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'Mass Effect 3: Special Edition' review (Wii U): Better off elsewhere

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Released on Friday, Dec 7 2012

Mass Effect 3: special edition - for Wii U

© EA


Available on: Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Action/Role-playing

When it launched earlier this year, who could have predicted the sea of controversy that would accompany Mass Effect 3? We loved the game on first playthrough, but with the benefit of hindsight, agree that the ending was lacking, especially for users who had invested so much time agonising over those life-or-death decisions in previous releases.

Fortunately, after fixing the concluding chapter with a post-release update, BioWare has another chance to blow us away with the final entry in the Mass Effect trilogy. However, is it enough to wrestle users away from New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land or ZombiU?

"How many humans does it take to fix a mass effect relay? 602. 600 to vote on it, one to ask a Turian for help and another one to request a seat on the galactic council afterwards." One of a surprisingly large amount of jokes and humorous one-liners you'll hear throughout the course of the game, and a line that best sums up what is happening on Earth during the opening stages of Mass Effect 3.

Despite Shepard's warnings, Earth's bureaucrats and pen-pushers are reluctant to act on the Reaper threat, that is until the war - or invasion to be more accurate - lands on its doorstep. After a typically explosive and utterly riveting opening act, what follows is a galaxy-wide quest to unite planets and races in the fight against the ancient enemy.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Cerberus continues to be a pain in the proverbial, the Illusive Man with enough fingers in pies to open his own Fleet Street eatery. Then there are the Salarians, Krogans and Turians: three species linked by a long history built on mutual animosity.

Mass Effect 3: special edition - for Wii U

© EA



Getting them all on board is no easy task, impossible even; alienation from at least one of the species is a more likely side-effect of your decision to side with the lesser of three evils. The Quarians, meanwhile, are involved in their own war, but you need their fleet, so what do you do? Well, that's entirely up to you.

Mass Effect has always been a unique and personal experience, each game shaped by choice and free will. Whether choosing a human representative for the Citadel council, or freeing a dangerous criminal in order to gain mercenary support, every action has a consequence - some of which are truly heartbreaking.

Fortunately, if all of this sounds a little alien to you, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition kicks off with an interactive comic book, recapping the events of the first two games and giving users the chance to make some key decisions that will shape the political landscape and Shepard's personal relationships.

Of course, there's only so much information you can glean from a miniature comic book - and we really would advise you to play the previous chapters if at all possible - but it beats finding out the backstory on Wikipedia.

The brand new introductory chapter, coupled with the extended ending, means that Wii U users with little or no Mass Effect experience, go into the game knowing a little more about what to expect, and come away from it feeling satisfied that they have been involved in something truly epic. Judging by the amount of complaints and column inches accompanying its original run, the same wasn't true for many PC and console users back in March.


The fact that the cast is a little too Mass Effect-heavy, with characters from Mass Effect 2 largely limited to cameos, is also unlikely to be an issue for first time Wii U players. There are lots of new recruits, of course, the most intriguing of which is journalist Diana Allers, who will interview Shepard about past exploits in the hope of inspiring the people of Earth. On the contrary, James Vega (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr) is a little on the dull side, filling the generic soldier quota.

While the game's ending, characters and storytelling are arguably inferior to that of its predecessors, Mass Effect 3 makes countless improvements elsewhere. Particularly welcome is the introduction of war assets. While Mass Effect 2 had players mining planets and performing loyalty missions in order to earn ship upgrades - thus improving chances of survival in the final mission - the latest release sees players recruit soldiers and scientists, all of whom increase your Effective Military Strength rating.

Players gain assets by carrying out quests, becoming better equipped to tackle the final mission in the process. The addition of quantifiable human and alien assets, however - instead of metals and minerals - amplifies the importance of each mission and side quest. So whether you find yourself saving a small team of biotics students or an entire species from extinction, you always feel like you have something to show for it in the end.

This is also where multiplayer comes in. Essentially Mass Effect 3's very own Horde mode, Galaxy At War is a four-player co-operative battle for survival. Despite feeling slightly out of place at first, Galaxy At War is a surprisingly addictive multiplayer mode, which utilises the game's excellent third-person shooter mechanics. Galaxy At War also provides the perfect opportunity to experiment with different character classes, especially for series newcomers.

It's also another way in which players can increase their Effective Military Strength rating, which acts as a motivator when playing and stops Galaxy At War from feeling like an unnecessary extra. However, it should be noted that the multiplayer's contribution to your final standing in the campaign is entirely optional - you don't have to touch it to earn the "best ending".

Mass Effect 3: special edition - for Wii U

© EA



The second game's pesky planet mining sections have been eliminated altogether, in fact, the developers opting for a much more streamlined galactic scanning process. While venturing into new galaxies, players need only scan the environment once or twice, discovering secret assets and artefacts, but also alerting nearby Reaper vessels.

Although we would have liked some sort of minigame to avoid Reaper capture - instead of a game over screen - the added danger of entering enemy zones is far more exciting than visiting every single planet in the hope of increasing Iridium supplies.

Exploration isn't the only aspect of Mass Effect 3 that has been improved. Shepard is much more nimble on his feet, better able to slip in and out of cover and sprint through the battlefield, all the while hurdling over gaps and jumping onto platforms.

Shepard's melee attack is also much more lethal, the good commander able to unleash combos and power strikes, depending on character class and equipped weapon. By no means are the game mechanics perfect, however, and players will frequently roll into the open instead of cover, or shimmy around corners instead of pushing forward.


For those who view scripted sections or combat scenarios as a distraction, the game can be tailored towards an action or role-playing experience. Combined with storyline elements, character classes, weapons and abilities, the ability to customise the type of gameplay experience adds further replayability to a game already dripping with depth and lore.

It's also important to point out that despite the obvious value of completing previous games in the series, the latest release does a fine job of filling you in on what you may have missed, whether it's through conversations with fellow characters, or by reading the extensive journal entries, something that's of an obvious benefit to first time Wii U players..

In addition to the interactive prequel and extended ending, the Wii U edition of Mass Effect 3 also contains numerous post-release content, such as the Resurgence, Rebellion, and Earth multiplayer packs, which add new maps and character classes, which are handy additions but can still be downloaded for free on other consoles.

Slightly more appealing is the inclusion of the 'From Ashes' DLC, which adds a new character in the form of the last surviving Prothean. Unfortunately, however, the 'From Ashes' DLC isn't particularly interesting, bringing little to the table, beyond extending a game that's already bulging with content.

What's more, it's unlikely that Mass Effect 3 for the Wii U will be supported with further DLC, such as the recently released 'Omega' pack involving space gangsters. The recent launch of the Mass Effect Trilogy on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, meanwhile, serves as a reminder that Wii U users are unable to truly experience the series in full.

Mass Effect 3: special edition - for Wii U

© EA



On a more positive note, the Wii U version demonstrates once again how the GamePad can be used in subtle ways to enhance the user experience. It's largely used as a map, which may sound uninspired, but comes in handy when displaying enemy locations and mission markers.

Users can also assign squad powers to slots on the touchscreen and send allies to strategically advantageous positions by dragging markers. While we'd have liked to have seen more from the GamePad, it makes for a more efficient battle system.

It's hard to say whether or not Mass Effect 3: Special Edition is the definitive version of the game because most of the extras can be downloaded for free elsewhere, while missing content is unlikely to feature. The Wii U is also lacking previous games in the series, which no amount of interactive comic books can make up for, not to mention the fact that it costs a lot more on Nintendo's new system.

The game itself, however, is still out of this world, with Wii U users benefiting from the new and improved ending and a more efficient touchscreen control system. If this is your only opportunity to put an end to the Reaper invasion, we can't recommend the game enough, but if you access to a different gaming system, it's better to look elsewhere.


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