E3 Quick Play: Mass Effect 3

Available for the first time on three platforms – Xbox 360, PS3, and PC, Mass Effect is back (well kind of if you count a March 2012 release date being back). Still will it be any good, will the wait be worthwhile, and what happens to Commnander Shepard? Pocket-lint was invited to a behind closed doors sneak peek of the game at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles, to show us what it’s all about. Read on to find out the key details, and what we thought.

Name

Mass Effect 3

What platform is it on?

Xbox 360, PS3, PC

When's it due out?

9 March 2012

What other game is it like?

Mass Effect 2

Does it use any new tech like 3D, PlayStation Move, or Kinect for Xbox 360?

Yes. You’ll be able to talk to the game using the Microsoft Kinect.

The pitch

The Mass Effect franchise is set in an epic science fiction universe, filled with dangerous alien life and mysterious, uncharted planets. Featuring intense action, a rich, futuristic storyline, space exploration and emotionally engaging character interaction, the franchise delivers an unparalleled cinematic experience.

The storyline

In Mass Effect 3, an ancient alien race known only as “Reapers”, has launched an all-out invasion of the galaxy, leaving nothing but a trail of destruction in their wake. Earth has been taken, the galaxy is on the verge of total annihilation, and you are the only one who can stop them. The price of failure is extinction. You, as Commander Shepard, must lead the counter assault to take it back. Only you can determine how events will play out, which planets you will save from annihilation and which alliances you will form or abandon as you rally the forces of the galaxy to eliminate the Reaper threat once and for all.

Trailers, demoes, and video

Our first impressions

We were actually treated to three demos of Mass Effect 3 at E3 this year. The first was a preview of the game working with Microsoft’s Kinect accessory at the Microsoft press conference. The second was at EA’s own press conference, and the third was a behind closed door demo with Corey Gasper, the games lead combat designer, and Casey Hudson, the games executive producer walking us through a further three levels.

Xbox 360 gamers will be pleased to see that if they’ve got the Kinect sensor they will be able to talk directly to the game when it comes to making decisions. No longer will you have to press a button to decide what action you want Commander Shepard to take, but simply read it. If that sounds like a bit of an extra faff it’s not the only use of the sensor. Gamers will be able to shout tactical orders at the rest of their squad and have them act on those orders. Bill move up, Bob take out that turret. It’ looks very tasty.

On stage in a live demo it all seemed to work fine, however that was the only time the technology was being shown. In our two other viewing the Kinect functionality wasn’t mentioned, presumably because EA wants to make sure PS3 gamers don’t feel they are being left out.

On the EA stand, and huddled into a room that had been designed to look like a space shuttle Pocket-lint was invited to a behind closed doors preview of 3 levels of Mass Effect 3. A replay of one of the levels shown at the EA press conference and a further two that briefly show up in the latest trailer from Bioware the games developers.

To add to the experience EA has rolled in a 103-inch Panasonic television. It’s huge making watching the gameplay unfold even more lifelike that you’ll ever likely to get in your home (well unless you also happen to own a 103-inch telly).

Our demo started with the same level we had seen at the EA press conference. Shepard has infiltrated a Reaper base and it’s your job to try and destroy it.

Needless to say it all goes wrong and a monster the size of a football stadium is soon chasing you down. It’s fast paced and action packed with Gasper blasting his way out of trouble on the back of a spaceship with a mini-gun.

We never do find out whether or not Gasper has what it takes as the demo cuts short.

What we learn from this level is that the vistas and graphics are stunning, that you can move around fast, and we mean fast, and that there are going to be enemies that you just can comprehend beating.

Level two in our demo is slightly less subdued, but by no means calm. We’re on an alien planet trying to evacuate a female alien that needs to be saved before the Reapers come in and mess everything up.

Here we see the Omniblade in action, the ability to give movement orders via a power wheel, and notice that enemies appear to be considerably smarter than previous outings – something that another American journalist in our demo keeps saying “Oh shit” to in a very excited voice. Gasper is having to flank them, use a series of weapons to stun the destroy them, and basically work a lot harder than we would have expected.

There’s also a hand grenade – a first for the Mass Effect series – and more weapons to manage.

Those weapons have, like characters in an RPG, the ability to be upgraded and managed and this is far more advanced that previous outings. You can manage your gear, find new weapons, buy new weapons and then sell them as well.

All this is in addition to your own skill sets and that of your crew, which can be managed in minute detail.

We also note that there is a lot more vertical movement in this level than we’ve seen before with Shepard having to climb levels, ladders, and staircases to get through it all.

The third level we are treated to is back on earth. The Reaper is attacking and it’s not looking good.

Here you are working the level with another soldier, and the proceedings happen after you’ve been suspended from duty – we aren’t sure why. It’s near the very start of the game and shows the destruction of earth.

Like the previous levels we learn a lot here too. The graphics are again stunning with the action being set by a harbour in a sprawling metropolis. Wave after wave of Reapers we get a small rest bite. It’s the option to save a small boy we’ve found in an air duct. Gasper tries to help but the boy runs away. It’s enough to drop the tension, while at the same time showing us that Mass Effect 3 isn’t just about murder death kill all the time. 10 minutes later and we’re coming to the end of the mission having just destroyed a Reaper craft that’s the size of a skyscraper. The cut scene sneaks back in and we once again see the small boy, this time climbing into the safety of a police shuttle carrier. Phew we think, until that shuttle is blasted from the sky moments later. The boy is dead, the battle continues, and you’ve got to move on.

It’s gut wrenching stuff and shows us that Mass Effect 3 isn't going to hold any punches come launch day. This is the games industry taking on Hollywood at what they do best. Hollywood better be ready.

Our demo over it’s clear that Mass Effect 3 is going to be one of “the” games of 2012. The storyline looks to be there and the action certainly is. Hudson explains that this is the best Mass Effect yet and that the previous two outing have been building up to this moment. Worried that might mean people thinking they have to play the first two to understand what the hell is going on Hudson adds that you won’t. Still with almost a year to go until number 3, you’ve got plenty of time to get up to speed.

Please note

The E3 games convention is a fantastic chance to see the latest games due out over the coming year, as well as, letting us get a glimpse into what is going to be the big titles and the ones to avoid like the plague.

The big problem however is that for most of the titles that glimpse is, well, just that. At the show you'll get to play a level here or a multiplayer map there or even have a product manager walk you through a specific level.

So with that in mind we present you with our Quick Play.

What we've done is broken down the key facts you need to know and then given you our first impressions based on around 15 minutes of gaming. For us that 15 minutes isn't enough to do a First Look review or even a review. How can you rate a game that offers over 30 hours of gaming on just 15 minutes of play? However it should hopefully give you an idea, a feeling, a notion, of what to expect come launch day.



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