It’s been two incredibly long weeks for me here at the site. Juggling day job stuff and site related business while at the same time providing content isn’t an easy task but it’s something that I’ve become accustomed to. The real reason why its been a hellish two weeks though is because I’m terrible at keeping secrets. With that said you can imagine how I reacted after playing Mass Effect 3 multiplayer — loving it — and then not being able to tell a soul about it. Well my friends, that silence comes to an end, right now. Check out my full preview below.
There had been rumblings for months but it wasn’t until the morning (Oct. 12th) of my hands-on preview that BioWare would make the Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer component official. The BioWare faithful — when it was still a rumor — sucked their collective teeth with concerns that a “tacked-on” multiplayer would do nothing but take away resources from their precious single player campaign. Others, like myself, wondered how it would even work. Well let’s put those concerns to rest right now because not only does it NOT feel cheap or tacked on, it’s actually a ton of fun to play.
So how does it all work? Well for starters BioWare is calling their multiplayer component “Galaxy at War” and it revolves around the conflicts and proxy battles that take place during the intergalactic war going on during the Mass Effect trilogy. The experience will strictly be of the co-op variety, which when you really sit down and think about it makes perfect sense for the series. Having competitive multiplayer with something like 12 people running around shooting each other with bullets and abilities would probably be too much chaos and not really tie into the lore of the story-rich trilogy.
Battles take place in different locations throughout the galaxy and places that fans of the series and the upcoming title should be familiar with. For the first time ever players will be able to control different races of aliens previously unplayable which I’m sure plenty of you out there will be excited about. You wouldn’t be wrong if you classified it a “horde” mode as the game will be throwing waves of enemies at you, with each wave earning you bad guys that get harder and harder to take out.
I remember certain points during the original Mass Effect where the A.I. felt almost merciless. Well, that same vicious A.I. makes an appearance here, and while I can’t say for certain if the build we played was “softened up” for journalists that day, what I can say is that not a single group (except for mine, we rocked it) was able to make it through to the end. In order to win you need to survive 11 waves of enemies (which can get ridiculous at certain points) and then secure an extraction zone for about two solid minutes. Thankfully, when a player is downed, he or she will bleed out for a bit giving teammates just enough time to come in for a heroic revival. And get used to it because reviving your downed teammates is something you’ll probably be doing a lot.
In terms of gameplay, if you were a fan of the way the series was headed in ME2, you’ll be happy to know that the combat feels even more natural. Having played all types of games since the last time I tooled around with Shepard, picking up controller I was a bit hesitant at first, but within moments I immediately felt right at home. A welcome and necessary change was having class abilities mapped to the D-Pad (for quick access). Having to pause for a radial menu would completely take away from the fast paced experience. The best way to describe the combat is that it’s seamless and effortless in a way that anyone can pick up and play it and within moments really feel like their contributing. It never gets in the way; and that’s the most important ingredient for a successful multiplayer recipe, one that developers too often overlook.
BioWare has also added incentive to playing the mode. The way David Silverman (Director of Marketing at BioWare) described it during my demo was that players wouldn’t have to play this mode in order to get the “best ending” but that if they did decide to do so, it will make that “ending” a little easier to attain. Adding to that, the ability to carry over progression from multiplayer into the single player campaign is another reason to give it a shot.
In terms of visuals, there’s currently no game on the 360 that has a multiplayer component that looks this good. It’s the first time that I see the ME3 engine running on the six year old machine, and I didn’t see so much as a stutter during my time with it. Turns out I was spot on during a preview of another prominent upcoming role-playing title. Mass Effect 3 will be the graphics king on Microsoft’s console come March.
Now, if you didn’t catch it earlier (you know, where I said that we rocked it), I was among the only group out of the entire day to make it completely through 11 waves of enemies and hold my fist in the air in victory. What I can say as someone who plays a lot of online multiplayer — that while this was a co-op experience — because of the tension, tight quarters, and intensity of the AI this was just as good as the other competitive shooters out there if not better. I didn’t really know how adding this component to a game with such a strong single player experience would even work, but BioWare has managed to make me into a believer.
[You can see our full video interview with BioWare's David Silverman here. Mass Effect 3 will be released on March 6th, 2012, and you can sign up to be notified for the single player demo on Bioware's Site.]