Mass Effect

Content review for this game:
Pertaining to the ESRB rating.

Content sum up: For an "M" rated game it's pretty mild, with sparse language for its length, combat that has very little blood or gore, the main enemies are robots, and you can choose to do the right thing every time. However, although the romantic relationships and later "sex" scenes are entirely optional, and all of the other suggestive issues (like the dancers in Chora's Den) are completely avoidable, the option is there, and there are plenty of bored fourteen year-olds that would gladly spend their time to complete these optional activites. So, I recommend this game for ages 17+.

Blood and gore: (The ESRB didn't mention that there's gore) There's no actual human blood in combat, and instead, it consists of colorful firework-like partical effects—all characters wear full-bodied energy shields, and use energy beam weapons—when you or an enemy is hit. The majority of blood effects are during cutscenes, which spurt in dark-colored, subdued and very light amounts when a human (or alien) is injured. The Geth (main robotic enemy) shed a light amount of silver fluid when shot, the Krogan (alien enemy nearer the end of the game) shed a trace amount of orange blood, and Husks (mindless drones), excrete a green, gooey substance that pools on the ground. However, blood effects don't linger (they disappear in a few seconds) or spatter onto walls or floors. There are also a few dead (and often severely burned) human bodies scattered thoughout the game. There is no option to turn blood off.

Specific scenes of blood & gore:

  • An early scene shows a group of Geth (explained in Violence) impale a human in the torso with a large spike, resulting in his body being lifted off the ground and blood lightly spurting from the wound. Soon after, in the same area, you see more of these "impaled" humans, but it's not gory; the Geth's technology turns the humans into machines with the spikes, and in this scene, they have already turned into Husks. I mentioned them above, and when you encounter them, they'll come off their spikes and try to attack you. The Husks are a re-occuring enemy in the game, but you mostly encounter them during side-quests.
  • There is a certain enemy alien in the game that can control peoples' minds, and uses an organic version of the Husks to attack you in droves throughout its lair. These creatures look humanoid, but have crusty, deformed and thinly stretched skin, which show their overall skeleton beneath quite clearly. When you shoot them, they shed the same type of blood as the Husks, but explode into crusty, green/yellow, plant-like chunks when you kill them. The alien itself looks like a giant type of squid/octopus, and hangs in its room by its multiple tentacles attached to the wall. It, too, sheds the same type of blood when you damage it.
  • While you converse with a human scientist about how to destroy a dangerous alien species (which are running rampant through the labs), one of them comes up from behind the scientist and impales him through the chest with a barbed tentacle. This results in light blood splatter, as you see its tentacle protruding fully from the front of his chest, with his flesh sticking out from around the perameter of the wound. After you've killed it, you see the dead scientist, with his blood pooled on the floor, and his ripped open chest wound still very visible.
  • A later scene shows an enemy alien shoot himself in the head, resulting in you seeing the impact and a light amount of blue blood splatter. A little later, one of your party members shoots him in the head again to make sure he's dead (he was very dangerous), resulting in some light blue blood splatter.

Language: The language listed below is what was present in my playthrough. There mmay be more or less depending on if you're male or female, which side-quests you take, what overall responses or actions you make in dialog, and which of the party members are present throughout the game. There are over a dozen uses of d*mn and hell, under a dozen uses of bastard, a**, p*ss and God, and one use of b*tch, SoB and God d*mn. There is no option to turn language off.

Sexual themes:

  • A few of the main and side female characters wear form-fitting armor/clothes and cleavage revealing attire throughout the game—but nothing too revealing.
  • One optional side-quest has you helping a famous consort talk a former and jilted client out of dirtying her name. If you complete this side-quest, she will give you a word of wisdom pertaining to your character and his/her future. You have the option to ask for more, and if you do, it will fade to a scene that shows your character and the consort start to sleep together, and consists of the camera showing them from necks up the entire time, with the last shot showing her outstretched hand. This scene lasts for about 30 seconds, and then ends, and it's not near as suggestive as the optional scene near the end of the game.
  • A club in the game's main hub, called Chora's Den, has female alien dancers set atop a platform near the ceiling, and also a couple on private platforms at floor level, for the patrons at the bar. You can sit at one of these private platforms and watch the dancer as long as you want, and switch from a back to front view of the dancer by selecting "Relax," which will have your character lean in for a closer view. All of the female dancers wear skin-tight spandex type suits that expose their bare middrift, and quite a bit of their back, stomach and their bikini bottom clothed behinds. If you look close, you can also see the faint shape nd shadow of their nipples, but it's hard to see (as it's dark in the club). However, they really don't dance in an erotic fashion, or make any sexual movments, and they move in loops, which means their moves repeat over and over.

Over the course of the game, you can build up romantic relationships with one of the two main female characters, or the one male character, but you can only have one romance. Kaiden (male) is only available if your character is female, Ashley (female) is only available if your character is male. There is one character name Liara, who is a female (looking) alien, and you can pursue "her" as either a male or female. But, although "she" has the appearance of a female, "she" supposedly is neither gender, as this is a trait of the species (the Asari); they can mate with any species and either gender. You pursue a chosen character by conversing with them during key moments, and then pick the answer that will eventually lead to them "loving" you. Near the very end of the game, your chosen person will enter your quarters and ask if you want to sleep with them. You can then turn them down, or accept and a very brief "scene" will take place. I'll list these scenes in the "Partial nudity" section below. Last of all, these romances are entirely optional and avoidable—you don't have to pursue anyone.

Partial nudity: As I said in "Sexual themes" above, you can have optional "sex" with your chosen partner near the very end of the game. The scenes are under a minute (each), and are no worse than what you'd see on TV, or a PG-13 movie. In fact they're probably more tame, with very quick, tight shots, and there is no sexual movements, just rolling over and light kissing. I'll explain all of the variant scenes below.

  • If, as a male character, you choose to sleep with Ashley, it will show a scene that lasts for a total of 20 seconds, and there's 3 seconds of a partial side view of her bare behind and back, with the rest of the scene constituting quick shots of them kissing and rolling slowly on the bed.
  • If you choose to to sleep with Kaiden (male) as (only) a female character, it will show a scene that lasts for a total of 1 minute, with 3 seconds of a partial view (its dark) of her bare behind, and again, with the rest of the scene constituting quick shots of them kissing and rolling slowly on the bed.
  • If you choose to sleep with the non gender, but female-looking alien, Liara, as a male or female character, it'll show a scene that lasts for a total of 35 seconds, with 2 seconds of Liara's bare back, 2 seconds of Liara's partial (it's dark) bare behind, and 3 seconds of Liara's bare behind/back in a side view. The rest of the scene shows quick shots of them kissing and rolling slowly on the bed. All of the scenes listed above also have an almost partial view of the female character's side breast, but the shots are brief, undetailed, and last for less than a second.

Violence: In the future, humans discovered advanced alien technology on Mars, which resulted in giant leaps of human technology, and enabled us to travel the galaxy and meet alien species. They now refer to this momentous discovery as Mass Effect. The game puts you in the shoes of Commander Shepard, a human soldier, who is sent to Eden Prime (a human colony), to extract a newly unearthed device that's origin dates back 50,000 years, and created by an ancient alien race known as Protheans. When you reach the planet's surface, you find that someone else had the same idea, and is now attacking the planet in attempts to procure this device. Now to stop them...

When you first start the game you have a choice to either select a default character, John Shepard, or create your own. If you select the default, you can change the first name, and then start the game. If you select the custom character, you can change its gender, face, first name, origins (which will change the intro scene slightly), and its overall stats/class (as this is an RPG). Like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire before it (this game was made by the same developer), this has a moral system with a branching dialog tree. Unlike the games listed above, the moral system involves changes in subtle wording and overall attitude, and whenever you speak to someone, you have the choice to give them a positive/encouraging, neutral/bypass or negative/intimidating response. And eventually (depending on your stats), you can use a shrewd/disarming response that can get you out of some life or death situations.

This element also plays into your actions, and you're often given the choice on some pretty tough moral issues, which are less black and white, making them much tougher to differentiate between plain good and bad. Depending on what you choose, you'll get points that are added to either the Paragon bar (good) or Renagade bar (bad). This system affects everything, and ultimately shapes the story; from influencing people in your party, relationships, missions, to the overall ending (as there's more than one). The combat system is in real-time, and you're equipped with a pistol, rifle, shotgun, and sniper rifle, and later on you gain force-like powers, which enable you to throw and lift enemies with your mind and protect yourself with a mind-projected field. And although the combat is intense and hectic, there's a minimal amount of blood, enemy bodies stay in one piece, and since you and the enemy are in full, energy-shielded armour and use guns that shoot energy beams, combat isn't nearly gratuitous. And to top it all off, although you do fight many organic (alien/human—very rarely human) enemies, your main enemy is the Geth, which are a robotic species, and many of the remaining enemies are some form of machine.

Moral choices:

  • A man you're trying to help turns on you because his company, experimenting on an alien you're now after, wants the whole thing covered up, and everyone involved dead. When things are just about to get messy, you come in and ask him what's going on. If you have a high enough Charm skill (which acts as negotiation in dialog), you can talk him out of it, bringing him to his senses and ending things peacefully. If not, you'll be forced to kill him, which will result in his men standing down and ending the situation. This all depends on how you chose to shape your character up to this point, and is a good example on how this game's moral system is much less black and white.
  • As you continue to hunt for the same alien mentioned above, you find out that its taken over the minds of the human colonists. You now have the choice to either kill them all (as they're in your way), or you can use gas grenades that will knock them out so they can be cured later. However, the latter is much harder; you have very little grenades (about 3 to 5), and the gas cloud isn't very large--which is bad, since there are 16 colonists spread through the area—and many of them that are in clusters are spread pretty far apart, meaning you'll sometimes have to use one grenade for only two of them (do the math). So you have to be a very good aim and know how to conserve.
  • Later in the game you find out that the main villain has found a way to revive a once dying alien race (called the Krogan), and is breeding them to create an army. One of your party members is a Krogan, and isn't very happy about you planning to destroy the facility along with the cure for his people. When you try to calm him down and explain, he gets even angrier. Things soon escalate and he ends up pointing his gun at you and threatens to kill you. If you have a high enough Charm skill, you can bring him to his senses and convince him to help you. If you don't, you can either have one of your party members shoot him from behind, or you can do the deed yourself.

The examples listed above are the only ones that stand out enough to list (in the main quest, not side-quests), as the moral system and its choices are harder to pinpoint. The worst decision you're given is to kill (or murder in cold blood, which is extremely rare), and even this decision is far and few between. In other words, you can't really be a christened saint or an insanely evil person—instead, you can either be a moral, level-headed, law-abiding person, or a somewhat evil, selfish jerk. Beyond this, there are a few decisions near the end of the game that could make you pretty darn mean, but overall, as they plan to make sequels, you can't take over the world in the end, and the story only gives you so much leeway morally.

Specific scenes of violence:

  • You and your crew come across a group of enemy thugs interrogating a female doctor. When they spot you, one of the thugs grabs and holds her by gun-point threatening to kill her if you come closer. An ally (of yours) then comes out of nowhere and shoots the thug in the head (no blood/gore), freeing the woman.
  • As you're trying to reach the entrance of an enemy alien's lair, a human colonist leader appears, struggling to resist their mind-control. When the alien starts to force the colonist to point his gun at you and your crew, he sees what's about to happen, and uses all his strength to point it at his own head before it fires off, resulting in his death. The camera cuts away before you see the impact.

Content review posted: 08/14/08

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