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PREVIEW

MASS EFFECT 3

I'm not sure if it'll ever become natural for me to yell at my Xbox 360.

Although the results are undeniably satisfying. It'd be no problem to tear the rampaging robots to pieces myself; but I lean back on the couch and look on as Liara and James carry out my orders. Carnage ensues.

With barking out "Liara - Singularity" and "James - Carnage", enemies are pulled helplessly into the air or destroyed from within. Commands such as "shotgun", "submachine gun" cycle through my own arsenal without a single button press.

Equally easy is to get the team to advance: pointing and shouting out "Liara - Move" for example, has my female comrade running ahead and into cover.

Mass Effect 3

We first see Kinect's integration into BioWare's sci-fi action-RPG demonstrated in a hotel right in the heart of the never-sleeping Las Vegas. Soon after, we get to test it ourselves.

The integration is as simple as you'd expect. But that's not the same as saying it feels completely natural. Likely because of Mass Effect's stature: this is the first top-tier blockbuster carrying Kinect functionality on this scale. As such I can't shake the feeling of a trained circus seal performing by rote. While opening doors with a terse "open", or launching grenades with "James - Grenade" works fine, so does tapping the relevant button on the controller. New players will likely find the new option more natural.

And there is still a slight delay between command and execution. A problem we know Microsoft has tried to eliminate from Kinect since the technology first hit the market. The differences between then and now are noticeable, but still means some readjustment in timings.

Mass Effect 3

Whether you use Kinect or not however, everything indicates that Mass Effect 3 will be an insanely impressive game. The task facing BioWare was enormous: to continue to improve and further balance the series. Yet it's seemingly achieved that goal with a near-final build thats even sharper and more focused than before.

Of backstory and narrative I gain little information. The short time I'm playing is spent gorging on combat and overall presentation. I admit to being slightly nervous, as the studio introduces grenades and melee attacks, an addition that feels a step-back from the science fiction stylings that the Mass Effect series has ground itself on.

Those fears were underscored with this demo. Everything from rifles, to machine guns and shotguns - all feel and sound less futuristic than ever before. Yet in compensation the battle mechanics are more fluid, and difficulty heightened to a degree that special skill-sets need to be considered far more tactically than before.

Mass Effect 3

Visually it's amazing to see how BioWare has again squeezed so much out of the Xbox 360's ageing hardware, and it's almost impossible to believe how far the series has advanced on this front since the first game. The screen is rammed with detail and a colour selection more varied than before. Yet there's not a single drop in frame rate, which we ardently hope is true for the rest of the game.

While I'm still not convinced I'm going to use Mass Effect 3's Kinect options past showing off to friends, I think the addition is a positive step that will engage an audience who have until now ignored the series. One hopes that Microsoft and BioWare continues the experiment so in future we have games without that niggling divide between command and execution.

Mass Effect 3 is still one of the titles I'm looking forward to this year, and the scant time spent playing today makes me only more interested in concluding the trilogy on my own terms.

Mass Effect 3
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