2012-02-15

Mass Effect 3 – Impressions From The Single Player Demo

by Yo Snyder

The Mass Effect series is probably one of the most ambitious games of
this generation of consoles. The whole notion of getting a trilogy of
intensely story-driven RPG games produced during the same console
generation was hugely ambitious (and I’m glad they did it that way), but
to make the story something that’s truly shaped by your choices was
also reaching for the stars. After all, games like Fable promised
worlds shaped by what you decided, but they often fell short. Well,
Bioware was understated what they claimed about Mass Effect in that
regard, and then they over achieved. One of the main reasons I’m excited
for Mass Effect 3 is because I’ll get to finish my story with my Shepard. That’s also one of the reasons the demo is a bit of a let down.

Don’t get me wrong, the Mass Effect 3 demo is pretty awesome, it’s just that as I played it, I kept wishing it was my
Shepard that was embarking on this adventure. Still, it was plenty of
fun to return to the Mass Effect universe, and you still have a few
options to personalize your experience in the demo. You can create your
very own Shepard or use one of the preset versions, and you can also
decide on one of three game types. Action lets you experience, well, the
action of the game without slowing things down for all that boring
exposition. However, if you’re more about the story than the action,
there’s also a Story mode. But, for the true Mass Effect experience, you
need to select Role Playing. It’s here that you get the action, the
story, the joy of character development and leveling and all the other
stuff that makes this series so great. Still, it’s nice, especially for
new comers, to have those other options.

The demo itself is a mix of old and new. The gameplay feels as
familiar as ever, but with a few new tweaks such as being able to leap
over gaps, a nifty little dodge and roll maneuver, more quickness when
getting in and out of cover, and you can even climb ladders, which adds
some new layers to the levels and combat.

The big addition, however, is Kinect. Don’t worry, you don’t have to
stand up and wave your hands around or run in place or anything.
Instead, Kinect is about voice command, and it’s used surprisingly well.
For starters, you can just speak the option you want to choose during
conversations. To be honest, I felt a little weird talking to myself at
first, but soon I was really getting into it; I was the
character. It brings a whole new level of immersion to the RPG
experience, and I hope it’s something other games pick up on. You can
also use voice commands in combat, and here’s where it’s most useful.
You can switch weapons just by saying “shotgun” or “rifle”. You can tell
your teammates what to do with a single word like “singularity”. You
can tell them where to move. You can heal while in the midst of a fire
fight by saying “first aid”. You can use your special abilities like
“tactical cloak” and much more all without ever opening a menu. This is
brilliant. This keeps the action fast and furious. You can still get
more detailed and open those menu wheels, but the flow of the action
while having all sorts of complicated commands available just by
speaking makes things that much more enjoyable. You can also tell doors
to open, but actions like that seemed somewhat pointless as it’s much
easier to just push a button for that.

Kinect is pretty responsive too. Despite some background noise and
the fact that my center speaker is behind the Kinect sensor, it easily
recognized most of my commands. The main times it had trouble was when
combat got intense with lots of explosions and gun fire, but I think
that’s more due to my speaker placement than Kinect’s inability. Even
with that issue, I still easily had 90% accuracy, and during quieter
moments, it was practically flawless in doing what I said. Pretty
impressive.

Along with some story elements and combat, you’ll also get a taste of
the new leveling system. It looks like a good balance between the
detailed orientated first game and the more streamlined system of the
second game. You have plenty of choices for what you want to level up,
and in those categories, you’ll have some interesting choices for what
to specialize in.

Finally, you also get a good taste of the story elements. The first
part of the demo comes from the opening of the game, and it’s epic. Do
you remember how Star Trek opened? Epic action followed by that emotional gut punch that had you tearing up even before the title showed up? That’s what Mass Effect 3
has in store. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it looks like the
game is going to deliver on the culmination of everything that’s been
building up to this point. You really feel what’s at stake here, and
it’s pretty impressive that even a short demo can convey that.

The Mass Effect 3 demo really whets the appetite for the full
game. Like I said, more than anything else, it gets me excited to play
my story. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until March 6th to do that. 
And be sure to check back later this week for our impressions of the
other big new addition to Mass Effect; multiplayer co-op.