Mass Effect 3 Hands-On Preview: Big Damn Heroes

Commander Shepard is coming back to finish the fight! Wait, that’s from another game. Regardless, s/he is returning in the final installment of the epic Mass Effect trilogy, looking to kick Reaper butt, save Earth, and maybe get a little alien snoo-snoo on the side. To help facilitate excitement for the March 6 release, BioWare and Electronic Arts have put out a demo to get fans hungry for the third act of this space opera. Is it more unbridled, space-faring fun? Or will it make you want to punch a reporter in the face?

Platforms: PC, PS3 (Version Played), Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare
Genre: Epic Sci-Fi Adventure RPG/Intergalactic Dating Sim
Release Date: March 6, 2012
ESRB Rating: Mature

The demo begins by giving you a choice between the single-player experience and the co-operative online multiplayer mode. If you’re rusty or have never played a Mass Effect game in your life, I’d recommend doing the single-player portion of the demo first to get a feel for the change in combat mechanics. You’ll also receive a general overview of the events from the first two games, which is very helpful since omni-tools don’t exist in real life and information can’t be downloaded to them via data terminals.

In the single-player mode, you start off by creating your own custom Shepard. You can pick from the default male or female Sheps or tweak a bunch of sliders to make your own. You’ll choose your Shep’s personal history, military history, and psychological profile. Once you’re happy with your build-a-badass creation, you can choose a class that tailors to your own combat preferences. Do you like a traditional third-person shooter experience with a character who can dish out as much pain as s/he can take? Pick a Soldier! Adepts are more of a caster class and are able to utilize a number of special Biotic powers, but tend to be glass cannons. Engineers are masters of Tech powers and can summon a Combat Drone to patrol around and zap enemies. The other three classes are combinations of these three archetypes and include the Vanguard (Adept/Soldier), the Sentinel (Adept/Engineer), and the Infiltrator (Engineer/Soldier). You can then choose how you want to experience the story and whether or not you want there to be an emphasis on dialogue choices, action, or a balance of both.

After you’ve created your Shepard, the demo puts you in the middle of a scene where Earth is about to be invaded by an ancient race of aliens called Reapers who come around every 50,000 years and act as life’s reset button. Shepard knew of their coming and managed to piss them off enough that they’re coming straight to his/her home planet. If you’ve followed the story from the beginning, you’re greeted with a familiar face as Admiral David Anderson comes to collect you for your court-martial. If you opted for a traditional Mass Effect experience, you can make dialogue choices as you and Anderson juke people in the hallways, because no one in the Mass Effect universe can successfully walk in a straight line.

During the court-martial, the Reapers arrive at all of Earth’s major cities, presumably because they’re either brilliant tacticians or big fans of Roland Emmerich’s film. All hell breaks loose and Shepard has to make his/her way to the Normandy with Anderson in tow. This is when you’re able to engage in combat and test out your powers. The demo is effective at letting you get used to the weapons mechanics by initially giving you infinite ammo. After you’ve shot at enough baddies, you suddenly find yourself with an empty clip. This is a setup for the game to teach you how to use a melee attack, which is a useful skill if you ever find yourself without any ammo.

You then head into a building and are taught how to activate doors and perform heavy melee attacks. These attacks take a little bit longer to charge up, but are pretty reliable since they almost always sync with your target’s movement, making for accurate attacks. You eventually find a pair of soldiers from a nearby crashed ship. You’re told you can use the communicator from the ship to hail the Normandy and get out of the mayhem. Once you reach the device, you’re also given a rifle and are taught how to switch weapons and fire from cover. It’s all pretty straightforward. You’re supposed to defend the position until your ship comes and pulls you out of there. Once you run out of ammo, you’re immediately rescued, so feel free to try out any weapon/power combos and yell at Anderson to do things.

If you have an Xbox 360 with Kinect, you can yell out simple voice commands to perform actions. For example, you can say “Anderson, Concussive Shot” while hovering your reticule over a bad guy. He will then fire off a Concussive Shot at that target. You can even switch weapons with your voice, just by calling out the weapon type (Sniper Rifle, Assault Rifle, Heavy Pistol, etc). The response time is fairly quick, but I feel as if using the button commands are a lot faster. Voice commands are still pretty cool to use in combat, but can ultimately get tiring after a while. You can even open doors or examine items by respectively yelling out “Open” or “Examine”, but why bother when you can just press a button without any delay in action?

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