Posted February 14th 2012 by Anthony DiPalma.
The long wait for Bioware's third installment of the Mass Effect trilogy is about to come to an end. Early this morning, the demo for Mass Effect 3 was finally released. The demo contains two single player missions and, for the first time in the series, online multiplayer. Since Bioware announced the inclusion of multiplayer integration in the Mass Effect story, fans have been weary, and rightfully so. Mass Effect is often described as an experience centered around the player, their choices, and the consequences of their actions. Those who purchased Battlefield 3 and redeemed an online pass were able to play today, but others will have to wait until February 17th to play online. Does the demo offer players enough content to be satisfied, and more importantly, is the new multiplayer component any good?
Nobody who has played Mass Effect or Mass Effect 2 will doubt that Bioware has some of the best developers and writers around. It's not a question of whether or not the story will succeed in grasping the player in a believable world, but whether we'll crap our pants or vomit excessively in anticipation for one of the biggest games of 2012. Simply put, millions of people around the world have a pen ready to sign a check to Bioware.
In typical Mass Effect fashion, Bioware continues the trend of having an intense opening cutscene. Though not as grandiose as the player dying in the first 5 minutes like in Mass Effect 2, the first few minutes showcase a shit-ton of explosions and civilian casualties. Once players pick their preferred class and a backstory for their Shepard, they hop back in the boots of their favorite soldier as he explains that after the events at the end of the second game's Arrival DLC, he is no longer a decorated war hero. For those who did not play the DLC, I will not go into detail, but I will say that Shepard has a lot to answer for.
What I like most about the beginning is that players are given a choice right from the get-go. We're asked what style of play best suits us: Action, which does away with interactive conversations and keeps the game focused on gunplay, Role-Playing, a style catered to traditional fans who want to interact with their crew through the innovative conversation-wheel while blowing shit up, and Story, a variant that keeps the difficulty relatively low so players can save the galaxy with ease while focusing solely on the incredible tale they're about to experience. This is great because as much as I absolutely adore the Mass Effect series, it isn't for everyone. Combat in the previous games was a little on the slow side, and many are turned off by having to actually take time to talk to crew mates and appreciate the depth of the storyline.
That being said, the action in Mass Effect 3 is much faster, smoother, and more fun than its predecessors. The new additions are welcome, and being able to grab enemies from behind cover and stab them in the face is just awesome in every way imaginable. This holds well in the multiplayer, which has players creating characters based on specific classes and races and working together to run shit on a galactic scale. Basically, Mass Effect 3's online is great and worth the price of admission alone.
Once players pick a character from 1 of the 6 classes (multiple characters can be created in case players want to try every class), they team up and take down waves of enemies. Essentially Mass Effect 3's online component is horde mode with a side of objective thrown in every few rounds. Players will take positions and kill a bunch of enemies and occasionally fight specific targets, plant charges, or upload data and hold a specific area. While the formula is usually stale and boring after awhile, the gameplay of Mass Effect is what makes it unique.
The combinations of classes certainly helps mix up the gameplay to avoid it from getting repetitive after a few waves. As an Infiltrator, my character was able to turn invisible and flank enemies as my friend held them up in the air using telekinetic Biotic powers while another friend fired rockets at them. In another instance, two of my friends pulled enemies towards them and let me pick them off with my sniper rifle one-by-one. It's one thing to see this done by AI squadmates in the single player, but it's another experience entirely to mix up powers with your friends.
The demo contains two multiplayer maps and an additional story mission which allows players to upgrade Shepard's stats. Although you cannot import your previous characters in the demo, I look forward to seeing Anthony Shepard back in action. (Anthony Shepard is way cooler than Jared Shepard and Brandon Shepard)
Again, those who do not have early access to the online portion of the demo will have to wait a few days, but trust me when I say that it's well worth it. Bioware took a huge risk by adding multiplayer in a series with such a loyal fanbase, and in typical Bioware fashion, they pulled it off. Not only am I impressed with Mass Effect 3's online, but I'm anticipating playing it in its entirety on March 6th. The battle for Earth's survival is only a few weeks away, and you can bet your ass I'll be ready.
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