The legacy of Halo is tied into that of Xbox as both a console series and a brand, so with Microsoft celebrating Xbox’s 20th anniversary this year, now seems like the perfect time to revisit the world of Master Chief.
To keep it simple, these modes are smartly organised into a handful of playlists, so you can jump in and have a good idea of what you'll play, with some variety thrown in.
The maps on offer keep the variety going, ranging from close quarters storage facilities to classic open air team battle arenas, across 10 brand new stages. While there's no word on returning maps just yet, with the multiplayer game aiming for a free-to-play experience, it seems likely we could see some familiar locations as the seasons wear on – its first continues until May, but generally the team is aiming for three-month runs.
Already we've seen some classic Halo moments punctuated with unexpected encounters, suggesting 343 has got the balance right here in creating an experience that feels new but still honours the traditions of the series.
The campaign is in many ways more of a departure, straying from the linear path (and consistent back-tracking) and giving you open areas to explore around the Zeta Halo – a terraformed giant ring in space – and gradually rebuild the UNSC after a crushing defeat.
Halo is steeped in lore, as any series would be after two decades, but Infinite manages to keep the complexities of the story to a minimum to keep it accessible to newcomers.
Floating in space, Master Chief is picked up by an equally stranded pilot and, after checking whether you invert your controls or not, begrudgingly helps you to start reuniting the scattered remains of the UNSC to fight the Banished, a sect of series baddies, the Covenant, who not only won the battle, but are mining the Zeta Halo for secrets the Chief must uncover, with a little help from a new AI, which isn't Cortana, though she's certainly still involved here.
Infinite is filled with the sort of experiences Halo players have been waiting for.
The world itself is reassuringly familiar for returning players, with everything from the HUD and user interface, the signature musical theme, and the rest of the soundtrack, immersing you immediately. Even for veterans though, the story still has the right level of intrigue to pull you through, but you can definitely ignore it and just treat it as a series of enemy encounters if you prefer.
The open-world aspect adds base building elements, breaking up the more linear narrative missions with side quests. Disappointingly, these generally amount to killing a few Banished to claim an area of the map, but, over time, straying from the beaten path grants you special weapons and vehicles at bases across the map as you steadily accumulate Valour points.
Explore further and you can also uncover cosmetic suit options and Spartan Cores, upgrade points to beef up a selection of suit abilities, cherry-picked from the best of games past, including a threat detector, deployable shield and thruster, all of which can also be used in multiplayer as limited pick-up.
The most important power though, and the one you get from the beginning of the game, is the grappling hook, which is a big help with the Zeta Halo’s rocky terrain. You can even employ in combat too, pulling you towards enemies for a killing blow – though you'd think between a Grunt and a 7-foot Spartan, the Grunt would be the one going for a ride.
The most fun moments are grabbing a spare weapon from a rack on your way past, though it requires a fair amount of accuracy and patience, which you may not have the luxury of with a Brute charging at you or a Hunter pummeling you with plasma cannon.
In all Halo Infinite is filled with the sort of experiences Halo players have been waiting for. Where past games have stumbled over both the game's legacy and even its main character, Chief is borderline quippy at times as he interacts with this unstable world, and the Infinite thrives in challenging you to explore him just as much as you do the world.
While there's a few missing elements, what's here is greater than the sum of its parts and gives an experience which you can only find with Xbox – making it a no-brainer for the Game Pass crowd and well worth a go for anyone else.
Go! No “3,2,1”, no “On your marks, get set”, Forza Horizon 5 (and the series in general) wastes no time in getting you right into the action. In fact your first act in the game is to leap out of a plane in a series of cars and dive straight onto the beautiful open roads of Mexico.
One area which has a tremendous level of depth is the cars themselves. Adjusting tyre pressure and swapping out parts to tune your cars for whatever event you're about to take on is encouraged, and is something you can rely on the collective knowledge of die-hard fans if you’re unsure, thanks to a search option which lets you check out setups which have been shared.
If you’re feeling like online is a recurring theme, you’re not wrong. The narrative conceit for the game in the first place is a festival (or fiesta) in celebration of cars which wouldn’t be too out of place in an early Fast and Furious film. Horizon Festival is all about bringing people together, and the team has made sure they carry this spirit into every aspect of how the game is put together.
Not only will you see other players mooching around the map as you explore, but you’ll be pitted against other players’ Drivatars, digital echoes of their racing style, in races and events. While not a new idea, in fact the series has brought them in from the main Forza Motorsport series since its second outing, the compiling of player driving data makes for far more unpredictable and interesting AI opponents.
Hooking up with players in real-time is where things get even more fun though, as there are four main modes – Open Racing, Open Drifting, Playground Games, and The Eliminator – with tons of different types of events between them.
Open Racing is as straightforward as things get, challenging you to road, dirt, cross country and street races. Open drifting, as the name would suggest, is all about the drift, so you’ll be sticking to roads and trying to nail those corners, while Playground games include flag rush, king and survival. The Eliminator returns from FH4 as the Forza Horizon take on Battle Royale, pitting up to 72 players against each other into head-to-head races within a gradually shrinking area of the map.
The driving in Forza Horizon 5 is some of the most beautiful escapism you can experience.
On top of that there’s Horizon Arcade, which is more of a collection of minigames which you take on together as a group. Perhaps you’ll need to maintain a certain speed within an area of the map to score, or drift for as long as possible around a certain bend. These challenges, admittedly, do tend to be “drive around a specific area”, but to dismiss them as only that is reductive, as you can easily find some fun and memorable moments as a group.
Individually, your in-game persona will be the one interacting with the NPCs as you drive around. You can customise your character with different looks and physical appearance to an extent, including a wide variety of prosthetic limbs, but the general build and vibe of the different characters still feels a little flat. The game does call you by your real name, if you have it shared in your Xbox or PSN profile, as it has in previous games.
As you drive around, discover roads, smash billboards and complete other challenges, you’ll unlock accolades which let you progress through the game and unlock more events. You’ll also be given wheelspins, a free lootbox mechanic earned by completing in-game challenges, to unlock more cars, clothing for your in-game avatar and all sorts of other goodies.
While races are all well and good, you might find the expeditions a welcome change of pace. These involve exploring a specific area, which might, for example, have a tropical storm going on, and take pictures or find jumps to establish it as a new area for the Horizon Festival and unlock new events in that part of the map.
Since we were playing ahead of release, there were a few bugs here and there, but far less than we’ve seen in other pre-release titles. One technical issue we hope is sorted out is how the game handles the Series S’s Quick Resume feature. With online games this can often be very hit-and-miss in general, so perhaps it’s to be expected, but we didn’t manage to jump back into the game easily, whether we played on or offline.
The driving in Forza Horizon 5 is some of the most beautiful escapism you can experience. The cars themselves are as realistic as any buttoned up racing sim you could mention and the vast vistas and rolling hills are a joy to tear along, sending cacti, road signs and other debris flying.
Handling varies considerably between vehicles, meaning it can take a while to find a vehicle, or handful, depending on the road surface, which works for you. Once you’ve found the groove though, it’s totally up to you how you explore the expansive, marker-filled map. The towns, landscapes and even historical ruins you’ll find are all recreated with the care and attention of a team that has taken the time to make a game that feels like exactly what they wanted to make, with no compromise.
Game Pass, and a very comprehensive set of accessibility options, lowers the barrier of entry for this Forza Horizon more than ever, so, whether you’re new to the series, or just eager for another adventure, Playground Games has given you a sandbox with everything you need.
Everybody knows solitaire. Whether it's the card or the marble game, both of which have a similar vibe, solitaire is tactical and even therapeutic. The same is true of The Solitaire Conspiracy, a clever take on the concept drenched in international espionage and pushing the tactical element with a few changes to mix up gameplay in unusual ways.
Different visual filters (unlocked by completing levels) can mix things up a bit, but there’s no getting away from some repetitiveness in the gameplay. There isn’t a wild variety of setups and arrangements, just the set number of factions and therefore cards you need to sort out.
Visually, the game is very stylised, which combines well with the music to heighten narrative drama in what is, essentially, a fairly straightforward card game. While the musical score can go a bit over-the-top at times, the character artwork definitely brings the teams to life.
Outside of the campaign, there’s a couple of additional modes which offer slight tweaks on the standard gameplay. These don’t necessarily lend themselves to sitting back for a leisurely afternoon playing cards, though.
In the end, immersing yourself in and uncovering The Solitaire Conspiracy is a fun way to spend a few hours. Challenging yourself to be more efficient with moves can then keep that going for a little while longer.
You might come into this latest Marvel title from Square Enix with trepidation, given the mixed reception to Marvel’s Avengers in 2020, but, from the word go, the characters in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy grab you and don’t let go.
On top of that are dialogue-driven, call-to-arms moments where the team huddles up and, if you choose the right prompt, is revived with a damage buff. These moments are underscored by a classic 80s beat, giving the player a bit of an energy boost as well.
Finally, there are contextual, button-prompts which can pop up during combat, such as having Drax throw something, or the whole team doing a series of finishing moves.
Since you are generally dealing with a lot of enemies, crowd control is crucial, so you need to use perks and other moves constantly, but getting exactly the right move, on the right enemy, at the right time feels more difficult and frantic than it should.
The story explores both Quill’s history, as well as getting the team out of their latest spot of trouble, and takes you to a variety of exotic planets, fighting everything from your more standard man-with-gun-foes to giant cubes with spikes inside.
Getting exactly the right move, on the right enemy, at the right time feels more difficult and frantic than it should.
The attention to detail on display, particularly with the character and enemy design, is outstanding. For example, as you’re making your way around different platforming areas, you’ll see Groot growing his way up to reach ledges.
You’ll notice the care taken on the dialogue as well. If you decide to wander off looking for crafting parts or secret costumes (which are plentiful and, thankfully, not hidden behind microtransactions), one of the team, usually Rocket, will ridicule you for exploring a dead end.
Of the locations you’ll visit, the one with the most character is the Guardians’ home – their spaceship, the Milano. Whether it’s the personalisation of each crew member’s quarters, or the way the team interacts with one another without you, it all feels really natural.
Filling the locations are Easter eggs to everything from the 1980s to the comics themselves, whether it’s trinkets you’ll pick up, alternate costumes from comics runs like the Age of Apocalypse, or throwaway references in dialogue to characters like Death.
It’s not just NPCs chatting away either, as you chip in on the team’s banter, or they look to you to make the plan, which can have an impact on how encounters go down. Of course, as with all dialogue-driven gameplay, you’re never sure if you’ve picked the wrong option or it was always going the same way.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun, exciting space adventure from start to finish, and there are very few reasons you should be hesitant about jumping in on the adventure. You’ve got this, probably.
The Far Cry series is now over 15 years old, giving Far Cry 6 a lot of different expectations to live up to. With any established franchise like this, it can be a challenge to surprise players without making the established formula too different - losing what made people fall in love with it in the first place.
Initially mainlining the story is a good idea to get properly equipped, though it also allows for teaming up with a friend. There’s no narrative explanation for the delay, which might rub anyone looking to jump straight into co-op the wrong way.
Choosing to carry on solo isn’t a solitary experience, however, thanks to a selection of animal sidekicks. Amigos range from a crocodile to a sausage dog and each have different abilities, adding alternate tactical elements to encounters.
There’s a reasonable selection of weapons for Dani to equip, plus a bunch of customisation options in the form of useful attachments and cosmetic alterations. Far from the gunsmithing of Ghost Recon you only get the basics here, but some credit is due for not falling into the trap of needlessly overcomplicating things. There’s a carry limit of three primary weapons at a time, though that might include a beefy flamethrower which you somehow manage to stash about your person.
While there isn’t a huge amount about Far Cry 6 which really breaks its own mould, the gameplay is dependable.
FC6’s signature weapon, and something of an ultimate attack, is the Supremo - a rocket launcher backpack which fires a salvo of missiles into the (fairly unpredictable) distance to act as crowd control. This can be upgraded as well, but is more a fire-and-forget ability for the beginning or end of encounters.
While there isn’t a huge amount about Far Cry 6 which really breaks its own mould, the gameplay is dependable and there are enough hidden shortcuts, unique weapons and against-the-odds encounters to make exploration feel worthwhile. At the same time, buying into the world can be difficult when (for example) there’s no penalty for attacking Libertad allies in full view of their leader.
This is a minor symptom, but one of several actions that lack consequences that could add weight to players’ actions; it’s key to creating a believable experience, helping people to forget that they’re playing a game. Perhaps the DLC content, which puts you in the shoes of some of the series’ prior antagonists, might prove more engrossing.
Anyone that fancies an island getaway could do a lot worse than taking a trip to Yara. Far Cry 6 is an entertaining means to blow things up and mindlessly shoot people, though probably won’t prove to be memorable in a few years’ (or possibly even months’) time.
For a shooter that’s all about cooperation, Back 4 Blood (which we discussed earlier this year) is surprisingly good at being a solo game. Having spent a fair few hours with the latest horde shooter from Turtle Rock Studios (Left 4 Dead, Evolve), it’s hard to find too much fault with the single-player offering; at least gameplay wise, despite some negative reaction ahead of the game’s launch.
Although the onus to get things done will, quite rightly, always be on you as the player, we were pleasantly surprised by the bots’ display of competence. In some instances they’re especially useful, like instantly spotting enemies in a foggy marsh or darkened tunnel.
Back 4 Blood is a different beast with human players in tow; enemy numbers seem to scale accordingly, so there’s much more action when running a full team, and things can get quite frantic as a result. A relatively straightforward solo section can become a hectic fight for survival in multiplayer, an example being a battle in a diner where you’re forced to activate and defend a jukebox while swarms of enemies encroach.
It’s a pattern followed throughout the campaign: Players set out from the safe room having loaded up on supplies and weapons, scout through open areas occupied by wandering Ridden, then get set upon by the horde while defending/interacting with an objective. It’s a simple premise but one that’s executed relatively well, with a decent amount of teamwork and a little bit of luck required to get through some of the trickier scenarios.
Levels themselves are well designed and atmospheric, especially at night or with fog in play, often funnelling players into tight corridors suited to melee combat before giving them room to manoeuvre and utilise ranged equipment in more open areas. Campaign missions do revisit previous locations, however, which can get repetitive and become frustrating to navigate.
The Combat Knife card turns your basic melee bash into a deadly weapon, which is very useful.
Larger enemies come in a variety of forms, some examples being the Tallboy that swings a massive club-like arm, Crusher that grabs players and squeezes the life out of them, Reeker that spits horde-attracting bile, and Stinger that pins players in place. On their own, these mutations are quite easy to beat, but when the game throws combinations of them at you, particularly in enclosed spaces, they become formidable opponents, requiring teamwork and quick thinking to bring down.
You get to sample these bigger enemy types for yourself in the game’s PvP mode, Swarm, where two teams of four take it in turns to survive as long as possible against player-controlled Ridden. Round-based matches take place within shrinking arenas, ensuring things get suitably hectic the longer a round lasts, with the team of humans that holds out the longest declared the victor.
Playing as powerful Ridden is the highlight of this mode; we particularly enjoyed spewing toxic bile at players as a Reeker or charging an enemy team’s stronghold as an Exploder type. Swarm also seems to have a relatively healthy player base right now, as matchmaking times were always snappy.
There are also occasional boss fights, though probably the most terrifying creature in the Ridden’s arsenal is the Hag. This disturbing, maggot-like monster can swallow players whole before scurrying off and killing them. Hags are introduced by corruption cards, which the game selects randomly ahead of each level.
Random weapon drops sometimes come with imperfect attachments, like this sniper scope/revolver combo.
Corruption cards introduce a variety of challenges, from flocks of birds and alarmed doors that alert hordes if triggered, to armoured Ridden that are harder to kill. Players can try to counter some of these challenges with their own cards by building several custom decks.
Cards can grant basic rewards, such as increased ammo or health capacities, in addition to more substantial benefits, like recovering health for every melee kill. While they might not make or break most runs, cards are a nice bonus that can reward different specific playstyles.
Back 4 Blood invites direct comparisons to Left 4 Dead, though it does manage to stand on its own. The core gameplay, while admittedly familiar for anyone who’s played L4D before, remains solid and the new card system has the potential to be rewarding. Experimenting with cards also helps to boost the already high level of replayability.
There are few gaming protagonists with a more intriguing first outing than Alan Wake. Remedy Entertainment are now well-known for their love of narrative and willingness to experiment with sequencing and structure, thanks to more recent games like Quantum Break and Control. Back in the mid-2000s, however, they only had the first two May Payne titles and Death Race under their belt, a lot of ideas and an eagerness to do something original.
Remedy knows how to reward players who pay close attention, and the live-action Night Springs TV show, which heavily borrows from the format and style of The Twilight Zone, also hints at upcoming plot elements.
In fact, the presentation overall carries an episodic format; there are quick credits sequences and “previously on” recaps as you progress. Looking back, it’s clear to see how the multimedia stylings of Quantum Break came about. Disappointingly, though, the prequel live-action miniseries Bright Falls isn’t included in this remaster.
Darkness is an ever-present companion in the narrative, with various story beats necessitating that Wake be out in the woods, alone, at night. It gives the game an isolated feeling similar to early examples of survival horror (compounded by slightly awkward character controls).
Whether or not the game is for you depends on how exciting untangling a supernatural mystery sounds.
Additional weapons and light sources gradually become available, which help to mix up the gameplay and more efficiently eliminate harder enemy types. While this is all well and good, the unfolding narrative intrigue is the real draw. Whether or not the game is for you depends on how exciting untangling a supernatural mystery sounds. The game puts its case forward early on, telling you what you’re letting yourself in for and sticking to its guns.
In terms of the remaster itself, the visuals and particularly how it uses light – which is especially important here – are noticeably improved by Remastered developers D3T. The official comparison trailer makes it clear that the original was already punching above its weight, but now it looks sharper and plays smoother than ever thanks to 4K at 60 FPS performance on PS5, Xbox Series X and PC.
The ominous atmosphere and presentation goes a long way to immediately bring you into the story. Narratively the game can be hammy and far-fetched at times, though it’s absolutely aware of what it is; it’s easy to recommend to any fan of Remedy that hasn’t played Alan Wake before.
For returning players, besides the inclusion of the hit-and-miss DLC you may not have played, there’s not anything new or particularly different to bring you back. Since the experience was designed to remain faithful to the original release, however, that’s not a huge surprise. It might even be a positive for purists looking to relive an old favourite in search of nostalgia.
With the spooky season officially upon us, you could do far worse than picking up Alan Wake Remastered and discovering an action-adventure classic. Now’s the perfect time to book a trip to the surreal town of Bright Falls.
“Just keep putting skill points into Thorns” – this was the advice we received the last time we played Diablo 2, over 20 years ago, but we'd need more than that to fend off the demonic forces of hell.
Those with a background in Dungeons & Dragons or anyone who knows their dexterity from their vitality will feel right at home, as the player is given five precious attribute points each level to spend however they like. It’s even possible to respec, though only once per playthrough without some extra legwork.
Levelling also pays out skill points, which are more immediately tangible, granting additional active abilities which consume mana, or passive traits which become more and more significant with each point invested.
Certain gear requires meeting specific class and attribute thresholds, which is something else to keep in mind. Looting is a big deal in general and you'll quickly find the limited inventory space filling up as a result, so item management is also a key part of getting the most out of the experience.
Keeping gear up to date is vital to avoid getting caught out and brutally cut down in your stride; even a change to one or two equipment slots can grant huge bonuses against certain enemies. Since dying drops all money and equipment until it’s retrieved from your corpse, character loadouts are something to always stay on top of.
It's clear time and care has been put into the remaster, but perhaps, in the end, Blizzard should have gone for a remake.
Baddies come in all shapes and sizes, from elemental beasts to savage demons, and at times the screen can be filled with a horde of different targets. Targeting isn't as precise as it could be on a controller, unfortunately, which can lead to some annoying deaths.
The most frustrating foes to watch out for, who come in various forms throughout the game but start appearing very early on, are the shamans, who have the power to revive their fallen allies. Of course, for those that choose to play the Necromancer class, it’s possible to beat them at their own game.
Whatever the class, it’s always possible to hire a mercenary to help out in combat and draw some enemy fire, which can make a huge difference when it comes to crowd control. This helps to make the experience feel less lonely, but, of course, you can also team up with fellow adventurers in online co-op multiplayer.
In the end, Diablo 2: Resurrected can feel a little archaic and even out of touch with what draws many to modern action games. It's clear that time and care has been put into the remaster, but perhaps, in the end, Blizzard should have gone for a full remake – look at the recent successes of Final Fantasy VII and Demon's Souls as a couple of examples within the genre.
With many fans eagerly awaiting Diablo 4, D2: Resurrected is a good opportunity to try the game that put the series on the map. The company's current lawsuit may cause some players to think twice, but as far as judging the game on its own merits, there's a lot to enjoy, and it's easy to see why the original gained such esteem two decades ago.
MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is the latest entry in a popular franchise based on the BattleTech sci-fi strategy board game. Initially released in 2019 on PC - as the first proper MechWarrior title since 2002 - it’s now made the jump to Xbox.
Gameplay-wise, while objectives do vary, missions generally require players to drop into an area on a search and destroy run; pilots must fight their way through enemies until reaching the enemy base. Initially the game limits users to small, albeit faster, mechs with weaker weapons. That said, they're more than enough to blast and/or crush the puny armoured cars and tanks that attack during the early stages.
Targeting critical systems under an incoming onslaught is an often nerve-racking experience.
Real combat starts when the other mechs come into play. These are often tactical mudslinging matches, constantly staying on the move while dealing damage and trying to avoid each other's fire. Targeting critical systems - legs can be destroyed to severely impede movement, while arms can be shot off to entirely remove a weapon – under an incoming onslaught is an often nerve-racking experience.
There are multiple weapons on each mech, which can be swapped out depending on type. The main weapon is a basic laser with infinite ammo, but there are also gauss-cannons, long-range missiles and more to choose from. Watching the ammo count is a must, along with the mech’s heat level, otherwise they can shut themselves down during longer firefights.
There's also some fun to be had with terrain destruction; explosions will crater the ground and set it ablaze, walls crumble away under fire (or when ploughed through), while trees burst into flames as lasers sweep across them.
Unfortunately, the graphics in general aren’t quite so impressive. Mech models look decent, if not that detailed. Environmental textures are functional but poor quality when seen up close, although this is somewhat offset by the effective lighting and weather effects. Character models are very basic, looking like they could be from an Xbox 360 game.
Technical performance can be poor as well, due to the frame-rate frequently dropping during combat and heavy weather phenomenon. MechWarrior 5 also sends the Xbox One X fans into overdrive, causing a couple of crashes due to overheating. These issues might not exist on high-end PCs, though the frame-rate still isn’t perfect on Xbox Series X|S.
MW 5: Mercenaries supports cross-platform cooperative play for up to four users. This can be done at any time, but sadly, there are no PvP modes. In addition to the campaign, which seems long enough, there’s an instant action mode accommodating customisable scenarios to jump straight into. The Heroes of the Inner Sphere DLC launched alongside the game, and let’s players choose a house before conquering territory to unlock new mechs.
Ultimately, MechWarrior 5 is a good game with some clunky execution. Narratively and visually it's not too notable, but the destructive mech stomping action delivers well.
It’s been almost a decade since we last set foot on the Normandy, Captain Shepard’s iconic spaceship, and it feels good to be back. While Mass Effect: Andromeda was a perfectly passable Mass Effect experience, arguably with some of the most refined action in the series, somehow it didn’t have that special something. We just didn’t warm to the protagonist in the same way we did with Shepard - in fact, we’d struggle even to remember their name...
There are tons of weapons, though they all conform to the familiar shotgun, pistol, assault and sniper rifle archetypes. In the first game these work on a cooldown rather than needing to reload, which can make for more strategic combat encounters. Any excess weapons can be assigned to teammates, sold and/or broken down into omni-gel used to skip hacking mini games and repair Shepard’s land vehicle.
In the second and third games, these more unique elements are nowhere to be found. Weapons need loading with thermal clips (presumably to speed up combat), for example.
There’s so much to cover here that it feels like we can only scratch the surface in terms of what players might discover.
Getting back to the first instalment, which has undoubtedly seen the most change, Mass Effect now has smoother combat mechanics in general. Improved cover mechanics, squad orders and a dedicated melee button are cribbed from its sequel to give players more control. That said, utilising biotic and tech powers (essentially magic and tech-based skills, respectively) can still feel quite clunky. Faster enemies are especially hard to take out, as they overwhelm the relatively immobile Commander Shepard easily.
BioWare have taken the time to smooth out the visuals and performance, too. While there’s still the odd janky animation here and there, players will notice the lighting improvements in the first game in particular, which would often require squinting to make out characters’ faces when they had helmets on.
The game runs from a fairly pedestrian, but reliable, 1080p at 30fps, all the way up to 4K UHD at an eye-watering 240fps on PC – provided the graphics card can handle it. What users get ultimately depends on whether they go for the “favour quality” or “favour framerate” graphics mode. For example, the Xbox Series X outputs up to 60fps at 4K UHD on the former setting and up to 120fps at 1440p on the latter.
Characters and companions have always been the Mass Effect series’ crown jewel, however. While there are too many noteworthy examples to shout out individually (though we have discussed some of our favourites), it’s fair to say the depth of interaction varies quite significantly both between games and between squadmates and general NPCs.
The first title doesn’t go into too much detail straight away, but, in time, players learn about how companions differ and their individual values. Relationships with some characters can develop into romantic entanglements, all depending on how users behave.
Where this system - and the accompanying dialogue - can start to creak is when users do things the game doesn’t really expect. In ME1, for example, an Asari consort is having problems with a client. Since the mission structure is fairly open, especially in the bustling Citadel, players might follow this quest line through to completion before another NPC suggests they check on the (already solved) situation.
These kinds of inconsistencies follow through to romantic connections as well. Characters that are romanceable in one game aren’t always in the next, and being reunited with them can feel jarring instead of a natural continuation as would likely be the case in a single, longer game.
Dialogue options directly link to a meter which awards users points for paragon (noble) and renegade (ruthless) behaviour, too. There are benefits to hitting either end of the spectrum, which can lead to the system feeling like it encourages suboptimal decisions in certain situations.
There’s so much to cover here that it feels like we can only scratch the surface in terms of what players might discover. For those who’ve done it all before, the nuanced characters might feel more primitive than you remember, and the gameplay transition between each game can take some getting used to.
For those who are new, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is a real treat. It’s filled with thoughtful touches and memorable moments that are up there with some of the most dramatic set pieces in gaming history. It might not feel quite as polished as a modern game, but BioWare and EA have done the work to smooth out some of the rougher gameplay and visual edges. It’s now easier and more enjoyable than ever to follow the journey of Commander Shepard from beginning to end, allowing players to fully appreciate the epic space opera in comfort.