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Mass Effect 3 - The Verdict
Mass Effect 3 - A true epicAnd this is important because, above all else, Mass Effect 3 is emotionally engaging. It succeeds because it has the kind of epic, cinematic sweep that you find in films like The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Avatar or El Cid, working on the biggest, most obvious levels even if it’s not always the most subtle of narratives. This is a game about heroism, fear, honour, courage, friendship, love and sacrifice, and in its best moments it’s enthralling.
With Mass Effect 2, Bioware began to nail what makes a sci-fi game cinematic; not just the gleaming starships and the beautifully designed future worlds, but the way you stage the action scenes and the dialogue scenes, and the way you use the virtual camera. Mass Effect 3 is better still, and while there are still some sticking points – the animation feels a little stiff at first, and in this respect Heavy Rain and Uncharted remain streets ahead – it’s not long before you’re totally caught up. The production design is consistently great, and the HD graphics and the lighting stunning. The score is fantastic, and the voicework uniformly excellent. Yet this is also a game that excels in the little things; the background chatter as you walk around The Citadel, or the datalogs you collect as you roam around each mission, each one filling in some little missing piece of story.
Of course, Mass Effect 3 isn’t perfect, and naysayers will still find plenty to moan about. Without installing the game the load times can be painful, the camera is a mess when enemies get too close, sometimes dropping Shepard out of view, and there are occasional weird glitches as one scene transitions to another. On the plus side, the spectacularly tedious galactic exploration and mining sub-game from Mass Effect 2 has gone. Instead, you now uncover secrets and gather resources using a pulse sensor, though use this too often and you’ll summon the Reapers to the scene.
Mass Effect 3 - Wii UMass Effect 3 shone on the Xbox 360, and struggled with inconsistent frame rates on the PS3. Having seen some issues with other Wii U cross-platform titles we were nervous about this version, but in fact it’s closer to the 360 experience than the PS3, with a little judder here and there, but nothing game-breaking.
This is also one of the better Wii U cross-platform games in terms of harnessing the Wii U GamePad. There are no Arkham City-style gimmicks to be found. Instead, the Wii U GamePad displays a map of the immediate area, making it easier to find your way through some of the less linear environments, while also providing a column of shortcut icons on either side. These can be custom-mapped to biotics and abilities, giving you instant access to powers without having to pause the action and fiddle with the radial menus. In a way, this emphasises the action aspects of the game at the cost of the RPG elements, but then that’s in tune with the development of the trilogy as a whole.
The Wii U GamePad also enables an alternative approach to moving the other two members of your squad around. You can still target an area and tap the d-pad left or right to move them into position, but it’s also possible to drag their icons from one place to another on the map, allowing a little more fine control and strategy. This can be challenging – not to mention distracting – in the heat of battle, but in the early phases of a fight it can be a good way to ensure you make the most of the environment.
Perhaps the best use of the Wii U GamePad, however, is the ability to switch the main display from your TV to the built-in screen. Mass Effect 3 is an enormous game, and not having to fight over the telly in order to play it has obvious attractions. Sure, there’s a drop in detail, colour and resolution if you’re used to a half-decent TV screen, but there’s also something really great about slouching on the sofa with the action less than an arm’s length away. It’s a great fit for the game.
VerdictA gripping end to a captivating sci-fi saga. The action elements of the game have never been stronger, but Mass Effect 3 hasn’t lost its RPG-like depth or its storytelling brilliance, and as the tale builds up to its conclusion it just gets better and better. It’s great on the Xbox 360, PC and PS3 – despite continuing frame-rate issues on the latter – and a great addition to the Wii U’s launch line-up, making intelligent use of the features of the Wii U GamePad.
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