March 29, 2023

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Mass Effect Legendary Edition: PS5, Xbox Series X and Series S tested

There’s a fair degree of controversy surrounding this one – does this remaster clash with the original creator’s vision, especially when it comes to its lighting and presentation? Are some of the changes to gameplay and content appropriate or indeed desirable? While the discussion plays out, there are some things that are beyond dispute. Mass Effect Legendary Edition is a truly colossal undertaking – an ambitious package that updates Bioware’s creation for the 4K era, while also making much-needed tweaks to the first game’s controls. And for Digital Foundry, the process of looking at this game began with one simple question: what should be the focus for our coverage and how do we begin to cover it?

The developer itself has been very open about exactly how it has approached the remastering process with its visual upgrades, while explaining in-depth how it plans to change and rebalance gameplay aspects. Our focus therefore is to produce more of an overview of the remaster, and to see how it plays out across the new wave of console hardware. And that presents some interesting discussions points: the Legendary Edition is primarily designed for the last generation of console hardware. Enhancements for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles come with ‘back compat plus’ – which is essentially the last-gen game code running on the new consoles, with minor tweaks in place to define resolution and frame-rate targets.

In addition to testing the game on the new machines, we also went all the way back to the beginning, running Mass Effect 1 on Xbox 360. Creative vision aside, it’s here where we begin to appreciate the scale of the effort. It’s truly in the 2007 original where we see the greatest push to modernise the game. Controls are improved: the first game now adopts the tighter aiming mechanics of later games, with a smaller reticle and better feedback on bullet impact. It’s honestly one of the main reasons to go back to it today. There is some restraint from Bioware that shows faith to the original design however. Taking cover behind walls is still automatic, for example, rather than using a button press to snap to a wall, as in the sequels. The context-sensitive cover just isn’t as dependable as Mass Effects 2 and 3’s approach – but for balance, perhaps, it had to stay put.

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