Game Lens #4: Mass Effect 3

November 19, 2012

Game Lens is a game photography feature. I hack, mod, tweak, and stress games (and myself) to not only make them as beautiful as possible; but to explore their environments free of HUD, overlays, and physical confinements; and take interesting, high-resolution screenshots. This time, it’s Mass Effect 3.

Mass Effect 3 might be remembered more for its controversial ending rather than everything that came before it, regardless of how good the rest of the game might have been, and how it was otherwise a very fitting final addition to Shepard’s trilogy. With the most powerful and difficult moral choices so far, more time spent with your squadmates, including satisfyingly wrapped-up romance choices (unless you picked one of the duds that they didn’t really expand on, but hey that’s just like real life sometimes!) and definitely the most refined combat seen in the series; the game really doesn’t deserve all the bile that is thrown at it from fans of the previous games.

Mass Effect 3 continues the series’ visual trend of being fairly colorful, varied, and covered in blue lens flares (the latter of which I’m not such a fan of). Artistically, the game is as good looking as the previous two additions. Technically? UnrealEngine 3 has been showing it’s age for a while now, and they didn’t do the best job of hiding that with Mass Effect 3. Luckily, the modding community has helped improve the game’s awfully low-res textures exponentially, most notably Smarteck’s Textures. That link also includes the Illumination Mod, which provides such shiny goodies as HDR, Post-Sharpening (both of which I used sparingly) and a vastly improved FXAA in contrast to the vanilla game’s very blurry FXAA. It really goes a long way to make the game a joy simply to look at.

The game has a full range of debug bindings that can be enabled through INI files, which is typical of Unreal Engine 3. I had full control over time, (pausing, speeding up, and slowing down) while maintaining full control over the camera, as well as being able to change the FOV on the fly, allowing me to get super close-ups as well as wide angled shots. All this was particularly useful to get interesting composition during the game’s many cut-scenes and other moments of action. The ease of enabling everything I needed, the ability to use these these tools during cutscenes, and simply how gorgeous I was able to make the game look in the end, probably made this one of the most enjoyable “photo-tourism” sessions I’ve had in a game so far.

“A Bug’s Life” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“The World is Yours” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Techsperts” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Place of Worship” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“No Place I’d Rather Be” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“LZ” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Illusion” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Futuregram” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Eye of the Needle” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“End Boss” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Elite” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

Settings & Tweaks: 1940p rendering, HD texture mods, Illumination Mod with High-Quality FXAA, freecam, timestop, custom FOV’s.

Want more pretty pictures? Check out my Flickr here.