Mass Effect was a big surprise at this year's E3, easily snatching our vote for Xbox 360 game of the show and nearly ruining a perfectly good pair of trousers.
Utilising every morsel of the Xbox 360's technical prowess, the stellar RPG is bringing worlds and characters to the screen with more believability and realism than we've seem before.
Add to that an infinite supply of characters and worlds to explore, real-time combat with a deep weapon customisation system and the usual epic plot and endless quests you'd expect from BioWare, and Mass Effect has us dribbling with excitement.
Recently we managed to get a few words in with Mass Effect project director, Casey Hudson, who wrapped our heads around his gargantuan RPG while hinting at BioWare's other Xbox 360 project and touching on the company's recent merger with Pandemic.
So it's over to him...
CVG: You've already created two massive, highly-acclaimed console RPGs, Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire. What were the main design considerations in planning Mass Effect?
Casey Hudson: We had a very positive experience in developing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but it left us wanting to try new things and take on new challenges - to really innovate. So creating a new science-fiction universe was an opportunity to build a basis for exciting new experiences for players, built from the ground up to provide a definitive interactive science-fiction experience
One of the ways that we wanted to expand the game experience was to give the player a much larger world to explore - so we've created an interactive map of the Milky Way, where players can explore many locations beyond the core story.
We also wanted to give players a character that wasn't just a hollow vessel, but instead was in a position to give the player a very specific and unique experience: being responsible for a mission of such importance that you're justified in (and have many opportunities for) smashing through barriers and breaking rules to take care of business. In other words, your experience as Commander Shepard gives you good reasons to take extreme actions.
CVG: What inspired your decision to turn Mass Effect into a trilogy? How long will we have to wait for the second and third instalments?
Hudson: We want to create the biggest and most memorable interactive science-fiction experience possible and that meant being able to not only tell one great story, but to be able to constantly elevate the experience across future adventures in a way that feels like one enormous experience.
This isn't one story spread across three episodes though. Instead, each game will have a self-contained story with a spectacular and satisfying ending. By planning out the long-term story ahead of time however, we're able to ensure that future adventures in the Mass Effect universe continue to have really interesting places to go
Players will be able to create a unique character for Mass Effect, and play as that character through three huge titles and tons of downloadable adventures over the lifetime of the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, we aren't ready to discuss timing on future installments of the franchise.
CVG: What's the overall plot of the game?
Hudson: It is 200 years in the future. You are Commander Shepard, veteran of the Alliance military and the only human among the Spectres: elite agents sworn to protect galactic stability at any cost. Trusted to deal with the most dangerous threats to galactic civilization, you are the tip of the spear for humanity on the galactic stage.