Commander Shepard's Kinect-Enabled Descent Into Madness
Mass Effect 3's Kinect integration works great when you're talking to squadmates. When you're talking to yourself, it gets a little weird.
Now that the Kinect has been out for a while, we've begun to see developers use the technology for more than just gesture-controlled sports compilations. BioWare might be the most high-profile example of this, having implemented the Kinect as a tool for voice commands in the Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect 3. It's one of the few Kinect-compatible games that completely eschews any use of the sensor's built-in camera; this space opera is all about shouting.
Having played some of it for ourselves at CES last week, it's clear that BioWare's done a good job of getting the technology to play nicely with its sci-fi shooter action sequences. Pretty much everything you can do from the radial menu can also be done with your voice. And in a nice touch, you can say "quick save" to make the game, well, quick save. Take that F6 key!
But there is something odd about voice commands in Mass Effect 3. It's something that makes you take a step back and think, "Maybe I should tone it down a bit." See, you're supposed to be role playing as Commander Shepard, right? So isn't it a little weird to shout "shotgun!" to switch to your boomstick, or "incendiary ammo!" to switch to fire bullets? At that point, aren't you kind of yelling at yourself?
The Kinect voice commands are great for issuing squad orders. If James is playing it too safe, you can yell "James attack!" and he'll charge forward just as you commanded. If you need to get at an enemy pinned behind cover, you can shout "Liara lift!" and she'll instantly turn your foes into a bunch of helplessly floating bull's-eyes. It works; it feels natural. You're Shepard commanding your troops like the space general you are.
But yelling at yourself to open a door instead of hitting the A button per the giant onscreen button prompt? That's a little weird. There's some mild mental instability bubbling beneath the surface there. But, hey, maybe it's just us. Take a look at the demo below and let us know what you think of Mass Effect 3's voice commands in the comments.
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