters, so Mass Effect quenches a thirst for a true intergalactic RPG. And, like I said before, the story telling is top notch. It’s just disappointing to see a great game have a little ugly in it.