Writing this review is hard for me, as it involves me having to eat a huge chunk of humble pie. It’s common knowledge that I hate the Mass Effect franchise and absolutely loathe the games, but something in the recently released Mass Effect 3 demo made me change my mind (and eat said pie) – multiplayer.
Whilst the multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 borrows it’s genetic makeup from the Horde mode template (fight back waves of enemies with 3 of your pals) it does introduce some rather exciting and re-playable aspects that other games have not considered. Firstly, the RPG system used in the multiplayer is a great idea. Most modern multiplayer games, such as Call of Duty and Battlefield use levelling systems to keep the player hooked. What Mass Effect 3 does is allow the player not only to level up in a conventional way, but to choose in what way their character is improved (be it a quick boost to your overall shield or a power upgrade for your Singularity power). Experience points (or to you and I, XP) are earned by killing enemies, completing objectives and basically surviving the 11 rounds and getting your armoured butt out of that hell hole. XP is then spent on upgrading your powers, which differ with each class and race.
That’s another thing about the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer; you have characters, much like a conventional RPG game. Within each class category (e.g. Sentinel, Soldier, Infiltrator etc,) you have 4 different characters of different race and sex. However, you only start out with a few of these characters unlocked. With these characters, you have a few customisation options to make you stand out a little bit within your squad of 4, such as armour colour and fancy pants lights.
In terms of unlocking new characters, this is done in the same way that you come about new weaponry – unlock packs. By completing objectives in multiplayer missions you earn credits, which can then be spent in the store. The store contains unlock packs, which, when bought, give you a random set of goodies like extra ammo clips and Medi-gel (Especially good if you die often) – very much like a pack of trading cards. With a more expensive pack, there is a higher possibility of gaining rare weapons and characters. Rare weapons are obviously more effective in taking down enemies, so saving up that little bit extra to get a better unlock pack really is worth it.
The actual gameplay in the multiplayer is refreshingly different. Although it does just involve waves of enemies coming at you, with a few “search and destroy” type objectives thrown in for good measure, the game works well. A full game, if completed properly, lasts for about 25 minutes. In these 25 or so minutes, you are presented with a decent variety of different enemies, ranging from your lowly grunt foot soldiers, to massive mechanised battle machines. This variety of enemy means you really do have to work with your team mates, even before the match begins. Thinking ahead and strategising about what classes and powers complement each other really does add more flavour to the multiplayer experience.
A few issues I do have about the gameplay is the movement and cover system. The cover system works 9 times out of 10; however, there are moments in the heat of battle where you are automatically snapped into cover for no logical reason. This usually results in a premature death. Moving about the map can sometimes feel a little sluggish and sprinting in a straight line is an art form you have to learn to master. Apart from these niggling issues expected from a beta, everything else works spectacularly well. The aiming system works as it should, with shots being registered correctly. I haven’t had any issues yet with lag and the host migration works well when a host leaves the game.
Overall, if you’re still sceptical about the Mass Effect universe, as I was, you should just try the demo for yourself. Even if you just play the multiplayer for Mass Effect 3, you won’t be disappointed. Who knows, you could be pulling a chair up next to me, sharing my delicious humble pie.
Mass Effect 3 is scheduled for release on March 9, 2012 (EU) and March 6, 2012 (USA).