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March 22, 2012
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By Matthew Scott Hunter

‘Mass Effect 3’

(M)

****1/2

Electronic Arts

Xbox 360

What “Mass Effect 3” lacks in the evolution of its gameplay, it more than makes up for in its epic and frequently heart-wrenching storytelling. The original “Mass Effect” introduced us to a galaxy full of interesting characters. The sequel developed those characters, making them feel like old friends. And this final chapter will kill more than a few of them off. The overwhelming Reaper invasion of Earth starts things off on a desperate note, and the pervasively bleak atmosphere seldom waivers as Captain Shepard is forced to make some tough decisions in order to rally several alien races to his cause. As with its predecessor, “Mass Effect 3” takes into account the choices you made in the previous game (provided you have its save file), so replaying this game — or the earlier two entries — can provide you with an entirely different experience. Between that and the fresh addition of multiplayer, “Mass Effect 3” comes packed with incentives to keep playing.

The third-person, cover-based gunplay is largely what series veterans have come to expect. A large variety of weapon upgrades have been added, and maps have a greater degree of verticality — so much so that a context-sensitive jump command has been added. Multiplayer closely resembles the Horde Mode from “Gears of War,” throwing waves of increasingly difficult enemies at you and three other co-op players. It’s a decent enough add-on, but the real draw of the game is the narrative of its single-player campaign. Dramatic camera angles make every space battle cinematic, and a massive amount of superb voice acting imbues the proceedings with genuine emotion. Developer Bioware crafted a living, breathing universe, and it’s bittersweet to say goodbye — as spectacular as that goodbye may be.


‘Street Fighter X Tekken’

(T)

****

Capcom

Xbox 360

Capcom loves a good fighting game crossover, and having already taken on myriad Marvel characters as well as the “King of Fighters” crew, it was only a matter of time before the “Street Fighter” cast stepped into battle with the characters of “Tekken.” The 3D combatants of the latter franchise feel right at home on the 2D battlefield in a series of 2-on-2 tag team matches. A KO for any one player will end the match, which will keep you frequently switching between your two characters. Both rosters are well balanced and sure to please fans of either seminal fighting series.


‘Pokepark 2: Wonders Beyond’

(E)

**1/2

Nintendo

Wii

Rather than confining them to small, red and white spheres, “PokePark 2” allows your Pokemon to run free — although imprisonment in a Pokeball probably couldn’t be much more dull. An evil plot to hypnotize Pokemon with cake serves as the excuse for a series of mini-games, which are as overtly cute as they are simplistic. Very young gamers may enjoy the colorful visuals and adorable animations, but anyone with fully developed hand/eye coordination will likely be frustrated with the limiting D-pad controls as well as generally bored.



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