Mass Effect 3 Demo Impressions Part 3 – Kinect Functionality

Here it is, the final part of my Mass Effect 3 demo saga.  Curious to know what the single player demo was like?  Look here.  Want to know more about the brand new multiplayer co-op experience?  Look no further than here.  If you’re wondering how the much hyped “Better With Kinect” aspect plays, well, you’ve come to the right place.

For being a Kinect owner, I’ve always been kind of hard and skeptical of the device.  Sure, on paper it sounds cool and yes, it has its moments but in my eyes, the device has never really hit its stride.  To many hardcore gamers, it seems that they feel the same way.  In an effort to bring appeal to the Kinect to the core gamers, many upcoming games such as Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and the much awaited Mass Effect 3 make bit strides to introduce new ways to play with the Kinect sensor.  The demo for Mass Effect 3 is also a show piece for how Microsoft hopes the Kinect will enhance the game. 

So am I a believer now?  You’ll have to read on to find out…

Before I get into the details, I decided to play through the demo again using the Action game type instead of the traditional Role Playing.  I wanted to experience how different it was.  Honestly, this mode is for people who love shooters.  Basically, the traditional role-playing aspects of Mass Effect are stripped away.  Dialogue is now all cut scenes, I was defaulted to the Soldier class and not given any customization options, and my points were automatically assigned to my powers for me.  It’s perfect for a person who just wants to get to the action, but for a fan of the franchise I would strongly advise against this game type.  A sense of the fun seemed to have been stripped away.

Ok, now on to the stuff you want to know.  Personally, I was surprised to see that there wasn’t an options menu to see all of the different voice commands available.  Trying to dive in cold turkey was pretty difficult at first.  I know there’s a list online, but for someone who doesn’t have their computer or an online enabled device handy, it’ll take you a little bit to get the lingo down and settle in.

The hardest aspect of using a controller and the Kinect, is actually getting yourself to let go of the controller.  Sure, you still need it for the basic actions like walking and shooting, but for so long, you train yourself to rely only a controller and now you have to find a way to switch that way of thinking off and use your voice to control certain aspects.  Once you break through that mental block, it’s actually really easy to use.

The voice commands themselves are very easy to use, but one thing that I noticed is that there’s a slight delay between saying the command, and seeing it done on-screen.  Honestly, it’s not a huge deal at all but if you expect instantaneous action, you’ll be disappointed.  Also, to get some tips on commands, anytime you’re presented with a pop up like activating a switch, opening a door, or selecting a power from the wheel, you’ll see the Kinect Microphone icon and it’s listed out the way you should say it.  So for Shepard, you’ll typically say something like “Overload” and where ever your cursor is pointing is where the power will hit.  For allies, typically you’ll say their name and then what you want them to do.  For example, with Liara on your team, you’d say something like “Liara, Move Here” or “Liara, Warp”.  After a 1-2 second delay, she’ll do what you ask.

It’s all very simple to use, but again it’s all mental.  Many times I would get a bit flustered under heavy fire or during high action moments because I wouldn’t remember the specific commands or powers I wanted to use.  Obviously, I could just use the controller at that point, but I really tried hard to stay true to the Kinect.  Also, one thing I noticed is that the game gets confused if two people have the same power.  I tested this as well to make sure I wasn’t crazy.  So my Shepard had the Overload ability and so did my squadmate Garrus.  For Shepard, all you would have to say is “Overload” and your character would use that power.  I noticed that sometimes after saying “Overload”, Garrus would use his instead.  Again, it didn’t happen all the time, but it happened enough to be noticeable.  Also, I don’t think there is a voice command for “Reloading”.  Kind of surprising to be honest.

So in the end, I don’t think this wowed me enough to make me want to do my first play through with the Kinect.  It’s certainly fun and it’s well implemented, but I just don’t think it beats using a controller.  So is it “Better With Kinect”?  Jury is still out on that one, I think.  I’ll certainly play around with it and it’s a nice addition to the game, but there’s just nothing quite like holding a controller in your hands.  Not yet anyways.

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