BioWare’s divisive blockbuster, Mass Effect 3, has the chance to capture an entirely new audience when it arrives as part of the Wii U’s launch lineup. For its debut on Nintendo’s new console, Mass Effect 3 will be packed with a compelling list of bonuses, including an interactive digital comic detailing the events of Mass Effect 1 and 2, and the Extended Cut DLC.
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops for Commander Shepard’s maiden Wii U voyage. Despite the Wii U’s allegedly powerful GPU, and reports that pegged Mass Effect 3’s Wii U resolution at 1080p, the game will display at 720p, just as it did on Xbox 360 and PS3.
The rumor that Mass Effect 3 on Wii U would run at 1080p comes from the September issue of Nintendo Power, the long-running “official source for Nintendo news, previews, reviews, and much more,” which, sadly, will cease publication in December. That rumor was promptly debunked by Tom Crago, CEO of Mass Effect 3 Wii U edition developer Straight Right, previously responsible for the iOS version of Shift 2: Unleashed. Speaking to Nintendo World Report, Crago stated simply, “The game will run at 720p.”
Is the game’s resolution the product of a quick and dirty port designed to cash in on the mania that will likely surround Wii U’s launch, or are there legitimate technical reasons why Electronic Arts and Straight Right can’t get Mass Effect 3 running at 1080p on Wii U?
Electronic Arts has three titles lined up for Wii U: Mass Effect 3, Madden NFL 13 and FIFA 13. The Wii U version of FIFA 13 is making smart use of the touchscreen on the GamePad for passing, shooting and tackling, and developer Matt Prior tells IGN that, “in certain areas we were able to make visual improvements on the 360 and PS3 versions.” Madden is another story – the Wii U version will be inferior to the Xbox 360 and PS3 iterations from both a technology and features standpoint. That leaves Mass Effect 3, which clearly isn’t coming up short on features and (as far as we know) isn’t visually inferior to the previously released versions. That said, if it could be graphically superior to the PS3 and 360 games, why isn’t it?
The rumored, highly plausible final tech details for the retail Wii U hardware indicate that the system has a powerful, modern GPU and much more memory than either Xbox 360 or PS3. Mass Effect 3 runs on the Unreal Engine 3, which Epic Games’ Mark Reign has called “a really good fit” for Wii U, so it certainly seems feasible that the system is capable of displaying the game in 1080p. As a point of comparison, both Assassin’s Creed 3 and Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition will (allegedly) run at 1080p on Wii U, though our time with the Arkham City port at E3 2012 left us distinctly unimpressed with its visual presentation.
It’s possible that Mass Effect 3’s resolution on Wii U has less to do with hardware, and more to do with the game’s assets – specifically, its textures. Even the PC edition of Mass Effect 3 uses the very same textures as the PS3 and 360 versions (which has drawn a huge amount of criticism from gamers on the BioWare forums), and updating those textures for the Wii U port may require a greater financial investment than Electronic Arts is willing make – especially given that the game will have been available on other platforms for more than eight months by the time it hits Wii U.
Of course, resolution isn’t everything. Frame rate is important, too, and that’s an area where the Xbox 360 and – particularly – the PlayStation 3 versions of Mass Effect 3 occasionally struggled. If the game arrives on Wii U locked at 60 frames-per-second, that would be a huge visual improvement over the existing console versions. Keep in mind, no one is saying that will be the case – but it would be cool, wouldn’t it?
Ranters, what’s your take on all this? Should Mass Effect 3 run at 1080p on the Wii U, or is 720p fine? Do you believe the Wii U is powerful enough to run ME3 at 1080p, and if so, who’s at fault for delivering the game at 720p: Straight Right or EA? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Mass Effect 3 is expected to launch alongside the Wii U this holiday season.
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