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Elevators play an integral role in allowing individuals to transition between areas separated by great vertical distance, effectively minimising the tedium of ascending (or descending) each level using less automatic modes of transportation, such as stairways or hovercar. They also function as a stand-in for traditional loading screens, providing a smoother transition between areas in an attempt to prevent abrupt breaks in gameplay.
Elevators are located in virtually every major location. Oftentimes, travelling via elevator will prompt conversation between Shepard's squad members, either on the current mission at hand, character development, or most famously (thanks in large part to Urdnot Wrex) humourous banter.
The elevators in the Citadel also play various jingles during the player's ride to keep them entertained and provide a slight backdrop to the array of in-squad conversations during the trip, one even being an arrangement of the game's main theme. Occasionally news reports will play over the elevator intercom: these can provide background plot-related information that allude to (or sometimes provide) missions, or detail the results and repercussions of any missions Shepard has already completed.
Whilst travelling on elevator, Shepard (and any present squad members) will holster weapons, take up formation facing the out-bound door, and stand still. The player is locked out of any movement and combat controls for the duration of the ride, but is still able to access the menu and move the camera.
Note: Elevators are bug-ridden, and the player can be left locked out of control even after arriving at the destination. The only way around such occurences is reloading a savegame prior to embarkation, and to save often.
Mass Effect 2
Due to negative feedback from the gaming community, elevator transition was removed in favour of animated, context-relevant loading screens, as well as most mission areas being their own standalone map with no transitions. Though absent in their previous incarnation, self-deprecative gags were placed in the game that referenced elevators and their original role:
- In conversation on the stairs of Zakera Ward, Garrus will reminisce about old elevator rides and the conversations that took place with Tali. 
- During Miranda's loyalty mission, she will hack the elevator the squad rides in to make it ascend quicker and stop playing its jingle. 
- During the Overlord DLC, inside Prometheus Station, a broadcast to relieve workplace stress plays a scrambled track of elevator music. 
- Elevator travel being slow and tedious has become a popular recurring aspect of satire amongst the fan community.
- The various segments of elevator music do not appear on the official soundtrack.
- Noveria has the most elevators of any reachable location in the Mass Effect Series (10)
- Noveria's predisposition to elevator-linked bugs is notorious, spawning 2 unintended puns as a result.
- See also: Noveria