Mass Effect 3: Playable On A Wide Range Of Hardware
What sort of gaming rig do you need in order to enjoy BioWare’s newest AAA title? In reality, Mass Effect 3 only requires a GeForce GT 440 or Radeon HD 6670 DDR3 for low-detail playability at 1280x1024. If you want to push the resolution up to 1920x1080 and turn on the game's two graphics settings, maxing out its visuals, a Radeon HD 5770/6770 or 256-bit GeForce GTX 460 gives you a minimum of at least 40 FPS and 60 FPS average. You even have the option of pushing higher levels of anti-aliasing using AMD's driver panel, and a Radeon HD 6850 is enough to handle the extra workload. Owners of Nvidia cards don't yet have that option. Fortunately, FXAA looks pretty good.
There aren't any surprising host processor requirements, either. A 2 GHz quad-core or 3 GHz dual-core CPU cranks out in excess of 40 FPS at a minimum, and more than 60 FPS on average when you aren't GPU-bound (we used a Radeon HD 6950 to demonstrate this). There does appear to be fair scaling from two cores to three, and a little less in moving to four cores. But there doesn't seem to be any benefit to playing Mass Effect 3 on a hexa-core chip.
Is all of this good news? That depends on how high-end of a PC you own. Mainstream gamers should be really happy. Because BioWare went with Unreal Engine 3 and developed this game for consoles first, the PC port isn't very demanding and there aren't many options to take it over the edge. On the other hand, die-hard PC enthusiasts with beefy hardware may lament yet another title that can't fully exploit their investment.
The game is fun, though, and it looks good enough. And it's probable that if you enjoyed the first two installments of this trilogy, you're over the fact that it doesn't push the envelope in graphics technology.
Performance aside, if you’re an RPG fan or enjoy shooters with a little more depth and a different experience, the Mass Effect series deserves your attention. From what we’ve seen of the demo, the third installment should be at least as good as its predecessors, with some multiplayer goodness included, too.