We've waited an entire console generation for BioWare to finally remaster the Mass Effect trilogy, but it looks as though our patience has been rewarded with a collection that goes above and beyond. Ideally, we would be bringing you a full review of Mass Effect Legendary Edition right now, but we simply haven't had it long enough to play more than a chunk of the first game. As such, we can't say for sure whether Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 are on par with what we've seen from Mass Effect 1 — but just know that our expectations have been surpassed so far.
All of the screenshots used in this article were taken directly from our PS5. Some were taken using Legendary Edition's new photo mode, but we didn't use any of its editing tools.
Legendary Edition's version of Mass Effect looks like a different game — and we mean that in the best possible way. BioWare has really gone to town on the 2007 RPG, overhauling its visuals across the board. Characters and environmental assets have been replaced with much higher quality models. Textures have been enhanced significantly. The lighting's been redone. The whole galaxy's been pumped full of colour. But all of these changes don't rob Mass Effect of its charm. Sure, it doesn't look like the screen's coated in mud anymore, but the series' trademark use of lens flare remains, and it's essentially the exact same game in terms of design. At a glance, it could pass for a recent PS4 release, and that's no small feat.
Sit down to watch some gameplay, though, and you'll see that only so much can be done to modernise a title that was already janky upon its release 14 years ago. Animations are comically stiff, and every human who isn't a party member still looks like a waxwork that was deemed too creepy to be put on display.
Thankfully, what was by far Mass Effect 1's biggest issue has been remedied — at least on some level. It's fair to say that the original adventure was, at worst, an absolute chore to play, but BioWare has tweaked the controls and gameplay balance to a very noticeable degree. Movement is way more responsive, guns actually pack some punch, and you no longer have to pray to the RNG gods that your bullets will find their mark. Mass Effect now plays like a third-person shooter. An incredibly basic one, by today's standards, but it's a gigantic improvement nonetheless.
Even the cursed Mako has been improved. The six-wheeled space-tank plays quite a large role in the first game, as Commander Shepard and his allies use it to travel across the surface of desolate planets. Back in 2007, it was a nightmare to drive; it always felt as though it was skidding across ice, and it bounced along bumpy terrain like it was made of rubber. Again, it's more responsive, tighter controls that win the day. We're still not huge fans of the Mako sections since the vehicular combat is just so boring, but we no longer dread having to pilot the thing.
In terms of performance, Legendary Edition plays like a dream on PS5. The game's quality mode offers 4K support at 60 frames-per-second on Sony's current-gen console exclusively, and it's a beautiful thing. Those on PS4 Pro and PS4 can also opt for a "targeted" 60fps via performance mode, but it comes at the cost of being capped at 1440p on Pro, and 1080p on PS4.
Oh, and those damned elevator rides? Over in a flash. You can still wait it out in order to hear unique banter between your squadmates, but you're otherwise free to skip ahead after just a few seconds. Likewise, fast travel is, well, fast. Teleporting between areas on the Citadel is near instantaneous on PS5, which is a huge plus given the amount of legwork that several sidequests require.
So Mass Effect Legendary Edition looks great and it plays infinitely better than it ever has — but graphics and moment-to-moment gameplay weren't the original's strengths. Indeed, it's Mass Effect 1's ability to build a full sci-fi universe that makes it so special. The first game revels in bite-sized exposition, with the initial hours dishing out all kinds of intriguing facts about its futuristic setting. It's all just as cohesive and fascinating today as it was 14 years ago — and the best part is that it sets the stage for its equally engaging sequels.
At this point, it's perhaps worth explaining how Legendary Edition is set up. Basically, the trilogy has been compiled into one launcher. When you boot Legendary Edition, you're greeted with an especially swish BioWare logo, and then you're dropped onto a menu screen that presents all three games. You click on the one that you want to play, and you jump over to that game's remastered title screen.
If, for whatever reason, you want to skip Mass Effect 1 and jump straight into Mass Effect 2, you get the option to play through the second game's interactive comic, which lets you establish your Shepard's past actions. Leaping right into Mass Effect 3 is the same deal, but with a different comic.
If you're brand new to Mass Effect, but you've always been interested, we'd highly recommend checking out Legendary Edition based on what we've played so far. For the first game in particular, this looks and feels like the definitive way to experience a beloved RPG.