E3 ’11: Mass Effect 3 Preview
We take a look at Bioware’s impressive creation
One of the common things to see at E3 are the queues. Whether you’re standing in line to see a game, or buy a hot dog, or use the restroom, queues are a staple of the show. So it was no surprise at all that when I showed up for a preview of Mass Effect 3, the line of people to get into the screening was ridiculous. There was a line to get into another line, which was next to the VIP line – it was sheer madness. But after patiently waiting (in the VIP line of course), I was shown to my seat in the preview room and waited for the show to begin. It’s hard to describe the deafening cheer from the room when the title screen appeared – I would say it would be on par with the noise level from an elephant stampede or a small tuba factory.
For the uninitiated, Mass Effect 3 carries on the story of Commander Shepard from where it left off in Mass Effect 2. Shepard has returned to Earth and is on trial for his actions in the previous games, but the Reapers – an alien race with a fetish for destroying galaxies – are preparing to attack the planet, so Shepard is quickly called back into action. The level that we saw showcased some brilliant visuals, with explosions galore and enemy ships landing swiftly all around. At one point when we were outside the base, the developers panned the camera around so we could really appreciate the sheer scale of the graphics engine – in the distance we could see smouldering buildings and ships crashing to their doom. Not too far off were Reaper ships landing on Earth and wreaking havoc on the city. As grim as the sight was, it was simply beautiful to behold.
Of course, rather than stand around and look at the jaw dropping visuals, we had a planet to defend. While Shepard’s excellent marksmanship remains a primary focus of his combat, there have been some much needed tweaks in how you tackle your enemies. Firstly the cover system has been improved to now show you in which direction Shepard can move when you’re taking cover. Secondly, you now have the option of sneaking up on an enemy and dispensing them using an Omniblade – a hologram dagger that can do some serious melee damage. In one section of a level we simply sneaked up alongside a short wall behind an enemy, then pulled him over the wall and introduced him to a world of pain. But if you’re a fan of bullets flying around, then there’s something for you as well – an improved weapon upgrade system has been introduced in Mass Effect 3, that will hopefully address some of the minor quips that players had for the first two games. You simply find a weapons bench and you’ll be given the option to snap on various upgrades to your guns.
The next level we saw was a mission to destroy a Reaper base, and again the sheer size and scale of both your enemies as well as the base will make you appreciate just how hard the graphics engine is working this time around. The mammoth Reaper that pursues you in this level is just ridiculous, and even though you’re firing at it from a turret your bullets seem to look like tiny dots that hardly do any damage. This level was cut short to avoid spoilers, but the frantic nature of the escape was enough to whet our appetites. Bioware has also hinted that previous Mass Effect characters will be making appearances in this installment, and some familiar faces were seen during the demo.
Mass Effect 3 still has a while to go before its release, but judging by the scores of ribbons and awards that were stuck to the door of the screening room, the buzz around the game is already building up. The graphics are to die for and the story has some very strong tug-at-your-heartstrings moments (we happened to witness one during the demo that got a few gasps). A serious contender for Game of the Year for 2012, Mass Effect 3 is shaping up to be a truly impressive feat, and we can’t wait to get our hands on it.