Writing a preview for something like Mass Effect 3 is pretty hard. The first thing I worried about going into this was someone saying terrible things about my mother because I spoiled something about the story for them. If you’re one of the those people, I recommend that you stop reading, like right now. Actually don’t even read another gaming site for the next three weeks. Seriously though, if you want to stay spoiler free, by all means click the back button in the top left corner because I’m about to discuss the second level of the game’s campaign.
For those of you that have stuck around to this point… let’s do this. Click on that “continue reading” button. Next stop: Mars.
I won’t even fake it. I didn’t enjoy the original Mass Effect. And it wasn’t until i spent time playing ME3’s multiplayer that I considered giving the series a second go-around. I’m glad I did because now that I’m knee deep into Mass Effect 2 I get why people enjoy the series so much. And now it makes me appreciate the spectacle that is Mass Effect 3 that much more.
The level opens up like any good sci fi movie should — a “routine” recon mission gone wrong. Shepard and company are in search of plans to an ancient Prothean device burried deep in the archives of an installation on Mars. And as you’ve probably already guessed it, they’re not the only ones there.
Upon approaching the entrance to the base, my squad and I were welcomed with a small pocket of Cerberus resistance — who were busy slaughtering the base employess. So right out of the gate I had the chance to once again familiarize myself with ME3’s tight gunplay. While some consider ME2’s “less RPG, more shooter” feel, the point in which the series made its biggest jump from the original, while I can’t pin point how exactly, ME3’s shooting and overall responsiveness just feels better. From rolling, to sticking to and maneuvering around cover, it all felt completely new and re-tooled.
Once inside the installation there was another commotion (err… ass-whooping) going on, with Cerberus agents on the receiving end this time around. During a cutscene, a face familiar to the series is re-introduced to us. It’s none other than Liara T’Soni.
In the dialogue that follows we learn that Cerberus’ motivations for being at the base are the same as yours. We’re told that Cerberus wants the artifact because they seek “anything powerful enough to destroy the reapers” but it’s not for the reasons you think. At this point, Shepard commands group member James Vega to watch the door, while Liara joins Ashley as your third party member for the remainder of the mission.
As we made our way through the base, we come across a security office that gives us an idea about how far into the base the Cerberus agents are. This is where we’re first shown Eva, a ruthless Cerberus agent who’s putting a hurting on anything and everything standing in the way between her the and the Prothean device plans.
At this point it becomes a race against time as to who can reach the archives in order to extract the plans first. And at every turn, as you make your way deeper into the base, it seems there’s tons of Cerberus troops standing in your way. With these waves of enemies, the game uses this time as an opportunity to act as a tutorial of sorts, introducing the importance of using team work tactics like squad commands, abilities, and biotics (the latter of which can now be mapped to the d-pad).
When we finally reach the archives, we realize that Liara isn’t the only familiar face we’ll be encountering on our Mars mission. The Illusive man also decides to make an appearance, and in his usual monologue delivery describes his real intentions for the Prothean device plans. Unlike Shepard and company, the Illusive man doesn’t want to destroy the reapers. Instead he wants to use the device to control them.
As you’d expect this doesn’t go over too well. Shepard decides to make a move for the device plans but the Illusive man tells him that they’re already downloaded. This is when we once again see the mysterious Eva, with the plans in hand, making a run for an exit.
What follows is a frantic chase back throughout the installation and through an alternate exit. When you finally catch up to her, Eva has nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, and that’s when she’s met by some of her Cerberus calvary who show up to even the fight. What transpires after that, well.. I think I’ve spoiled enough here. Let’s just say that if this is only the second level of the game, I can’t even imagine the roller coaster ride we’re all in store for.
You can see how it all plays out when Mass Effect 3 Launches on March 6th in the US and March 9th in Europe.