Like a degenerate I braved the cold last night to get my copy of Mass Effect 3 for the Xbox 360 early, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I would like to take a first impressions approach in this post, because by no means am I ready to put it through the full EB review process, but if you’ve been a ME fan since day 1 then you have nothing to worry about in regards to Mass Effect the third. It looks, feels, and plays like you’re used to albeit with a fresh coat of paint, and some gameplay tweaks.
The biggest discrepancy between this Mass Effect and the first two is obviously the kinect functionality if you’re an Xbox 360 owner, but after utilizing it I can’t help but buy into Microsoft’s and Bioware’s slogan the the game is “better with kinect” (cheat sheet for all ME3 voice commands can be found after the break). I’m not saying it’s integral to the gameplay experience, because it isn’t by any means, but if you do own a kinect it only helps to put some more polish on this amazing sci-fi RPG. The option of speaking certain commands definitely comes in handy when you’re in the heat of battle, and I also enjoyed speaking the dialogue options as if I were actually Shepherd replying to the NPCs.
At first I found speaking the commands for Shepherd and company to be a little awkward, but once I started to get used to it I couldn’t help but feel like my experience was a little more streamlined than it would be not using the kinect. This performance gain is most clearly evident in managing your save progress, the speaking sections of ME 3, and its battle scenes. Bioware didn’t just cram these in because MS made them do it, you can tell that they thought the kinect through, and are using it to its fullest potential without turning Mass Effect 3 into a gimmick. They definitely add to the immersive RPG experience that this series is known for without f*cking up what already works in this franchise.
In all honestly my favorite use of the kinect in ME3 is probably its most simple function, and that is save management. As long as I’m not in the heat of battle I can say “Quick Save”, and the game will record a save point for me automatically. I don’t have to hit any buttons (although you can hit select to do the same), nor do I have to drill into the menu, which only takes up valuable time for an impatient person like myself.
I also enjoyed speaking Shep’s lines as if I were talking to the NPCs during heavy dialogue sections. This process does indeed make it seem as if you are talking to the characters that inhabit this world, which makes the cut scene sections a little more interactive than before. I did run into a few issues where the kinect heard me properly, but for some reason it wouldn’t initiate my dialogue choice. If I spoke the phrase again it would go through, but then you get into the conundrum of is it really more efficient to talk during these scenes if the game isn’t always going to react to what I say. These instances were few and far between, but when they happen they forcibly remind you that you’re playing a game, and that you’re not actually part of it.
Using the kinect to manage myself and squad mates during battles also works pretty well, but it suffers from the most issues out of all of the kinect functionalities in Mass Effect 3. Basically, you can use kinect commands to do everything in battle except move your character around. You can swap your weapons, throw grenades, use your biotics, and more. On top of managing your own battle commands you can also issue order to your two AI teammates. This is unfortunately where the kinect struggles most.
The kinect commands struggle the most during battles
I found my commands often being ignored by my squad during firefights unless I raised the level of my voice to one you’d expect to hear on an actual battlefield. Now if that is the effect Bioware was going for then they nailed it, but I’d rather not have to scream at a video game in my man cave as if I were on the beaches of Normandy storming the German positions ahead of me. In addition to this issue I also found that if I didn’t specifically call out a character’s name and issue a command, they wouldn’t do anything at all. You should be able to issue generic squad commands like “attack”, and then both AI characters should start fighting, but that wasn’t always the case.
Due to these issues with the kinect during battle sequences I’d recommend using a blend of the traditional and new kinect controls. Commands for swapping weapons, or firing off biotic commands that aren’t mapped to button presses seem to work the best during battles, so stick to those to avoid frustrations. Besides, if you have big balls like me and are going to play this game on insanity right out of the gate, I think you’ll find battles to be much easier if you stick to the traditional way of issuing in-depth orders to your AI squad.
In the end my first few hours with Mass Effect 3 have been excellent. Not that I was expecting anything less, but you never know. Changes like the inclusion of the kinect controls could have f*cked this game up, but luckily they didn’t. In fact, they really do make the game slightly better like the advertising said they would. I just wouldn’t rely on them too heavily during the heat of a battle.
Outside of an import glitch with my ME2 save (my skin didn’t compute so I lost the custom look of my Shepherd) I have no complaints about this game so far. Bioware definitely stepped their game up once again, so if you for some reason have not picked this game up yet get your a*s to your local video game store pronto! Mass Effect 3 will easily be the front runner for 2012’s game of the year, and I can make that proclamation after only playing through the first 4 hours of the game. If I had to rate the kinect functionality in this game I’d give them an EB 7.5 out of 10 Buddhas. Like Steve Jobs used to say, “It jus works”, and boy does it ever work well! You’ve been sort of convinced that Mass Effect 3 really is better with kinect…
Kinect commands cheat sheet
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