One of the biggest announcements for Mass Effect 3 was the inclusion of a multiplayer mode which, of course, created many concerns with fans; Mass Effect being a single player experience how would they get around stop/start nature of the gameplay and would this deter or even shorten the life of this great gaming series. These worries were short lived however, as the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer demo has already offered some personal gaming highlights; though, whose bright idea was it to release this demo on Valentine’s Day, the one day of the year where I really will be pushing my luck to play computer games?
The multiplayer mode sets you up as a rookie N7 Special Ops Team member, a group of battle ready men, women and aliens willing to do what it takes to protect the Galaxy from whatever threatens it. The classes available are familiar for any Mass Effect player, with a full complement of Adepts, Soldiers, Engineers, Sentinels, Infiltrators and Vanguards. To get around the slower pace of the single player each class has only three main powers which may seem a step back for Mass Effect aficionados, so to rectify this each class has a group of different species to choose from; each with a different power load out. So a Human Sentinel can use Throw, Warp and use a Tech Armour boost and the Krogan Sentinel utilizes Incinerate, Lift Grenade and Tech Armour boost. A great idea, as it further filters the classes, so making it easier to create a balanced and varied team.
Though there are only two maps to play on, the scope of the Galaxy-wide map indicates plenty more areas to play on release. Regions such as: the Terminus System, Attican Space, Inner and Outer Council Space and Earth System Alliance Space (where the demo is based) appear on the map, all offering different maps. Whilst most menus are locked out on the demo, it’s clear from the selection screen that you have options to select enemy types (locked to Cerberus) and challenge difficulty (bronze, silver and gold).
Once in the game lobby you can check out information of your team with player’s stats showing class and current rank. Plus you have plenty of customisation tools like adjusting colours and armour, ranking up your character and choosing and modding your weapons. Though you can take only three powers and two weapons to the field, there are also a few extra enhancements you can apply via the equipment menu like one off use medi-gel packs, ammo packs and armour boosters. These powerups plus many other weapon mods and other hidden items can be purchased from the Store with credits earned in-game, allowing you to select from a range of packs with random items in them, the more expensive the pack, the more rare the items are.
The two arenas, which we have been unleashed on are: Firebase White on Novaria, offering open walkways leading to a landing pad plus Firebase Ghost on Benning. Both of these have lots of rooms that look like interconnected shipping crates, tightly packed together allowing plenty of cover opportunities and advantageous fire positions. The action itself is essentially a Horde match made popular by the Gears of War series with wave upon wave of enemies gunning for your team. Starting with simple Cerberus grunts, each wave brings out more challenging foes like huge heavy armoured mechs and Asari phantoms that use cloaking shields. The aim of the game is to survive and the best way is to stay together, split from the team and expect to die. If you do find yourself bleeding out you can either wait and hope a teammate can revive you or if fortunate, use your own medi-gel for a self-revive. To keep the battles moving around the map and to stop your team from bedding in there are occasional monetary challenges that pop up, like taking out specific officers in a tight time limit or securing an uplink terminal in a very open area. The idea of tempting players away from a safe haven for some extra cash is great and it will sure cause many an argument in teams on the harder settings.
The well designed levels, loads of different upgrades and the constant barrage of Cerberus forces make for some great fire fights. The fact you have four heavily weaponised players charging around, lifting, warping, burning or generally shooting wildly with an assault rifle or shotgun, with the visual effects and satisfying weapon sounds making it even better.
Although this is a new concept for the Mass Effect series it has been done so well that you have to ask why it has not been done before. Having already knocked up a fair few hours, it’s safe to say that the online mode works! So much so that is has got to the point where I really can’t wait to see more, and my earlier fears are now replaced with how can the single player mode be better than this?