Please note this article is written with the knowledge and assumption that you have played Mass Effect 1 & 2 so spoilers will be in here, if you have not played either then order in now; there is just enough time to catch up with one the best science fiction tales since Star Wars.
The hotly anticipated Mass Effect 3 demo has been split into two parts, but with the online servers not turned on yet, we will concentrate on single player mode for now. The demo starts us off on Earth at the beginning of the Reaper invasion where everyone still doubts in Shepard’s prophecy until its literally dropping laser death beams on their doorstep. It seems a lot has happened since the suicide run of ME2, with Shepard’s exploits catching up with him and no longer being a serving officer in the Alliance, but all doubts soon turn to blind panic as Alliance outpost’s loose contact one by one with alarming frequency. Just as Shepard is called before the heads of the Alliance, the final outpost, the Moon falls and with a rumble from the sky, hundreds of the gigantic squid like Reapers appear, ripping apart the futuristic landscape with their laser barrage.
The action takes place as a running battle through damaged buildings, with Reapers in the distance spewing death in their wake and Shepard and Anderson trying to get off planet. The ensuing battle takes you through the basics of gameplay, with no major changes other than Shepard’s ability to jump across small gaps and run for a longer duration. Once the fight through hordes of husks and the new Cannibal monsters is over, Anderson reinstates Commander Shepard and orders the crew of the Normandy to gather all races of the Council for what could be Earth’s final battle.
The second part of the demo takes us to the Salarian home world, where the action allows you to take advantage of a lot of the new areas. The relationship between the Salarians and Krogan has always been rocky considering they practically wiped out the Krogans with the Genophage virus and now it seems to win Urdnaught Rex to your side you need to free a captive female Krogan. However it seems Cerebus are up to their old tricks with your team battling heavily armoured and shield toting troops who are also trying to capture the much vaunted prize.
This segment is based later in the game, allowing you to rank up your characters which is relatively unchanged from ME2, you still have a selection of classes, from Engineer, Soldier, Infiltrator and Adepts, each with their own powers to upgrade as you play. Many powers return like warps and tactical cloaks but also a few extras like a sentry turret and an array of grenades. The main difference here is that each power branches out at higher ranks, ME2 offered this but only when maxed, ME3 allows for more focus on specific areas like damage, spread or longevity.
ME3 also supports the Kinect and overall it works really well, I will go as far as to say it drastically changes the way you play if used correctly and for the better. As expected, conversation branches have been Kinect enhanced, allowing you to say a reply rather than highlighting with the RS. A minor adjustment that is a little gimmicky and though most actions have also been voice mapped, allowing you to “open” doors or “activate” consoles, the slight delay from saying it to the action being carried out makes it pointless as a quick press of A does it quicker. The same can be said for the speech recognition during a heated battle, saying “incinerate” will make Shepard hurl a fireball or Combat Drone to create one, but what with hot pick buttons on Y, LB and RB being way quicker, the delay can be costly.
So far it’s not sounding too hot but all that changes with the ability to also control your allies powers, with a “Garrus proximity grenade” command, Garrus will then throw one in the direction you are aiming at. This makes a huge difference in gameplay from the last two titles as previously there was an awful lot of stop/starting to select powers, now it keeps the battle flowing and barking orders at your team mates deepens the experience. The Kinect also works well for some of the less urgent items like swapping weapons, with “shotgun” or “pistol” working well if you plan ahead for a switch and even “medigel” for a last minute boost of health.
For such a small snippet, the overall experience is thrilling with some subtle changes to the cover system and aiming feeling a lot smoother, making those vital headshots so much easier to pull off. Graphically the game seems to have taken a darker tone, with the brightness of ME1 now filtered to look darker and grainier, giving the whole end of the universe more gravitas.
Leaving the single player demo leaves me in a fit of excitement as anticipation rises for the March 9th release date, with this small taster leaving many questions in which hopefully some are answered. Why was Earth first on the Reapers list of things to do and how can it possibly survive? where is the rest of the Council? and what has Ashley Williams done to her hair?
You can pre-order Mass Effect 3 from ShopTo here. There’s a free t-shirt and dlc with every order, whilst stocks last.