Untitled Document
Mass Effect

M35 Mako

First posted Christmas 2007

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Since I've made LEGO creations for Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate II, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and even Neverwinter Nights, I think it's pretty obvious that I'm a big fan of BioWare. So, naturally, I couldn't miss their latest Xbox 360 3rd-person-shooter/RPG title, Mass Effect. And as a result, I give you: the game's chief (and only drivable) land vehicle, the M35 Mako Rover!

Here is the description straight from the in-game Codex:

The M35 Mako infantry fighting vehicle was designed for the System Alliance's frigates. Though the interior is cramped, an M35 is small enough to be carried in the cargo bay and easily deployed on virtually any world.

With its turreted 155mm mass accelerator and coaxially-mounted machine gun, the Mako can provide a fire team with weapon support as well as mobility. Since Alliance marines may be required to fight on any world, the Mako is environmentally-sealed and equipped with microthrusters for use on low-gravity planetoids.

The Mako is powered by a sealed hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell, and includes a small element zero core. While not large enough to nullify the vehicle's mass, the core can reduce it enough to be safely air-dropped. When used in conjunction with thrusters, it also allows the Mako to extricate itself from difficult terrain.

I put quite a bit of work into this model, trying to make it as accurate and detailed as possible... So out of fear that some viewers might not have played the game, or might have played it but never looked very closely at the Mako, I'm providing convenient comparison images! Ignore the fact that the "screenshots" look rather fuzzy and weird; they're actually photos of my computer monitor (hooked to the 360 I have at my computer desk) that I took with a digital camera. Would that I had one of those fancy systems for taking actual Xbox 360 screenshots... or even Xbox Live...

The rear of the vehicle is where most of the detailing is located. Another thing I wanted to do was give the model an impressive presentation. See that background? I didn't copy and paste that in; I actually drew it myself in Adobe Photoshop and printed it on the new HP DesignJet 130 Large Format Printer I recently purchased for my business. I plan to offer this and other backgrounds for purchase through my website, since they can of course come in very handy not only for photographing models (both LEGO and otherwise, like those painted wargame miniatures), but also for making stop-motion LEGO films, since it's much harder to insert a digital background into those than it is a regular photograph.

But enough about my business ventures... As you can see in the above photo (hint: look at the second set of wheels), my LEGO Mako has working suspension. Much like the Warthog in Halo, I felt that it just wouldn't be the Mako if it didn't bounce. If you've played the game, you should know exactly what I mean. When I first saw videos of the Mako bouncing over uneven terrain and gunning down foes in early promotional trailers, I thought it looked silly and probably awkward to drive. When I finally got to try it in the actual game, I was pleasantly surprised. It's actually very fun!

These two shots show the most inaccurate aspect of my Mako, which is simply that it could stand to be longer and slimmer. I had trouble doing that with the wheels I had chosen while still keeping it thick enough to seat actual minifigs. Still, I think this drawback is easily overlookable in light of how well the model turned out overall.

As soon as I saw the Mako in the game, my mind did what it often does: it began translating what I saw into a possible LEGO model. And I realized immediately that the Mako would lend itself almost perfectly to LEGO; the smooth surfaces, the colors, the fact that LEGO loves to make rovers anyway... and the shape of the front was perfect for those long curved slopes! However, in order to use those pieces, some decaling was needed. I tried to keep it to a minimum though. If this were a LEGO set, it would have a total of three printed/decaled pieces. That's not bad, right?

Another thing about my LEGO model is that it's more than a little bit too large. This was, of course, necessary for it to be "minifig scale" and still actually seat minifigs. If you stand next to the Mako in the game, it seems unbelievable that it could actually seat at least three people! But my LEGO can...

Here is the driver's seat. The Mako features no windshield or canopy in the game, but it does have a vent-like row of slits that I assume is used for a non-instrumental peek outside. The only time we get a look at the Mako's interior is in one of the promotional trailers (the one it plays in the game if you sit at the main menu too long), but the Mako in that video also has a pair of large windows on the front that are clearly not there in the game, so I dismissed it as inaccurate anyway.

EDIT: Apparently there is some debate on the subject of whether or not the Mako has windows. It has been suggested to me that the front two slits on the nose are actually windows, as is the belly under the nose, since both of them are reflective-looking. I have no way of knowing whether this is true or not, but even if it is, the windows look opaque from an exterior view in the game, so I wouldn't have modified my LEGO version anyway.

The video also presents the Mako as what appears to be a four-seater, but the only time in the game where a fourth passenger joins you is on Feros, when you rescue the girl named Lizbeth who is actually the most attractive female NPC in the game I thought; way more attractive than either of the ones you are forced to choose between. Hm, I kind of went off on a tangent there, didn't I? Err... anyway, the top of my LEGO Mako is easily removable for access to the interior. You know how I am about playability.

Of course, the top of the vehicle is never shown opening up in the game. No, the only visible form of entry is through the tiny hatches on its lower sides. At first I couldn't believe this was really how characters got in and out... until I saw a cutscene near the end of the game where your character actually crawls out of it. Ouch.

Speaking of characters, here are the minifigs! They are, from left to right: Kaidan Alenko, Commander Justin Shepard (you can only choose your character's first name), and Ashley Williams. I'm sure some of you don't like the megaphone assault rifle I gave Ashley, but I can't get over a lingering affection for megaphone blasters. Kaidan has a pistol, since it's the only weapon he's good with, and I have a sniper rifle, since my character was an Infiltrator. Soldiers are boring.

The armors they are wearing for these minifigs are Liberator (Kaidan), Mercenary (Ashley), and of course... Scorpion (Shepard). Here are some more screen-photos for comparison purposes. When I saw they had an armor called Scorpion in the game, I knew I had to wear it. And then when I found the pistol called Stinger, I was all set! And you can easily get both in the very first level of the game, if you search thoroughly.

A shot of the back decals, as our stalwart heroes apparently run toward the sunset. I tried to keep these minifigs detailed but still relatively simple, since like the Mako, the armor suits worn by the soldiers in Mass Effect lend themselves almost perfectly to LEGO. Unfortunately, the aliens do not. Maybe later I'll try my hand at some of the alien characters, although I doubt a LEGO version of Wrex would ever be able to fit inside my Mako...

The only part that required customization was the visors. I just couldn't be satisfied with flipping a visor upside-down or not closing it all the way; it didn't look right. So out came the knife. At first I tried cutting, but the plastic LEGO uses for their regular visors appears to be harder than the kind they use for the chrome visors I cut for my Halo SPARTANs and ODSTs. Eventually I gave up on the knife and moved to sandpaper and fingernail files. It took a bit of work and my fingers are sore now, but the results look great. I had to take this photo of the pile of ABS plastic dust from the last visor.

Speaking of Halo, who do you think would win in this fight? Sorry Halo fans, but realistically speaking, it would have to be the Mako. Yeah, the Warthog is cool and all, but the Mako has a mass-accelerator cannon, full-body environmentally-sealed armor, a third pair of wheels, jump jet boosters, and even full-body kinetic shielding. The Warthog is basically an engine three guys can use to ride around and shoot guns from. It would be TOTALED.

Speaking of my Warthog, I went through several different designs for the Mako's suspension, including actual springs and even the weird turning design LEGO used for their Clone Turbo Tank set (I hate that name... it will always be the Juggernaut to me). Finally I went back to my classic cheap-but-effective small-scale solution: rubber bands. Hey, they work.

The horse you rode in on... By the way, try not to get too separated from your Mako. It is possible (my brother Ryan figured this out the hard way) to land the Mako on top of a structure and then jump out, fall off the building, and never be able to get back up to get inside and return to the Normandy, effectively stranding you on the planet. I suppose it's possible that you could just walk all the way past the boundaries of the map until Joker returned you to the center automatically, but that could be quite a hike...

EDIT: Someone just informed me that you can return to the Normandy from the map screen. So I guess you can just disregard everything I just said. D'oh!

The last thing I built for the Mako was the cannon, and it's perhaps one of the less-accurate parts due to size constraints, but I still like it. As you can see above, it can point up, but not down. This is also accurate to the game! Try sitting on top of a hill and shooting down at some Geth, and you'll see what I mean. Even though your crosshairs can go down below the Mako's midline, the cannon will not point down that far, and your projectiles will still be firing straight forward. The only way to shoot downward is to maneuver onto a downward slope or... to zoom in with the scope by holding the left trigger and then pressing down on the right thumbstick. For some reason, this will enable the vehicle to shoot even below its midline.

Well, I guess that about covers everything. Now, enjoy these fancy desktop wallpapers for both widescreen and fullscreen monitor resolutions!

Fullscreen (4:3 aspect ratio)

Widescreen (16:10 aspect ratio)


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