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Mass Effect 3 with Kinect - impressions

16 Feb 12

Mass Effect 3 is without doubt one of the most anticipated titles of 2012, and thanks to the folks at Microsoft and Electronic Arts, we got a chance to go hands-on and experience Mass Effect 3 with the added Kinect functionality at a press event in Auckland last week.

While many hardcore gamers were sceptical at the announcment that ME3 would feature Kinect support, I can assure you that you won’t be jumping around your lounge shooting Reapers with your finger-guns. Instead, Bioware has gone for a much more subtle approach, aimed at optional enhancement rather than forced gimmick. 

Using the Kinect sensor in Mass Effect surprisingly enough does not offer any support for motion recognition, but instead is based on voice commands through the built-in microphone.

The level we were allowed to demo with the commands was the same level we had seen previously last year thanks to Electronic Arts – based around rescuing a female Krogan from a research outpost that has come under attack – so it was interesting to experience the same mission with the added functionality.

There were a wide range of voice commands presented to us on a series of cards, one for each of our two squad mates for the mission, and another with commands for Shepard and the squad as a group. One can only hope that the same guidance will be available to players at launch, as the list of commands was long and varied indeed.

The Kinect integration covered options for everything from opening the door in front of you or picking up a weapon off the floor to ordering squad mates in combat, changing weapons and loadouts and even choosing conversation options (although though we didn’t get to see that last feature in the part of the map we were playing). 

The great thing about the way Kinect has been implemented in ME3 is that it is entirely optional and open at all times. There is no forced on/off setting, just a choice to use it or not.

For example, when approaching a door, the familiar A button appears, but so does a little microphone and the word open. Sure you could go around saying ‘open’ to every door or box that you come across, but the reality is that it’s just easier and quicker to press A. In combat, however, being able to point your targeting reticule at a spot and say ‘Liara, Move’ and have Liara flank alongside your enemies, or to change your weapon on the fly from Assualt rifle to Shotgun without opening the weapon menu bypasses a cumbersome mechanic that slows down the gameplay in the middle of the action. The wide range of commands allow you to move your squadmates as a group or independently, activate both their and your own skills, change weapons/ammunition, and designate targets.  

Sounds great, right? But does it work? Well, yes, it appears to. While I did experience problems getting certain commands to work, I think that this is less on the part of the sensor not hearing or understanding me (though that is a possibility) but rather that Kinect seemed to be expecting a specifically worded command to create the desired outcome. Hence my above comment that I hope some documentation outlining all the command options will ship with the game for those who wish to use Kinect support. 

All in all, Mass Effect 3 is a great example of how Kinect can augment a core gamer’s experience without taking anything away from the way we like to play.

Look out for our full review coming closer to the March 9 launch.

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