BioWare is less than a month away from doing something that few (if any) developers have ever really achieved: finishing a story-heavy trilogy, where decisions you’ve made throughout each game has had on-going effects on the whole series. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty for those new to the series to hop in and enjoy, as it is still a stellar shooter-RPG, with (what looks to be) a great story and fun action.
Seriously, after all these years, can you believe that Mass Effect 3 is finally going to come out in just under a month and……. Sorry, I got too excited and had to be alone for a few minutes. Where was I?
Oh right! Another achievement for BioWare is being one of the first “core” games to implement Kinect controls as a way of enhancing the experience. I recently got a chance to play through one mission using Kinect, and I can happily say that - for the most part - it worked. No, you won’t be waving your arms to toss a grenade, but instead you play with the controller as you normally would and use voice commands to do some things too.
There were quite a few options for the voice commands, and that alone will be one of the first hurdles for anyone using the feature. However, keeping in mind that learning new controls always takes some time, it will be no different here and proves no less satisfying once you get the hang of it. Sure, if I was in a room full of people, I would have felt like a bit of a tool, but when I was alone it was unquestionably a lot of fun.
Using Kinect truly shines when issuing orders to your squad. Normally you would need to bring up a scroll-menu (which pauses the game) to use your squad effectively. But instead, simply yelling “Liara Singularity” in the middle of a heavy gun-fight and having her do it right then, in the middle of the action, was very satisfying. It also helps with the immersion of the game, making you truly feel like commander Sheppard giving orders to your team.
In the mission I played, I didn’t need to be too tactical with my squads positioning - just with their abilities. However, in later missions, I could see if being a lot of fun telling my people where to take cover and who to focus their fire on etc.
The best thing about all of this was how well it worked. Yes, there was a little bit of lag for some of my commands, but honestly I can’t be 100% sure that wasn’t just because the AI wasn’t in position to use the ability and that they needed time to get into the right spot. Either way, for the most part it was satisfying and did a great job to keep the action moving.
I also found that changing ammo types and activating / picking up / examining things in the environment was smooth almost every time. Where I ran into trouble was trying to command Sheppard himself. For some reason, it was very hit or miss when wanting to use my own abilities and switching weapons. I also ran into a lot of trouble with opening doors (I do have a bit of a strange accent though, which I’m sure didn’t help) but to be honest, that stuff didn’t matter, because it’s easier to just press a button to open doors anyway. Similiarly for Sheppard’s abilities, it is easier to use the controller.
Besides, using Kinect to command my own character felt weird anyway. I wouldn’t yell at myself to throw a frag grenade, I’d just throw one. However, I really liked using the Kinect commands for my teammates, as it felt natural and fit in with the game’s setting.
You can also use your voice during conversations; simply read out the option you want Sheppard to say and it will be done. Again, this worked smoothly without any problems during my play-through and, while something I personally wouldn’t use, it is a cool option for those who would.
In the end, it’s great to finally see a good use for Kinect in a game I want to play. While I admit that I actually like to pause combat and tactically select the abilities my squad mates will use, I could also see myself mixing things up and using Kinect during some battles as well.
Is it for everyone? Probably not, but for those who don’t want any pause to your action and love bossing people around, Mass Effect 3 truly might just be “better with Kinect” for you. For everyone else, you don’t have to use it. Either way, Mass Effect 3 is looking awesome, and March 9th can’t get here soon enough.
Side note: Sadly, I must report that currently this is for Xbox only and there are no plans to support voice command features on the PC version. Sad face.
The Good: For the most part, Kinect actually seems to work
The Bad: Opening doors was a little tricky
The Ugly: My accent