If you've never heard of BioWare, you were probably never an Xbox owner. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was a game that not only redefined role playing games on a console platform, but also reinvigorated Star Wars gaming. In many ways BioWare's later Xbox project, Jade Empire was even more significant, since it had to stand on its own, rather than trading off the Star Wars brand. When Stu reviewed Jade Empire back in May 2005, he labelled it a classic - strong words indeed! It's therefore safe to say that BioWare has a lot to live up to with its forthcoming Xbox 360 project, Mass Effect.
There has been a lot of talk about the intricacies of Mass Effect's conversation system recently, so much so that the rest of the game mechanics have barely got a look in. Luckily I managed to get my paws on a late build of Mass Effect and find out for myself whether BioWare's new baby is worth looking forward to. Mass Effect wasn't high on my list of "most wanted" Xbox 360 games this year, with titles like Bioshock, Halo 3 and Project Gotham Racing 4 all vying for my attention, but having spent some time getting to grips with BioWare's new space epic, it's certainly on that list now.
First up, Mass Effect Looks absolutely stunning! I simply can't describe to you how good the facial models look in this game - this is about as close to in-game, photo-realistic imagery I've ever seen on a console game. And if you think that the screen shots look good, wait until you play the game itself on a large screen, high definition TV - you'll find it hard to believe what you're seeing.
Although Mass Effect is a party based RPG, your main character - Commander Shepherd - is a constant. Not only can you choose whether Commander Shepherd is male or female, you can also decide exactly how he/she looks. Obviously choosing the way your character looks is nothing new, with Oblivion recently moving the game on in this department, but BioWare has taken this to a whole new level. The level of detail that you can add to Shepherd is quite staggering, even allowing you to shave sections of eyebrows or add facial scars from previous battles. If there's one disappointment, it's that your character can't pickup new scars throughout the game - that would have been very cool indeed.