Having begun my second playthrough of Mass Effect 3 (ME3), I can honestly say that on balance, I love this game. Despite some problems with the controls, the lack of pause in cut-scenes and that ending, I’m really enjoying myself.
Some of the joy of this game is one of those things that I often bitch about: the cut-scenes. ME3 is very much like a movie you occasionally take part in. Once you enter a cut scene you may – or may not – have a part in it. Having said that, some of the scenes are beautiful, well acted and hit just the right notes. Since I’m going to discuss these, you can bet there will be major spoilers ahead.
The first scene that I always remember is Mordin’s death while he works to cure the genophage. This begins properly as the elevator begins to rise up the Shroud. It’s a mixture of poignant, as we’re pretty sure he won’t survive this, and humourous, as Mordin’s obsessive personality and lovely way of speaking show his wish that he could have studied seashells while lying on a beach. Once he makes it to the top and begins bypassing the Salarian sabotage that would have stopped the cure, he still has time to both admire their work on it, and yet revel in his ability to bypass it. The end isn’t too drawn out and comes quickly, and with perfect timing for the scene.
The second scene that comes to mind is Tali’s death, should you allow the Geth to upgrade. There’s hope in the scene: for the Geth who now can make their own way as a species. There’s frustration: with the idiot Admiral who somehow made it up the ranks to lead the Quarians; despite her obvious impulse-control issues. There’s pain for Tali, who finally landed on her home world, only to see the extinction of her race. Even liking Tali, I found I just couldn’t leave the Geth as they were; I had to give them a chance.
The third scene, is one of the first in the game. The Normandy lifts off to escape Earth, and the last thing Shepard sees is a shuttle, containing a young boy she’d tried to save, blasted to pieces. There were no voice overs, just the sounds, and that made this scene work beautifully.
The final scene is really a series of scenes in the “final battle”. Much of the posing and posturing in some of the scenes where Shepard is the quintessential “hero” annoy me. The “we stand together or die” speeches are just too over the top for me. Having said that, the stirring speeches made by Hackett, Anderson and Shepard throughout the final battle are well written, and well paced. I found them stirring even while mentally noting the emotional hooks that were put in there. For troops who are most likely about to die, for people for whom this is the one, final chance, these speeches were just what was needed.
For the most part, these scenes, and others, not only drove the story, but imparted real emotion into the game. We really were just watching a film at that point, but it was immersive enough for that not to matter.