Winter!: Prepare for holiday gaming!
A blurb on the back of the case says that playing Mass Effect "felt like falling in love with games again for the first time", and I have to say, I think more appropriate words could not be said. Barring Final Fantasy VII, I've never felt so immersed, so enthralled, and so invested in a game as I have with Mass Effect. Character creation is exactly what you expect from Bioware -- deep and (almost overly) complex -- but even without fiddling with it too much, my Commander Shepard still looked unique and special. He was exactly what I wanted him to be from the get go.
The voice acting is top notch, another area in which Bioware excels. Both male and female Shepard take command, directing conversations with whichever attitude you see fit, and every supporting character you meet delivers their lines spectacularly. The personalities and individual backgrounds of your crew are interesting, believable, and provide more insight into the Mass Effect universe, supplemented by a plethora of codex entries that provide tons of flavor info on species, planets, and technology.
Without giving away the plot, I found myself completely enamored by the story and the way in which it was delivered. Bioware paints a vivid picture of urgency, a mission of utmost importance. What I found most impressive was that I, as a player, started to mimic my Commander Shepard's thoughts and feelings. The more the Council stonewalled me and refused to provide proper aid, the more frustrated I became (but not with the game itself), and the more I wanted to stick it to the bad guys and show the galaxy what's what!
Genre-wise, Mass Effect is definitely an RPG with a very visible shooter element (especially if you choose the Soldier class). For detail-oriented players, there is plenty of micro-managing to be had (switching out new weapons, armors, mods, etc.). I really enjoyed weapon training mechanic: among the many things that can be leveled up, you can train in specific weapons depending on your class, and while new Shepards won't be very proficient with any weapon, progressively leveling up a weapon skill will result in a very noticeable improvement in accuracy and damage dealt.
The only draw back to the game that I can think to mention is the length: IF you decide not to partake in any side missions or any of the flavor content, then you could probably blast through the main story very quickly. But then, if you're the type of person uninterested in side missions and flavor, then this type of game probably isn't suited to you in the first place. :)
Mass Effect was an absolute thrill to play. At the time of this writing, I'm actually replaying it, and I'm not even playing a different personality, class, or gender. I'm playing it through almost exactly the same way I played it the first time, because I enjoyed it that much. Then I'll play it again as a female Shepard with a different class and personality just to see what happens. ^_^ I thoroughly believe that the Mass Effect series is what Bioware will be remembered for.
Game Traits applied to Mass Effect (X360) by JinTetra