All those 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books you read as a child have prepared you for 'Mass Effect 3.'

As did all those nights gazing into the stars, wondering which hot alien chicks might be willing to give it up if you ever happened to lead an interplanetary coalition that was the galaxy's one hope to save sentient life.

And if you played 'Mass Effect' 1 or 2, you were also working your way up to this, the Super Bowl of shooting aliens in the face and then talking about the implications of what you did in extensive, branching dialogue tree conversations.

The game lives up to its expectations. Like Natalie Portman, it's got the brains and the looks. We wanted to make sweet, interstellar love to everything on the screen, especially the ladies. But you knew this game would be so great, right?

You probably called in sick Tuesday and are just pausing to read all the reviews from gamers equally smitten with one of the all-time great role-playing game series. But your boss doesn't mind, because if he's as cool as we are, he called in sick too. Leave the office work this week to those unfortunate souls who  haven't been initiated into the 'Mass Effect' cult.

Not that it's an insular club, The game bends backward and does the splits naked for newcomers. This is by far the most accessible entry in the trilogy, filled with early-game primers to get you up to speed -- long story short, giant evil alien robot things are going to destroy everything unless you can coerce a bunch of silly-looking aliens to team up and beat them down with a Care Bear Stare -- and offers two optional modes of play for those who don't know what they're doing.

Our favorite of these is the 'story' option, which turns all your enemies into hapless doofuses who practically smile as you walk up to them and pimp-slap them into oblivion, handling all your leveling and upgrades as you focus on the dialogue. And by dialogue, we may talking your way into your crewmates' aluminum bodysuits. If you're anything like us, you base every dialogue option on which one has the best chance of getting your phaser set to "bone." The series handles its sex scenes with class, but managing to bed a fellow sluts in arms feels like more of an accomplishment than saving an entire race from destruction.

If you don't care for the sexcapades, you can opt for a shooter mode that tasks you to focus on the combat while the developers take the narrative largely out of your hands, telling the story in the traditional manner.

Purists who are offended at those modes can stop whining right about here. You can also opt for the traditional way to play, micromanaging your squads' armor and ballistics and making multiple saves to rehash your poor choices.

Some die-hards may also be miffed at a couple new additions: multiplayer and, on the Xbox 360, Kinect sensor support. We dug both of the bonuses, which are not required but definitely give the game more to offer. A 'Gears of War' horde-style mode, in which you create a character and team with others to fend off waves of enemies, is a blast that lets you recruit your heroes into battle in the single-player game. And Kinect lets you bark orders to your squadmates and select dialogue options.

For better or worse, the lovely ladies -- and dudes, too, if that's your style -- don't respond to your improper sexual asides you improvise. We'd like to believe that they ignore our demands because they're too classy to respond and they want us to work for our 2-minute, PG-13-level sex scenes. We ain't too proud to beg, or save the galaxy, so long as it helps us get our swerve on.

Rating: 9.5/10

Mass Effect 3 ($60) was developed by BioWare, published by Electronic Arts and is available on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The publisher provided a copy of the game for review.

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