In a follow up to our eyes-on earlier at E3, we got the chance to go hands-on at this year's Eurogamer Expo and take direct control of Commander Shepard in his latest fight to save the galaxy. Although Reapers were off the menu in our demo, humanity's last hope did carve through more than enough Cerberus soldiers to make up for it.
The companions tagging along for Shepard’s current mission, which involved saving a pregnant female Krogan from her Cerberus captors, were the Mass Effect regulars Liara and Garrus, along with Mordin Solus offering peripheral help.
Despite the serious nature of Shepard’s mission, the blazing sunshine shining down upon the Salarian homeworld belied this. With large hills reminiscent of Sugarloaf Mountain visible in the distance, heat reflecting white buildings, vast waterfalls, luscious plant life, and bright blue skies above all of them, this could well be what Brazil looks like in around 150 years' time. While all seemed fine and dandy to begin with, when Mordin was helping to move the female Krogan’s transportation pod through the Cerberus facility some soldiers showed up in a drop ship to announce they were none too pleased with Shepard’s shenanigans.
Thus kicking off some of Mass Effect’s much improved third-person, cover-based, combat. One improvement made to Mass Effect 3 is that when Shepard is crouching behind a piece of cover, and the option to move out of it is available, a blue arrow will show up to indicate which direction Shepard will break cover from. The improvements to battle situations don’t end their though, as Soldier classes get access to the deadly and cool omni-blade melee weapon, which is a new facet of the orange glowing omni-tool gadget that was present in previous games. Also, making a return from Mass Effect 1 to help add to the ferocious firepower options, having been absent in ME2, are grenades and weapon upgrade stations.
Mass Effect 3 is all about the customization it seems, with the previously mentioned weapon work benches offering two upgrade slots for each weapon, for scopes and increased magazine clips, to improve a guns vital statistics. Shooting back to the start of the demo, I was presented with Mass Effects 3’s revised class skills upgrade tree. Once you’ve earnt yourself some upgrade points, a skill such as stasis or the concussive shot can have its recharge rate, damage, and duration improved upon. When a skill is levelled up far enough you will be presented with an option to take one of two branching paths - the tree part of the skill tree - which will mean choosing to cause more pain or more humiliation through a particular biotic, for instance.
Deadly powers, such as the ones above, come in especially handy when the regular Cerberus soldiers part to let one of their riot shield wielding comrades come to the fore. This being Mass Effect, there a good number of ways in which Shepard and his ragtag companions can deal with shielded foes, whether that’s through getting Liara to use a biotic to dangle him in mid-air before blasting him back down to earth, or simply moving Garrus around to outflank the brute and shoot him in the hip.
Winding through the corridors of the sunny Salarian homeworld, Shepard and his motley crew eventually caught up with the preggers Krogan, Mordin, and their space lift/pod. Just as Commander Shepard hit a control terminal button to release the prized Krogan, a large walker mech dropped from the sky to make the mission that much more impossible. The burly mech was sporting a pincer claw for one arm and a large cannon for the other, with the latter making sure that being out of cover for any great deal of time was a certain dice with death. Again, a well thought out and coordinated strategy is the key to victory here, with the potential reward of getting to pilot the mech yourself should you shoot the original driver dead before the mechanical menace bites the dust.
As a plume of smoke rose up from the pile of scrap where the mech used to stand, the Mass Effect 3 demo came to a close. Shepard’s story arc will also come to an action packed climax with Mass Effect 3, and it couldn’t be a more fitting end to such a superstar of a series. Not only will Mass Effect 3’s story be influenced by the events in Mass Effect 1 and 2, the best gameplay elements from them have been amalgamated together to create what Bioware hopes will be the best of both wonderful worlds. Just like Earth, Mass Effect 3 feels immediately familiar, honed to habitual perfection, and without it there would be a huge gaping hole in the galaxy of gaming. Mass Effect 3 launches worldwide on the 6th of March 2012.