Mosaic / Reviews / February 22, 2012

Third earth invasion in Mass Effect 3

The demo for “Mass Effect 3,” the long-awaited conclusion of BioWare’s space opera epic, dropped this Valentine’s Day, featuring both a single player demo and a taste of the brand new multiplayer mode.

Be aware before reading on that full spoilers for the demo and first two games follow.

Single Player

The single player demo begins with protagonist Commander Shepard grounded on Earth, punishment for the events of the “Arrival” downloadable mission in “Mass Effect 2.” However, communications are blacking out all over the galaxy, a sign of the Reapers: the race of sentient machines that have loomed in the distance since the story’s beginning. Just then, the ruthless robots descend upon Earth.

Commander Shepard is accompanied by Admiral Anderson (Yes, the Captain got a promotion) as they cross the chaotic cityscape and escape via Shepard’s trusty ship, The Normandy.

The new synthetic Husk enemies in this segment were rather plain, but the real focus is the expansive environments and tightened combat controls. Shepard can now vault over cover more easily, use Medi-Gel to both revive downed teammates and restore health and perform a class-specific melee attack.

After escaping Earth, the demo skips forward to a parade of returning characters. Shepard teams up with series veterans Garrus and Liara to rescue the last fertile female of a dying race, while their leader, fan-favorite Urdnot Wrex, waits impatiently aboard their shuttle. The banter between the old squadmates is still fresh and I was particularly tickled to see the soft-spoken Liara and brutish Wrex trading words again.

A normal escort job goes wrong when Cerberus, an anti-alien terrorist cell, attempts to foul up Shepard’s plans. Here the enemy design really shines: engineers will drop turrets that tear through your health bar, Guardians have riot shields that make them invulnerable unless stunned or flanked and they will attempt to flank and outmaneuver you. Combat finally attains the mix of fast-paced and cerebral combat for which the series has strived since the first game.

After a quick cameo from Captain Kirrahe (Hold The Line!) and climactic final battle with a Cerberus mech, Shepard and co. escape, as the demo comes to a close.

Co-op Multiplayer

Despite suffering from the same problems as many online shooters — uncooperative players, excessive network lag, the ever-present failure of the KnoxTronics network — Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer is a lot of fun.

Players can play as human, turian, krogan, asari, salarian, quarian or drell characters, although non-human characters must be unlocked through a random “supply pack” buying system that is all too similar to buying booster packs for a Magic deck. Is it so much to ask for players to be able to buy exactly the classes and upgrades they want?

Is it so much to ask for players to be able to buy exactly the classes and upgrades they want?

Missions requires teams of four to defend against wave after wave of enemies, adding Mass Effect to the roster of games to piggyback on the success of Gears of War’s “Horde Mode,” with the occasional incidental objectives besides “do not die” peppered in for variety.

It’s fast, visceral, and ultimately satisfying. While gamers likely won’t be playing this mode for months after release, the promise of multiplayer progress carrying over into the single-player game will definitely make this worth hooking up the Xbox Live connection.

Overall, this demo should have loyal Mass Effect fans more excited than ever to finish the journey of Commander Shepard. The Reapers are here, and it’s only Shepard can rally together the galaxy in the fight for survival.

Mass Effect 3 comes out on March 6 for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.

Grant Lowe

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