Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4

Release Date: Friday 14th May 2021

Play Modes: Single Player

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

You might think we're being a little bit snarky (who, us?) with that subtitle, but it's intended in the way it was originally delivered in the game.

For those who may be unfamiliar, the origin of this meme comes when Shepard - the game's protagonist - is asked to endorse a number of stores on the Citadel, to the point where it effectively becomes pointless and his endorsement means nothing. Yet, in the game, it's meant to be completely earnest. That's the best way to describe 'Mass Effect: Legendary Edition'. It's made with honest intentions, though you'd be forgiven for thinking there's cynical intent.

If you played through all three games and you're wondering if this is any different from them, the answer is no. 'Legendary Edition' is a cosmetic revamp of the game in the broadest sense possible. The framerates are pumped up to the very limit. We played this on a PlayStation 5 and on performance settings and it held steady at 60 frames throughout. The textures have all been redrawn and remapped, and while some of the settings do have that empty, almost liminal vibe to them, they're all gussied up as best as possible. The voice acting is all exactly as you remember it, too. Garrus, Shepard, Marina Sirtis as Matriarch Benziah, Keith David and Lance Henriksen rattling through their lines, it's all there.

BioWare have said that the intent with 'Legendary Edition' is to upgrade the games we know and love with consideration and taste, and that's been achieved. The weapons pack a punch and it's all balanced nicely. Those long-ass elevator rides are over in a flash if you want. The Mako, the dreaded tank that made up some of the first game's most boring missions, has been improved drastically (but still handles terribly). Yet, in saying that, there are things left over from one game that were improved upon in the second, such as overriding locks in boxes or some of the clunky animation for NPCs. Again, it's a question of where do you draw the line when it comes to a remaster?

Do you begin to chip away to the point where it becomes unrecognisable, and is essentially another game altogether? On the one end of the spectrum, you have the likes of 'The Last Guardian', a sumptuously designed remastering that raised the bar for this concept in gaming. It was rebuilt from the ground up, but it was effectively the same game - just better. 'Final Fantasy VII Remake' bore no resemblance to the original game whatsoever, other than sharing a title and some story beats with it. In the case of 'Mass Effect', this is an overhaul of the original games. The improvements, beyond the graphics obviously, can sometimes be imperceptible, but they're there when you think back to how janky some parts of the games were.

Gameplay feels smoother and easier, but not necessarily in term of difficulty. Your squad doesn't lock up in a fire-fight the way it used to. As mentioned, you can skip elevator rides at any point. The loading times are lightning fast. The soundtrack is all still there, including Faunts' cracking end credits song, 'M4, Pt. II'.

All three games are available and come with every scrap of DLC, add-on, and everything else loaded right in at the start. At 100GB, it's meaty stuff and you're talking countless hours of gameplay ahead of you if you decide to purchase. If you want to start from the beginning, you can create your character in the first game and carry him or her right through to 'Mass Effect 3'. If you're more interested in just playing 'Mass Effect 2', you can drop in there, play as long as you like, and then move on to the third or go back to the first. Of course, the experience is best served by taking up the story at the first game right through to the end.

That's what 'Mass Effect' has always had over other games. A rich, endlessly detailed story with a fully realised universe out there to explore, with endless side plots, overarching themes, and dialogue choices in every moment to keep it moving. Again, it's worth remembering that the first game was released in 2007, so if you find yourself rolling your eyes at the simplicity of the Paragon / Renegade conversation movements, take it from someone who played this back then that it was pretty revolutionary at the time. It'll seem quaint now, sure, but back then, it really was something. More than just cosmetics, you could really shape and connect with your character. They could be a ruthless bastard, or a doe-eyed idealist - whatever you decided.

If you've never played 'Mass Effect' at all, 'Legendary Edition' is the perfect opportunity to play it. If you played it before and are wondering if it's as good as you remember, it is. The trilogy is a modern masterpiece. It has faults, absolutely, but the artistry and the technique is still present and the improvements made here only strengthen it.