Bioware's Mass Effect 3 arrives onto store shelves at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, concluding one of gaming's biggest, and most critically acclaimed, trilogies in the past decade.
For one last time, players will be thrust in the customizable role of Commander Shepard, placed dead center in humanity's struggle against the synthetic apocalypse known as the Reapers.
Since the series began in 2007, it has been characterized by its most memorable moments, both bombastic and somber. It's a sci-fi story filled with the best of the genre: futuristic shoot outs, epic space battles, Lovecraftian themes, inter-species sex -- and even some humor.
Hit the jump below to check out our five favorite moments of the Mass Effect series. Warning, major spoilers for Mass Effect 1 and 2 ahead.
5. Letting the Council Die
In the final battle of ME1, players were given the choice of sacrificing The Citadel Council, or saving them, at the cost of thousands of human lives.
Keep in mind, the Council was the same governing body that spent most of the game belittling and mistrusting Shepard, then dragging their feet in response to his numerous, warnings of danger. So, when the decision to sacrifice these detached alien bureaucrats arose, many of us went Renegade and let their ship burn, saving human lives in the process.
This was one of the first installment's best examples of difficult player choice, and one with consequences that will haunt fans well into Mass Effect 3.
4. Morinth's Fatal Attraction
Mass Effect 2 was most notable for its ragtag collection of misfits and outlaws for Shepard's squadmates. It was band of assassins, murderers, ice queens and even sex crazed killers.
Morinth falls into that last category. The crazed offspring of Samara, she is one of the biggest Renegade choices in the game, a serial killer who literally kills others with sex (via intercourse telepathy aka Space VD).
Once she's on the Normandy, she'll spend the rest of the game trying to get into Shepard's pants. Curious players, such as us, could hardly resist. Pulling no punches, Bioware made sure we saw the consequences of our actions.
3. Mass Effect on Fox News
Back in 2007, ME1 stirred the ire Fox News, evangelicals and family pundits with its "graphic depictions of alien sex."
Except that this "graphic sex" is pretty a 30 second scene between two consenting individuals, so tame we're pretty sure it could run on Cartoon Network.
Shortly after its release, neocon blogger Kevin McCullough wrote "with its 'over the net' capabilities virtual orgasmic rape is just the push of a button away," in an online article. From there, the "Sex Effect" controversy quickly spread to Fox News, taken to even more ridiculous levels that only that network can.
2. Romancing Subject Zero
Jack was one of the more nuanced and complex romantic relationships in Mass Effect 2. Initially cold and aggressive (as well as wholly DTF), she is pretty clear with her intentions in regards to Shepard: a quick one-night stand that begins and ends there.
However, for the player that decides to not act like a douchebag, and gets to know the character, one of the more complex and emotional relationships in ME2 is revealed. The rugged and angry Jack is shown to be just and vulnerable as the rest of us, with own insecurities and need for compassion.
And thus, a night of digital cuddling.
1. Mass Effect 2's opening
Mass Effect 2 still possesses one of modern gaming's best openings, depicting the tragic death of Commander Shepard at the unforgiving vacuum of space. Like a biotic charge to the face, ME2 beginning scenes made their mark fast and hard, to both new and old fans alike.
The scene is particularly emotional for players of the first game, seeing the Normandy ship they had fallen in love with, quickly disintegrated to pieces by an unknown threat. The theme of hopelessness is only amplified by the final desperate, struggling breaths of Shepard as he or she falls into the nothingness of space.
However, our favorite moment is when Shepard emerges from the flaming wreckage that was once the crew's quarters, to the now open-air command deck, fit with a perfect view of the planet above (5:18 in the video). The chaos of explosions and screams turn into silence and the stillness of breath.
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Bonus: Punching the Reporter
There's no way we could leave this out. Here's to upholding freedom of the press in Mass Effect 3!