Posted by Zac Elawar on Mar 9, 2013

Mass Effect 3: Citadel Review

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Mass Effect 3: Citadel
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: EA
Format: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3, PC
Release Date: Out Now
Price: 1,200 Microsoft Points (Xbox 360), $14.99 (PS3), 1,200 BioWare Points (PC) (Available Here)

Overview

‘Mass Effect 3: Citadel’ is the final piece of DLC for the trilogy and aims to give players a high end-note to bookend the “Shepard Saga” with, whilst also pulling on a proverbial heart string or two. Adding entirely new locations and reuniting crew members of games past, ‘Citadel’ packs a lot of content with its whopping 2-part, 4GB download size. But how does this content fare in providing fans the send-off they deserve…the one they were promised? Read on to find out.

Story

Like many other missions and DLC begin, Shepard receives a new email at his private terminal. This time, the message is from Admiral Hackett, who has ordered the Normandy into the Citadel dry-dock for repairs. He also tells Shepard to visit Admiral Anderson’s apartment in the wards, but doesn’t say exactly why. Succeeding Shepard’s arrival, Anderson makes contact via video feed all the way from Earth. He expresses to Shepard that he no longer needs the place as he just can’t leave Earth again, not after this war. Littered throughout the apartment are audio logs featuring Anderson reflecting upon his life and career. Entering the rumpus room (of sorts), you discover why as the first half of an exclusive ANN interview with the Admiral can be played on the TV screen in the room. The interview was interrupted with the arrival of the Reapers.

Soon, Shepard receives an email at his private terminal – which is situated in that same room. It’s an invite from Joker for a meal at the local sushi restaurant, Ryuusei, which is on the Silversun Strip. After you arrive, the two quickly deduce that they were both sent identical emails that neither physically typed up. One Maya Brooks – Staff Analyst of Allegiance Intelligence - frantically scrambles to reach the duo, informing them that someone has hacked Shepard’s accounts and is trying to kill him. This is when all hell breaks loose…it was an ambush. After fighting his way out of the establishment – and through their fish tank floor – Shepard continues on towards a shuttle bay, which is where a returning Wrex (if he is alive in your continuation) saves Shepard from another attack and helps him escape.

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At this point, the rest of your current crew arrive at your newly acquired apartment to help track down the identity thief and get some revenge. The soldiers who attacked Shepard are of an organisation called CAT6. They were armed with high-grade silenced pistols, M-11 Suppressors, which do massive damage (one of only two new weapons along with the M-7 Lancer). After Shepard picked one up during the initial gun fight, Liara gets Glyph to analyse it and the resulting information leads them to a local casino owner named Elijah Khan, who is a weapon smuggler. This is where things get truly interesting, and so I won’t spoil any more of the main plot. I will say, however, that the culprit is a familiar face…and most certainly not one that you would expect. What I will write about is the stuff after the action portion of the DLC…

Once that plot line is carried through, the crew finally make use of their supposed free time to relax, catch-up and bond before the upcoming climactic battle with the Reapers. First of all, I don’t understand how they could even be afforded such luxuries when considering the situation at hand…but, then again, this whole DLC is very light-hearted and does not take itself seriously at all. The shore leave is just a story device to give the fans that chance to say goodbye to the characters they’ve grown to love over the years and should be appreciated as such. I played Citadel as its own contained experience, so I only ever travelled between the apartment and the Silversun Strip. But, with each return to the apartment, I would receive new emails from crew members – past and present – who wanted to meet up.

You are able to call specific parties up to your apartment, but are must also meet others out in different areas of the strip (if you desire to at all). These rendezvous are sometimes downright hysterical. For instance, Kaidan stops by to cook dinner for the two, which Shepard grills him on, quipping, “All these close calls I’ve had, only to be taken out by dinner….Can it at least be quick and painless?” And yes, I had to use “grills” in that sentence. There are also a couple sombre moments, the biggest of which involved Thane’s son Kolyat organising a memorial for his Father. Shepard and the entire crew speak highly of Thane before Kolyat pulls you aside to present some video messages from Thane that never got through to Shepard. Watching these was a sad moment, but knowing that you got to visit him after they were recorded lifts that sadness, at least slightly.

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Once you are ready, you can buy party provisions and make preparations for the extravaganza. You have the ability to pick and choose who to invite, so your experience may well differ from mine. Friendly advice: invite Grunt…ever seen a Krogan wasted? This is your chance! Anyway, as the night progresses, people become more inebriated and free to act a fool. The night is recorded via a group photograph that stays on one of the television sets through to the next morning. Once the dust has settled, you are tasked with investigating the aftermath, which accommodates some more memorable scenes. It’s only here that you can discover a bedside data-pad sent by Mordin that holds some of his recordings, which are always entertaining. Finally, the crew prepare to board the Normandy for possibly the final time as Shepard and his love interest share a brief, reflective moment on the D24 docking bay.

Gameplay

For the first section of gameplay, you are mostly using the brand new M-11 Suppressor as its silencer allows you to progress stealthily towards your escape route. This is the first true stealth section I can remember in a Mass Effect game, at least for a long time. The theme of stealth rears its head again as you infiltrate the Silver Coast Casino. There, you must mingle with patrons as Brooks makes her way to the ventilation duct upstairs. Subsequently finding it rigged with an alarm, Liara then hands you a device that allows sight of the electrical wiring in the floors, as well as the direction that security and cameras are looking so that you may locate the relative circuit boxes controlling the alarms and said cameras. There are a few circuit breakers that need to be hacked, but with security all over, you must send your accomplice to distract the desired guard while you do so.

There is no real challenge in this up until the final room which is blocked off by a motion sensor. Here, there is one stationary guard, one patrolling guard and two cameras. These sections are not too long or involved, but they are nice pace-breakers which provide something new in the way of gameplay that is relatively well done. In regards to gun-play, the CAT6 mercenaries – who are dishonourably discharged Alliance soldiers – are formidable foes, especially on the higher difficulty settings. There are three types of CAT6 enemies: the Heavy, the Sniper and the Specialist. The Heavies are particularly tough as they carry ballistic shields that can take a lot of punishment. The Specialists are also troublesome as they deploy Disruption Drones which do heavy damage with a kamikaze-like attack.

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The Silversun Strip is home to the Silver Coast Casino and Castle Arcade, both of which enable completely new experiences for the player. You can earn some credits in a game of Quaser, Roulette or Varren Racing in the casino or try your hand at Shattered Eezo (fighting simulator), Relay Defence (tactical line defence) or the Claw Game (we all know how those work) in the arcade. But, you will almost undoubtedly spend the most time at the Armax Arsenal Arena, where you can set battle conditions and enter a simulation against three waves of your chosen enemies. Depending on your score, you will earn either a Bronze, Silver or Gold token which can be redeemed for prizes which vary from additional Squad Members to Maps and Enemy Combat Sets. Following each battle, you will receive a private email from a fan or otherwise who will request you complete a battle under their specified conditions. They will rewards you with a myriad of things, from money to weapons modifications – of which there are 7 in this DLC.

Finally, we come to the party at the conclusion of the DLC. Now, there is not much in the way of actual gameplay here, but I just wanted to note a few things. Firstly, the party proceeds in stages which can be managed by specifying to Glyph whether or not you want a quiet time or a rowdy time. There are also many instances where two or more individuals are having a “friendly debate” and you must choose sides, much like in the main game where you could support one person’s argument over another. There is one mini-game (if you can call it that) involving James Vega that actually occurs during your separate hangout session where he spots your gym equipment in one of the bedrooms and challenges you to beat his chin-up record of 182. I thought I could initiate the pull-up sequence and then time would flash forward to Shepard surpassing that record, but I was instructed to alternate pulling the left and right triggers (Paragon and Renegade prompts) all 183 times…and there was no achievement attached to it! I spent 15 minutes doing that! Damn Bioware!!!! But the accompanying dialogue was funny enough to keep me entertained during.

Visuals & Audio

Mass Effect has always had a very consistent, hard, futuristic sci-fi look which carries on from the level/environmental design through to the colour palette. In Mass Effect 3, to reflect the dire tone of the story, there were less vibrant locations to explore. Citadel works to change that with the Silversun Strip, which is a colourful, neon-heavy mirror of our own Vegas Strip, though much shorter. Even your personal apartment presents a completely different atmosphere, feeling like a bachelor pad of sorts – though with a lot less tacky furnishings. Speaking of which, its furniture can be customised but only to a very limited extent. The additional items do little to change the overall visual motif of the hangout, and the changes to the decorations that I made actually reverted back once the party mission had started (although, only for that mission).

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The expert teaming of Sam Hulick, Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan has returned and once again resulted in some fantastic musical pieces. In your personal apartment, up-beat, dance/electronica tracks can be cycled via stereo controls in numerous rooms. They are a big part of the ensuing party’s atmosphere near the end of the game, especially as everyone gets rowdier and begins to dance the night away. As a somewhat hidden feature (could easily be looked over), more tracks can be unlocked by winning them as prizes in the claw game at Castle Arcade. The ‘Combat Theme’ plays like a dance track with its techno-inspired “drum and bass” beat, slight phasing and reverb, but it works. However, the emotional tunes always stand out to me the most, and in Citadel there are a couple of gems in particular.

“Lost in You” is a lighter, brighter version of the emotional “Lost Without You” from Mass Effect 3. There’s also a song that plays as the crew board the Normandy after their shore leave is over, resigned to the probability that this could be the last time they all see each other…it comprises solely of strings and piano, and is very powerful. Finally, in-game, Liara plays a piano solo version of Vigil from the original Mass Effect soundtrack, which is resonant and beautiful – definitely the highlight of the OST for me. With all that being said, unfortunately, audio is also the only department that had any failings as I experienced multiple audio glitches and jumps – the worst of which was the unintentional overlaying of the ‘Normandy track’ with the previous scene’s that really wrecked the mood of the ending.

Overall

Mass Effect 3: Citadel is an amazing, hilarious, fulfilling chunk of fan service that is sure to put smiles on every Mass Effect player’s face. Simply put; this is Bioware’s love letter to us, to the trilogy that has helped define their legacy and to Commander Shepard. Citadel is brimming with call-backs to fan-favourite moments, basically being one giant ‘Easter Egg’. Want to know what EDI thought of specialist Traynor finding her voice attractive? Want to hear another of Mordin’s famous songs? The list goes on and on…there are so many awesome homages, references and uproarious one-liners and conversations here that will have you reflecting on the good times – although, once it’s all over, the melancholy kicks in. I wanted the party to continue forever…now the mourning has started all over again. ‘I won’t say it’s been easy, but we’ve had a good run…the best’.

9-5-capsules-out-of-10

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