The following preview contains commentary on the second level of the game. It is not included in the demo and as such contains spoilers. No story details will be discussed but the location, nature of the enemies and introduction of a character will all be discussed. So if you really want to go into things completely clean then it’s probably best if you don’t read on.
The second mission of Mass Effect 3 sees Shepard, Vega and either Kaiden or Ashley travel to Mars under the orders of Admiral Hackett. Something that could help in the war against the Reapers may be located on the planet and Shepard is running pretty much the only operational ship in the Alliance that isn’t currently engaged in combat with the Reapers above Earth.
Once I got into the action – which is done seamlessly from the cutscene introducing Mars – I immediately jumped into the menus and got to work levelling out my Vanguard Shepard. I pumped some points in my biotic charge and shock-wave abilities. These make up the core abilities of the class and turn the Vanguard into a lethal “shock trooper” that excels in close combat. I also took some time to check out the new weapon equip screen.
As you equip weapons to five separate “hard points” on Shepard’s armour you will notice a weight limit increasing. This limit increases the cool down of your powers. Simply put: more weapons = a longer wait to use biotics, techs or special shots. As a vanguard I needed to be ultra mobile and have access to charge as quickly as possible. With this in mind I only grabbed a shotgun and a pistol and set to work.
I tore apart the first group of Cerberus soldiers I came across by mixing a combination of charge and liberal application of my shotgun to my stunned enemies faces. I immediately fell in love with the class and am now seriously considering making a new Vanguard Shepard for my first run-through of Mass Effect 3. It feels so odd to play the game as an ultra mobile up close and personal class when I had been used to soldier and sentinel run-throughs in the past.
As you progress deeper inside the base enemies become more advanced and it’s not long before a shielded Cerberus heavy trooper shows up. I was managing these fights by selected my squads powers and using them. There are also several conversations that take place as you move through the base. Simply put Mass Effect 3 is very definitely a Mass Effect game so please stop worrying.
This became even more pointed when Liara joined my team and brought her selection of powerful Biotics to the table. The new Shadow Broker seems a lot colder than the naïve scientist who joined Shepard in the first game and she definitely seems ready to take care of business. Some people are probably going to bitch and moan about it but it’s nice to see a character actually develop over the course of a series. I will say that I found Vega to be quite annoying and just as much of a meathead as he looks. I will say that I don’t think that is a particularly bad thing. Not every character has to be likeable, even if they are on your side. A strictly by the books military man will be a perfect counterweight to the more unorthodox members of the group Shepard usually puts together. Plus there will be plenty of opportunities to shoot him down and treat him like crap.
From there the demo gets really spoilery so I won’t go into specifics. Suffice to say the combat feels fantastic and the puzzles that you come up against are actually quite clever. This is no dumb shooter and there are still plenty of conversations to have and choices to make. The game feels and plays like a Mass Effect game. It is not a straight shooter or anything like that. Please stop worrying about that.
Graphically the game really does look like a leap on from Mass Effect 2. There is a sense of scale on display that hasn’t really been shown in the series before. This is especially evident in the vast dust-storm that has surrounded the base on Mars. Tiny particles of dust are being blast across exterior surfaces and almost flow like water, it’s a lovely touch.Character animations seem to be improved but the old problem with faces in the series is still present and they often weren’t as convincing as they need to be.
I was playing the preview build on the PS3 and it had its share of technical issues. The graphics were noticeably less sharp than the 360 version and the framerate did occasionally dip a small bit. Hopefully these problems have been ironed out but for now I would definitely recommend the 360 version of the game, unless you are positively allergic to disc-swapping of course.
So that’s it for the first piece of content from Mass Effect Week here on theplayer.ie but stayed tuned for tomorrow when we go over where it all began with a retrospective of the first game in the series! From there we will take a look back at Mass Effect 2 and then something about the universe of Mass Effect itself alongside an interview with prop-maker Harrison Krix.