Watching the first 20 minutes of Mass Effect played by a cute BioWare representative, I couldn't help but be reminded of a ventriloquist I saw on America's Got Talent a few nights ago. Why I happened to be watching America's Got Talent is none of your business, but let it be known that I wasn't happy about it.
Now, the thing about Mass Effect is that it seemed, more or less, like a ventriloquist's dummy. Of course, it was a very nice-modeled, well-rendered dummy with nice textures, but nothing more. The game, much like Pinocchio, lacks life.
The gameplay looks like your standard FPS fare, which is to say that I didn't see anything great or remarkable. There's a variety of weapons and abilities to use, but my pants didn't get wet or tight because of them. Gameplay is kind of hard to judge without an actual controller in your hands, so I'm going to reserve judgment on that.
Where the presentation really fell short, however, is in the emotionless voice acting and subpar facial animations. Not only did the conversation lack the natural ebb and flow to which we were all looking forward, but it was as if the voice actor's took commas, question marks, and exclamations points out of their repertoire. The dialogue has about as much emotional engagement as a grocery list. Even worse, the facial animations match the shoddy voice acting: the mouths move, and that's about it. It'd be great for a Joan Rivers botox sim, but it doesn't really make for a compelling video game.
At worst, Mass Effect is disappointing. The best reaction I've heard all day was this: "It wasn't that bad, just more of the same." If "not that bad" is all you've got going for you ...