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If you were lucky enough to possess a copy of Battlefield 3 and have activated your online pass (Xbox 360 & PS3 users), EA would send you an email stating that the multiplayer demo for Mass Effect 3 was available on February 14 for download via Origin, Playstation Network Store, and Xbox Live. Its been a couple of days since and BioWare has opened up and made the demo available for the everyone to download. Initially, I was anticipating only the multiplayer Co-op aspect of the game being available on the demo but was quickly surprised by the appearance of a single player demo. So I took the demo for a hands on ride of the most anticipated action RPG to date, starting with the single player. After creating my “Commander Shepard”, we’re immediately dropped into the drama of the Mass Effect Universe. What seemed like a couple of years since the release of ME2, only feels like moments as the opening cinematic carries on the inevitable return of the “Reapers” and the death and destruction that they bring despite the many efforts that the Human race attempt to be ready for.
One thing I noticed right from the start was the default effects that were in place. Even though the resized screenshots don’t exactly do the game justice, you can immediately tell the graphic improvements that have been made compared to ME2. If you look at Ashley’s outfit below, the lighting and the textures tie in so well that its mind boggling of how clean and real this game feels. Of course, I still wouldn’t be confidant enough that it would stop bullets or anything that universe would throw at me but, besides those obvious changes, familiar faces and their iconic outfits have gotten major face lifts or complete overhauls altogether. And yes, the Normandy gets a major texture improvement all over.
With the opening stage set, you’re immediately thrown into the chaos that has erupted with Reapers and their various indoctrinated invasion troops shooting up anything that moves in the city. The Heads Up Display has gotten a slight makeover with a bit of rearranging in comparison to ME2. Movement and some controls seem the same but feel more friendly for people who are lacking the dexterity for action FPS/3PS games. I went into the game with just changing the resolution which at the time happened to be 1280 x 720 up to 1920 x 1080 which didn’t seem to affect the framerate of the game nor affect the experience as I was anticipating the game to become choppy as I went through jumping, running, and shooting my way to safety.
One thing that BioWare has added which I think was pretty cool is they added a melee charge attack which does major damage to a foe. It pretty much reminds me of the knife attacks that are present in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3. I can say that this was a needed improvement as with ME2, your melee attack was a simple rifle butt to the face which is still present and is your default attack in ME3 as well. However in ME2, you would have to use that attack multiple times to do any kind of significant damage unless you had your points in the right place to do such a gutsy move in the first place. But for the most part, the added charge move actually doesn’t have a lengthy animation compared to the one shot deal in BF3 which is great, especially if you happen to like knifing the enemy in Co-Op.
Another thing that I noticed a slight tweak is the behavior in ranged weapons. Now of course from the demo, you only really have access to the Handgun that Admiral Anderson gives you in the beginning of the stage and an Assault Rifle which you happen to stumble upon at the end of the level to hold off hordes and hordes of enemy forces. When you progress to another part of the demo set a bit further in the game, they kept the shotgun as well as the SMG which were synonymous with playing any other class other than a Soldier from ME1. But the more important part is the behavior of those weapons were improved in a realistic sense. If you were chasing someone with a shotgun from far away, it would just tickle for them rather than blow their head clean off (Which you can do by the way). Even with the default weapons, the spread isn’t so bad if you take your time with your targets and apply some real life common sense when firing, such as short bursts or center mass for example.
One major improvement which BioWare has stated previously was that they were improving the aggressiveness and tenacity of the enemy A.I. Because it is a demo, I wouldn’t judge a book by its cover obviously but I can say that there was instances where it seemed like they were being smart about attacking me from cover, and times where they would just stand out in the open for a few good seconds before ducking. Now as I said earlier in the post, the only thing I changed was the resolution so I can assume that it could be because of the default difficulty and the fact that when you start a new game, you have the choice of the type of gameplay you want to experience the game. The default setting for ME3 is “Roleplaying” which is a mix of “Action” and “Storytelling” as the other two focus more on running around like a 3PS like Ghost Recon or as I mentioned earlier, a game that is friendly to people who don’t have the reaction time of hardcore gamers and would like to enjoy the game for what it is.
Once I completed a run through singleplayer, I knew it was time to take the multiplayer out for a spin. Now unless you have friends that happen to be lucky and downloaded the demo just like you did, your only two options are to connect via Quickmatch, or by your buddy list. Unfortunately at the time, I didn’t have anyone that downloaded it yet but ironically the quickmatch option was rather quick as within minutes of setting up your preferences, I was in game and in the action. Before getting into the depth of the gameplay, you get to create a character just like you do in single player, with the exception that you are limited to a certain amount of classes and races as well as weapons until you reach a certain level to unlock them. This also affects color customization as being a flat two-toned soldier was somewhat discouraging, but never crossed my mind as the gameplay was an adequate distraction from even thinking about it. In this portion of the demo, you fight Cerberus, a Pro-Human organization who’s exact plans aren’t clear but are determined to get in the way of Commander Shepard every time. Depending on the lobby, the gameplay feels a lot like the firefight mode originally created in Halo: ODST and Halo: Reach with a slight spinoff. Aside from fighting waves of enemies, there are objectives to complete all around the map such as defusing explosives. The major exception to firefight is that you are able to revive downed allies however, the problem with chasing after your mates is that the enemy has the ability to take them out for the round if you can’t get to them in time and possibly take you out as well.
All in all, even though the game is only weeks away, I know just like anyone else who’s played and loves the series that this still brings chills to the spine.