A gun turret set-piece in a Mass Effect game? Some may want to cry sacrilege, but it’s all about context. Mass Effect 2 was less of a sequel and more of a comprehensive reboot, the most consequential element being combat that was actually pleasurable. Bioware’s newfound confidence in creating action scenes was clearly going to come in handy when they commenced work on what they’re calling “the main event”, and the beginning of the single most significant event in the Mass Effect saga’s sprawling timeline.
Large scale action aside – and that turret mission is as blockbuster flamboyant as anything seen in the Uncharted or Gears of War series’ – the plot is once again what’s really important here. The gameplay sequence that we saw in action – which looks as if it appears during the game’s opening tier – sees Shepherd flee Earth just as the Reapers’ heavy-duty attack on the planet commences. He promises to return, obviously; but not before he’s gathered support from various alien civilisations so that he can mount an essential counter-attack.
A very well-received new melee weapon, which looks like a Halo power sword and was referred to as a “holographic switchblade” by Bioware, also made an appearance. It isn’t clear whether this will replace the standard melee attack, but if it does it’ll be interesting to see how this alters the general ebb and flow of the combat. We only saw the weapon being used as a last resort, but it appears to be extremely powerful – dishing out one-hit kills every time with no sign of a power gauge or status meter.
Hand grenades are another new addition, and you can now modify your weapons by using the stray mods that are scattered around each world. It wasn’t revealed if these mods are also going to be available to purchase from traders, although this is obviously likely. Shepherd’s movement is now much more fluid, he runs much faster and nipping between pieces of cover is much more intuitive. Using cover shrewdly is said to be a very important aspect of some of the game’s most pivotal skirmishes.
It’s looking every inch the blockbuster finale, but with much of the drama being kept strictly under wraps. The only decision that we saw Shepherd get presented with was whether or not to rescue a young boy – cowering in some air vents, Newt style – from a collapsing building. There were only two options available – hard Paragon and hard Renegade – but the writing is as carefully composed as ever, and the result of this particular Shepherd’s choice culminated in a touching and very cinematic cutscene that was wholly reassuring in its execution.
The Reaper invasion (both visually and aurally) owes something of a debt to Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of War of the Worlds, and one new breed of enemy – the Cannibal tribe – may look like walking meatballs, but some of the AI that we saw them engage in made them seem like the kind of smart-as-hell nightmares that are more commonly seen in Halo games. In all, EA’s E3 presentation of Mass Effect 3 didn’t reveal a whole lot, but our anticipation has just skyrocketed even further.
Mass Effect 3 is currently due for release on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC in early 2012.
Watch the Mass Effect 3 trailer here: