Mass Effect 3 has already been lauded as one of the finest game releases this year, even despite the contentions surrounding THAT ending. It comes to WiiU suitably indistinguishable from the PS3, 360 and PC versions that had a seven month head start; and with a couple of WiiU specific bells and whistles, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition makes for a compelling, engaging – if somewhat tentative experience on Nintendo’s shiny new console.
You play as Commander Shepard, a celebrated Alliance Marine whose only hope of saving mankind is to rally the civilizations of the galaxy and launch one last mission to take back the Earth from the Reaper threat. Epic doesn’t do the description the justice it deserves.
In terms of aesthetics, audio and general presentation, this version of Mass Effect 3 is essentially identical to every other version on another console or PC. Of course, the addition of the WiiU’s GamePad gives this version a unique interactive tact that ME3 fans simply cannot get on any other format. For the most part, the integration of the GamePad is subtle so as to not overwhelm the player with some new scheme of interactivity. For example, the GamePad’s touch screen adds map functionality to every level including the Citadel. This allows you to pick up on enemy positions, pinpoint areas you want your squad to move and identify targets that you want to attack. Squad powers can also be mapped to a set of slots on the touch screen pad, although you mightn’t find yourself subscribing to this means of customization during combat.
Aiming with the touch screen is optional, but looking up and down from the Pad and back to the screen means that you’ll almost certainly exhaust ammo quicker because you’ll have missed the target more than you would have with a more traditional control scheme. The latter is the only sensible way to play this, not least because the touch screen does not lend itself kindly to Mass Effect’s often frantic fire fights. Touch screen aiming and shooting is undermined by the split second you have to lift your head up and down from the TV back to the GamePad. It’s this disconnection that implores you to fight the old fashioned way. All this taken into account, the GamePad is best used as nothing more than a fancy, if functional interactive map.
For whatever reason, BioWare deemed it fit to slap the tag line “Special Edition” to this version of the game. Other than the GamePad functionality, ME3 WiiU doesn’t really do anything to merit the accompanying subtitle. WiiU adopters who might not be familiar with the greater intergalactic lore, might be overwhelmed by how heavy Mass Effect’s storyline and characters feel. The “Special Edition” adds a 20 odd minute interactive comic that attempts to bring first time players up to speed, but a 20 minute summary just isn’t enough to explain just how intricate and involved the Mass Effect universe is. This isn’t a criticism as such. If you don’t play a Mass Effect game until the third outing, that’s not the developers fault. But it certainly helps the player if they have some understanding of what they are throwing themselves into before they jump in. This self-professed “Special Edition” also includes the “From Ashes” DLC, which was included with the collector’s edition on the other platforms. It also includes the Rebellion, Resurgence, and Earth multiplayer expansions off the bat and completely free. Just don’t expect to see any additional DLC be included or made available further down the line. Curiously the recently released “Omega” DLC will not get any kind of WiiU release, same goes for “Leviathan”. BioWare are calling this a “Special Edition”, but there’s nothing special about a version that isn’t given the opportunity to complete itself.
As for the core Mass Effect 3 experience itself, it remains intact. Commander Shepard’s final fight against the Reapers is one of the most engaging, impulsive and compelling videogame experiences to be released on any format this year and the rule still applies in this instance. You owe it to yourself to play this.
Online multiplayer works pretty flawlessly on WiiU. The only problem as such is matchmaking, that being, that there are not enough people online to make a match with than you would think. If and when you do get in, the GamePad that was so unique and helpful in the single player is now absent, replaced with a simple list of player names.
Mass Effect 3 is a wonderful title and one of the best games released on any format this year. While the WiiU edition adds some variety, the core experience is same, albeit somewhat fractured by curiously missing DLC and expansions. This “Special Edition” does not mean “Definitive Edition” by any stretch of the imagination. Tread carefully. If you want to experience everything that Mass Effect is capable of, then you might be better off picking up the Mass Effect Trilogy on another format for the same €50 they’re asking for this “Special Edition”. However, if you just got a WiiU and are looking for something just a little bit epic to go with you new console, you can’t really go wrong with Mass Effect 3.
TGL SCORE: 8/10
Format: WiiU (Reviewed) PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: Out Now