You’ll have to pardon the tardiness of OTF’s review of the Mass Effect 3 demo. We’ve been hard-pressed to pull ourselves away from it.
Since it dropped on February 14th (much to the joy of single gamers everywhere), the demo has given ME fans the opportunity to glimpse the Reaper invasion, as well as jump into the new multiplayer mode. The single player campaign, continuing Commander Shepard’s story, is split into two parts, beginning with our hero (or heroine) back on Earth, in an Alliance uniform, and finally getting to say “I told you so” when the Reapers arrive. If you’ve played Mass Effect 2, you’ll have plenty of questions regarding the timeline. Among them might be, “Why is Anderson no longer a council member?” (if you chose that option), “How did the Reapers make it to this galaxy when you closed the door on them in ‘Arrival’?” (if you downloaded it), and “What became of Shepard’s team?” (if they survived). Since this is just the demo, it’s more than likely that all of these questions will be answered when the game is released on March 6th. The second half of the single player demo, taking place further along in the ME3 story, is the mission that OTF had the privilege of playing at New York Comic Con in October. Shepard, alongside former teammates Wrex, Garrus, Liara, and Mordin, are on the Salarian homeworld, escorting a female Krogan, who is apparently the key to preventing a Krogan/Turian war. And who’s providing the opposition? Your old friends from Cerberus. This mission looks to be a key point in Shepard’s quest to recruit, not just teammates this time around, but entire races in order to fight the Reapers. The stakes are officially raised.
This single-player experience also introduces a few new combat mechanics for ME3. Shepard will now be climbing ladders and leaping over small gaps to get around, and while he/she is under fire, you’ll notice some new dodge moves, allowing Shepard to dive/roll out of harm’s way. Even the storm/dash has been improved, allowing for a continuous run, rather than short sprints. Long-gone are the days of the meter that had to refill before you could run again. My personal favorite would have to be the heavy melee, now delivering more than just an elbow to the face. Depending on your class, you can unleash an attacking ranging from an omni-blade slash to a concentrated biotic blast. Just make sure your aim is true… These are all vast improvements that will help make Mass Effect even better.
While the single player missions give you an idea of what to expect in the campaign, multiplayer is a whole ‘nother story. Consisting of 11 combat rounds with bad guys of increasing deadliness, it is reminiscent of the wave-based multiplayer modes found in such favorites as Gears of War (Horde), Call of Duty (Spec Ops), and Halo (Firefight). The 11th wave, where all team members have to get to the shuttle extraction point, will remind gamers of a similar goal in Left 4 Dead. BioWare might be a little late to the party, but ME3 looks to be taking team-based multiplayer and making its own indelible mark on the popular mode. I’d like to see Marcus Fenix hit a Locust with a fully teched up biotic warp. Then again, I really WOULD like to see that… The demo presents you with only two maps and one adversary (in this case, Cerberus commandos), but that has been enough to keep the attention of ME fans everywhere. The full version will blow us all away, I guarantee it.
Not only is this mode INCREDIBLY fun to play with your friends, but it also allows you a more in-depth look at the game mechanics that come up between missions. ME1 had way too much weapon and armor customization. ME2 toned it down significantly. ME3 seems to have finally struck the balance. You will still have your choice of weapon model within a class (smg, shotgun, etc.), but you will also be able to modify these weapons with equipment that you can acquire. For example, ammo capacity expansions, stabilizers (to improve accuracy), and bayonets (to increase melee damage) to name a few. Teching up powers has also received a facelift. Individual powers now have multiple branches, allowing for greater customization than the single choices presented in ME2. Both of these systems look to bring back more of the RPG element that ME2 lacked.
With Mass Effect 3 a little over a week away, the demo has certainly raised the anticipation level of the entire fan base. Be ready to take Earth back on March 6th.