Hands-On: Mass Effect 3
If you’ve read our preview of Mass Effect 3, then you’ll most likely know all there is to know about the game before its release. However, a demo was recently released for the game, and a few of us who were lucky enough to have had Battlefield 3 online passes were able to play the co-op multiplayer early, while most of us chose not to touch the single player portion due to fear of spoilers. I, however, dived straight into it, being the curious beaver that I am, and after playing my fair share of the multiplayer I’ve put all my thoughts down onto digital paper. Let’s take a look then, shall we?
The most important part of the demo is naturally the co-op multiplayer, because that’s what everyone is curious about. And really, the single-player part of the demo is hardly exciting. I won’t be giving away any spoilers in case you’re one of those fans who are refusing to play the demo because of that, but I will provide a brief outline. The demo offers two levels, with the first putting you in control of Commander Shepard on Earth as the Reapers begin their attack. The second is purely action-orientated, throwing you in some kind of facility trying to save female Krogan. I didn’t pay much attention, mostly because the demo levels did absolutely no justice to what I expect the final game to be like. They’re just devoid of life or the usual series flare, and in all honesty I’d strongly advise against playing them because it may just end up ruining those moments for you. It would be best to head into the full game without any prior experience, least of all something as boring and lifeless as this.
I understand the demo can’t give the game away, but it seriously can offer more than painfully easy and repetitive cover shooting, against weak enemies, and cutscenes that have only one or two dialogue options. It doesn’t really last that long either. Fortunately you’ll get to customise your Shepard and choose your class before beginning the demo, so you’ll get to have your first in-game moment with Mass Effect 3’s FemShep, if that’s your thing. Regarding what’s new in gameplay, I will get to all that when I get to the multiplayer. But my overall impression of the single-player was not that good. In fact it mostly left me with a rather “meh” feeling, and I immediately turned to the co-op multiplayer hoping for something to convince me that I wasn’t playing one or two DLC levels for Mass Effect 2. And with great happiness, I can safely say that after playing the co-op with my fellow team members, Dean and Alessandro, while engaging in heated trolling sessions over mumble, I am definitely eagerly anticipating what’s to come. I know the full game’s single player will be awesome, no doubt, but all I’m trying to say is that the demo didn’t convince me of that. The multiplayer, on the other hand, is really great fun.
The premise to the multiplayer is really quite simple. You’ll team up with three other players to fight against increasingly more difficult waves of enemies. Between surviving and trying to boast more headshots and points than your buddies, you’ll also have to work together to complete certain objectives within the given time limits in order to progress. Teamwork is essential, and Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer really nails that aspect. If you decide to go all rambo without backup, you’ll quickly find yourself dead, especially when the more powerful enemies start coming after you in greater numbers. You’ll need to cover your mates, revive them if they die, complete the objectives quickly and survive as long as you can, all the while gathering experience to unlock new weapons and powers, and credits to purchase new content. Reviving squad members is a little bit more complex in this game, in that when you die you’ll have to rapidly tap a button to slow down the process of bleeding to death so that your buddy can get to you in time. It takes only about two seconds to revive a friend, but if you’re not careful you’ll often have to do it under heavy fire. And despite having limited time to revive a teammate, enemies can also perform an execution to destroy any chance of revival. If a member is truly dead, they will have to wait until the next wave to respawn. So as you can gather, you need to watch your step.
While the demo has quite a lot of the content locked, there is more than enough on offer to allow you to experiment. First things first, you’ll get to create your own character and choose your name, class and race as well as customise your armour colours. All of the Mass Effect classes are available for selection, namely Adept, Soldier, Engineer, Sentinel, Infiltrator and Vanguard. Each class has its own unique appearance, character models and powers. You’ll recognise most of the powers from the main campaign, so there’s nothing new to learn here. Experience points earned will work towards increasing your level and rewarding you with points to spend on upgrading your powers, exactly how it’s done in the single player mode. However, as mentioned earlier you’ll also get credits, which are used to buy content packs that unlock new weapons, mods and characters at random. The last thing to take note of is Equipment, which come in the form of ammo, weapon and armour bonuses. These are items like Medi-Gel, which can be used for self-revival, and Incendiary Rounds, but the catch is that they can only be used for one mission and then they’re out until you get more, so you’ll have to use them sparingly.
Now, the gameplay is pretty much the same to Mass Effect 2, but there are a few welcome extras. What’s new is a slightly tweaked melee system, in that your attacks now chain and holding down the button now executes a powerful charged strike that differs from class to class. For example, the Vanguard class is able to perform a charged melee attack while running that results in a powerful ground slam, while Adepts can force enemies away. Next is that sprinting has finally evolved to a level of urgency, in that you can now make fast and bold battle charges, as well as evade in any direction with a diving roll. The other new noticeable change is interactive terrain, in that you can now climb ladders to get to higher ground and jump across gaps. Nothing too spectacular. But the co-op multiplayer really is awesome, and it’s immensely good fun if you’re talking to your buddies while playing. Rounds don’t last too long in the beginning when you’re still weak, so it’s great to advance, become stronger and start to survive longer and become more competitive and determined.
However, despite the great fun we had with the multiplayer, there are some flaws that need to be addressed, as they can be seriously frustrating at times. The first is that reviving a teammate and taking cover are mapped to the same button, so it can happen that, when you’re trying to bring a friend back to life, all you end up achieving is getting too friendly with a wall. It’s just so darn annoying when this causes you to be killed. Secondly, while the objectives are pretty fun, we definitely hope the full game has more variety in this respect, because the demo can make things seem really repetitive, although that’s mainly because there are only two multiplayer maps. Also, and this is more of a nitpick, but when you’re taking cover on either side of two cover points, most gamers who are in a hurry would proceed to stylishly dive out or detach from cover by pressing the button a second time, but this often ends up in you just repeatedly switching between the two cover points because you’ve forgotten to use the movement keys. Finally, I won’t talk too much about graphics because it’s only the demo, but the game didn’t really amaze us as it looked very similar to its predecessor, just somewhat more cinematic. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good-looking game, but just that we’re not particularly blown away.
At the end of the day, a demo is just a demo and there’s no doubt the full game will be something special. However, I’ll reiterate what I said in the beginning. It would be best to avoid the single-player part of this demo and rather wait to experience it all in full when the game is out. The multiplayer, on the other hand, walks away with a full recommendation. It’s simplistic, easy to play and get into and even easier to enjoy. If the final product boasts a lot more variety and content in this respect, then it could just potentially turn out to be a remarkable addition to the series, and a sure winner.