Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Game Preview: Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer

Game Preview: Mass Effect 3 Demo Hands-On
Saving the Galaxy: Try before you buy!

The highly anticipated Mass Effect 3 demo was released on the 14th of February and included the fantastically fun Multiplayer beta, so let's take a look at it shall we? The Mass Effect series up till now has been entirely a single player experience, for obvious reasons. The game is set in a hugely immersive galaxy teeming with life, and it's really something you can only experience fully on your own rather than dragging teammates around with you. This originally made the idea of multiplayer in ME a rather strange prospect and a little worrying for those who are diligent fans of the series. But now that it's 
been put out for us to see I can wholeheartedly say that it's brilliant.

As I'm not going to touch upon the single player aspect of the demo, I'll just quickly mention some of the newest aspects in Mass Effect 3. The graphics are excellent, and have definitely been polished up since the previous games. The visuals have always looked delicious, but I look at them now and wonder how they could possibly get any better. The controls also feel as though they have been tightened up to compliment the combat and action. I never realised until recently playing back on the first Mass Effect game just what a huge improvement there has been. One thing that was a really pleasant surprise was the hit marker that comes up when you successfully get a shot on someone, like in Call of Duty. The tiny X pops up on your reticule and you get a little vibration in the pad... It might sound a little weird, but if you've played the COD games, you'll probably understand what I mean.

Multiplayer Trailer

The basic premise of the multiplayer is styled around a horde mode, like Gears of War; but in my opinion a more refined and fun experience (not to mention with a lot less drab colours...) You and up to three other players can pick from six uniquely different classes to team up and try to complete the mission. All the classes are in the single player game already, so there's no unfamiliar powers or abilities that you'll have to get used to. Customisation is available as you choose from the different species: Humans, Asaris, Krogans, Turians, all the wonderfully absurd alien types that populate the galaxy. Along with choosing the armour colours and arranging the perfect loadout of powers and weapons for your mission; there's a nice amount of things to get done for your character/s. You'll have individual characters for each class you pick, so you can have two Infiltrators with different abilities, or two soldiers with different weapon kits. Once you get everything organised and start upgrading and levelling up all the different characters; you'll have a small squad of troops ready for almost any situation.

So, now we move onto the actual gameplay: You'll be given the task of defending against ten waves of increasingly difficult enemies, whilst completing small objectives along the way. Objectives such as: hacking a data bank, or taking out specific targets amidst the hordes. It certainly spices up the action and when the objective is thrown at you at the start of a wave, you'll have a specific time limit to get it done, or the mission will be aborted. You'll have to cut a path through the many groups of assault troopers: the powerful rifle wielding Nemesis; the shield-toting Guardians; the agile ninja-like Phantoms; and the huge mechanical Atlas if you want to reach the end of the mission and get all the sweet experience points and credits. There is a nice level of variation between all of the enemies that really do require some strategy in taking them all out efficiently, all depending on how your four man squad is built. To best take out the Phantoms, you'll need a class that can cut through biotic barriers or you'll end up grating away slowly at them with bullets, which I can tell you is no easy task. A sniper rifle would be best suited to the typical Assault troopers for taking them out easily, as well as the Guardians who only offer a small area to breach in their shields. It all requires good teamwork and some variation between each player rather than simply hoping to clean it all up with bullets, which was my original plan of action. Suffice to say, upon chopping and changing, you begin to find some really good tactics that work best in every different situation.

The two levels offered in the beta are a good idea of what's to come: one having tight areas for you to try and not become trapped in and the other with larger gaps to navigate and move around in. There are also three varying levels of difficulty: Bronze, Silver and Gold. If you want to move further up and get a bigger challenge, you'll need to upgrade your characters and unlock better weapons using your earned credits or you won't last two minutes on Silver, let alone Gold. Regarding the actual multiplayer experience overall; it's certainly a lot of fun and the beta hasn't become boring yet, with so many different character abilities and styles to level up and try. With a lot of online games recently, I found my matched partners quiet and longing for a lone wolf gig instead of truly following the idea of the game mode. Playing with friends has been the most enjoyable course of action, but you could say that about most games. A few things need to be fixed of course, but it is only a beta after all. You can't expect perfection from it, but it actually does work very well in most areas. The only major complaint is that in the pre-game menus, everything feels a little clunky. And in regards to matchmaking, there should be some better options for getting you and your friends into a room to make a full game.

I look forward to playing the full Mass Effect 3 multiplayer experience when it comes this March. The multiplayer modes actually help your single player campaign, by helping your 'Galactic Readiness' that will appear as you begin the fight for the galaxy. All the credits you earn in multiplayer supposedly will be sent over to single player too, which is a great bonus. If you haven't played the beta yet, download it and give it a shot. If you haven't played any of the Mass Effect games yet, then go out and buy them too! It's never too late to start the galactic RPG series.

- Andy Robison 


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