The game starts by either choosing a prefabricated character (Boo..) or customizing yourself a character from fairly extensive character creation tools (Do it!). I personally believe that the voice actress for the female Cmdr. Shepherd is superior to the voice actor for the male version, and thus would recommend having a female character. Also, unlike some games where character customization is a useless chore (I'm looking at you Oblivion!) in this game your character will actually be getting a lot of face time, so make sure you like their looks. The other options for your character aside from look is their class, of which there are 6 with varying levels of proficincy between the Soldier, Engineer and Adept skills. You also get to choose your character's backstory which comes into play through various conversations and even some optional missions. Getting back to the classes, perhaps one of the biggest factors in play when choosing between classes for a new player to the game is that only classes that are in some way Soldier class influenced can use weapons other than a pistol and equip armor above Light. While for a more advanced player the skills you receive from an Engineer or Adept can more than make up for these, as you are still learning and especially if you come from an FPS background, it is in your best interest to choose a character with some soldier influence or you may not enjoy the game entirely.
The radial conversation selection gets the dialogue to flow quickly while still allowing the player to control the direction of things.
The next aspect of the game you will come in contact with is the generally very good music and voice acting in the game. Sure some of the background music for common areas can get repetitive, but none of it is grating. And the voice acting for all the main characters is quite good. Captain Anderson is voiced by the fellow who voiced the Arbiter from Halo 2 & 3, and the aforementioned female lead has numerous voice credits including Naomi Hunter and Emma Emmerich from the Metal Gear Solid series (Also Prier from La Pucelle, but fortunately not too many people know about that game...). Seth Green is even in the cast as the smart mouthed pilot. Connected to voice acting is the innovative conversation system. Those who have played Knights of the Old Republic or Jade Empire may be familiar with the variety of conversation options that Bioware generally presents the player and their ramifications upon the game's morality meter. In Mass Effect there are two meters reflecting your personality: Paragon or Renegade. These fill based upon your actions, and the increase of the meters will open the ability to purchase associated abilities which grant advantages in dealings with merchants and open options in conversations to turn difficult situations too your advantage (Though, perhaps it makes some situations to easy?). The game also features rather smooth flow of conversation and a radial selection menu for your answers which sure beats the menu selection style of previous titles. Oh, and something else interesting is that the conversation option isn't exactly what your character says, but more the attitude they will be taking towards the remark or situation.
The Alien races of Mass Effect + Humans
The graphics are both good and sometimes a let down. To be sure the character animations and appearance is top notch as are many environments. However, I often felt the areas tended to feel somewhat desolate or lacking in fine details. Also there is a tendency to be some texture issues alla Halo 2. They usually fix themselves in a second or two and may simply be an attempt to bring up scenes more quickly, but when the rest of the game looks good, even small problems are off-putting. Perhaps the greatest flaw in the game is the understandable, yet regrettable repetitiveness of optional mission environments and their general lack of satisfying conclusions. For example, there is one optional quest involving a corrupt secret organization, but after you reach the end you don't really learn that much, nor does it seem to have much effect on anything. But since BioWare is thusfar living up to promises for Downloadable Content, I will hope for expansions on this and other stories... But I was talking about graphics. Not the best on the console, but the characters really do shine (And not because of over abudance of lightbloom!).
Taking out sentient machines has never been easier thanks to Armor Piercing Rounds!
So what about the meat of the game? I think some people complain about the combat, but I personally find it very usable and fun (Biotic power lift is awesome fun). If it was meant to be purely a Shooter then I would say it has problems, but given that it is an RPG with shooter style combat I say it works well given the real time nature and the easy integation of Biotic and Mechanical powers. Oh, in case you're scratching your head, Biotics are sort of like the Force, but they don't harness the fabric of the universe. Another aspect of the game is the travel to other systems and planets which is one of the most interesting aspects. Travel to a new system, survey most of the planets to earn money and experience points and then land on the one or two planets that have some sort of a mission on them and roam around in your awesome land roaver which CAN take damage and you can engage enemy forces in. Some pretty epic battles against your main foes, the Geth, take place in this vehicle. My only complaint about the roaver is you can't upgrade or customize it. Its firepower and armor seem to upgade as your characters level up and its radar range increases, but besides that its pretty much the same vehicle you start with. Speaking of leveling up, the ability system is pretty versitile. Early in the game you get a lot of points with each level up allowing you to spread between some options and experiment and therefore letting you decide where you want to focus later when you get fewer points. For example, if you're a soldier maybe early on you aren't sure if you want to specialize in Assault Rifle, Sniper Rifle or a Shotgun so you spread points betwen the three. Later on you realize that you're using the Sniper Rifle less often, delegating the task to a team mate who specializes in the combat form, and so you put more points in Assault Rifle and Shotgun. You also control ability point allocation for your team mates... Or you can just do the auto level up, but thats rather boring isn't it? As is standard for an RPG, you control the equipment of your party, altering and upgrading weapons and armor. However with this game you can modify you equipment with, well mods. Things like armor piercing damage to really hit the robotic enemies, or adding additional force to the shot to increase the chances of knocking an enemy down (Which is more useful than it sounds). You can also obtain implants to boost your Biotic or Mechanical skillz. This video clip shows a good idea of the Vanguard class, a combination of Soldier and Adept: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbGipe1rRhg
If you own an Xbox 360 you should buy this game just to have it in your library if for no other reason, and its also available for PC now and I've heard they made some enhancements to make it work better with the PC. Obviously I think you should enjoy it. The only complaint I can lay against it aside from the few I have already is the dang slow elevator ride inside your ship. Sure its a realistic lift elevator, but still... Really tedious. Its not like it has interesting conversations or news casts running like in the Citadel elevators.
So, final tally:
+Great voice acting
+Great textures on the characters
++Storyline is awesome
+Enjoyable character customization
+The female commander
+Lift Biotic is awesome
-Some texture loading issues
-The story loses something after you've played through once and alternative options can feel hollow
-Repetitive optional mission environments
-No romance with Tali
-Frickin' slow elevator on the ship
=Combat system that some people complain about, but I think works well.
=New Game+ characters can't earn achievements.
=Music great in some places, but very forgettable in most common areas.