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Preview: Mass Effect 3 (or “The Mass-Appeal Effect”)

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Nowadays most gamers have heard of Mass Effect. Somewhere between winning the BAFTA for 2010’s best game, being placed in the “Art of Video Games” exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum and coming No. 1 in IGN’s top 100 modern games – it attracted a bit of press.

And why shouldn’t it? Mass Effect 2 managed what few sequels can truly manage – it outshined it’s original. By changing from a medium-strength RPG (lots of weapon upgrades, custom skills for crew members and difficult encounters which force you to rethink you're approach) to a part-RPG part-FPS (I wouldn’t say ME2 really has enough content to be called an RPG, the best piece of armour I found was bought from the first planet I went to) they somehow managed to attract a whole score of new players without (completely) alienating the previous ones. The result was kind of like Gears of War meets Mass Effect, but in a good way. And the amount of depth put into the universe was nothing short of amazing (logical planet year lengths based off how close they are to their own sun and how far along it is in it’s life cycle? Crazy talk.)

But what does this mean for Mass Effect 3? Well, for starters, it means I’m excited.

Let’s go through what we know so far. It’s going to be on earth, which makes me a little anxious. As Halo: ODST (and to a less extent Halo: 2) showed us, sometimes a great sci-fi game can flounder when they find themselves trapped within a world which is ‘too real’ for the series (but that was the least of Halo: ODST’s issues).  But I trust Bioware enough to adopt a wait-and-see approach. The class restricted gun system from Mass Effect 2 is gone and everyone can equip every weapon, back the way it was in ME 1. This is a definite plus for me, one of the main reasons I played a Soldier was the variety of weapons – and I still haven’t played an engineer since their weapons are so restricted (2 guns for a 20+ hour game? No thanks).

But what I’m most interested in are the improved melee and movement mechanics and the Kinect functionality. First off, a little bit more melee action could add an interesting element for Mass Effect. I know in games like Crysis 2 or Gears of War the integrated melee options can really shine in certain situations (a good gutter-stomp never hurt anyone’s playing experience, except the guy who got stomped). For Mass Effect, the fact that they are creating class-based “instant-kills” (or as I call them, “fatalities”) is pretty badass, I know for a fact that Soldier’s are able to stab people with a Tech-Blade, I’ll probably be shanking my way through this game.

This goes together well with the changes to both the AI and the movement mechanics they have announced. Firstly, cover has been redesigned. No more slide, hop, slide movement to get around obstacles, instead a mixture of sprinting, combat rolling and useable parts of the terrain (like ladders) will ensure your characters movement will play a lot more like traditional shooters. The AI have also learned how to work together, which is good because they were pretty easy to pick off one at a time in ME2 (especially Krogans).

But what I find the most fascinating is the capacity for Kinect integration with the game. About all I have heard rumoured is being able to vocally control your squad (ie. Hey, Jack! Take some cover! I didn’t spend all that time half heartedly romancing you just to watch you take some Vorcha’s bullet.) but even that could add an interactive element to the game that is previously unheard of.

Whether Australia will have Kinect voice recognition by then (and we damn well better) is left to be seen.

Mass Effect 2 was a titan of a game last year, the only game coming close for awards (and these two divided Game of the Year quite neatly across the board) was Red Dead Redemption. Will Mass Effect 3 be as huge?

From what I understand of marketing (consumer demand + advertising x sequels = profit) it will be even bigger.

Does that make it better? No.

But, from what I’ve seen, could it potentially be better? It’s a big call but I’m gonna go ahead and say yes.

Either way, since the game has been pushed back to somewhere around March next year (2012) it will be a bit of a wait.

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Preview: Mass Effect 3 (or “The Mass-Appeal Effect”), 7.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

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