Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer Hands-On Preview -- Help Me Help You Help Us Help ShepardBy Miguel Concepcion - Posted Oct 28, 2011
It's a galaxy at war in Mass Effect 3, a conflict so large no one could possibly expect to pin the fate of humanity solely on Commander Shepard and his squad (at least not again). This does make for a prime opportunity for introduce a mode that every game franchise this generation has had to consider: multiplayer. It's a mode that BioWare has thought about seriously in the past but it does seem fitting that they would save it for Mass Effect 3 now that this galactic conflict is in full swing. While playing it is not required to beat the campaign, BioWare has vaguely stated that making progress in the multiplayer will at minimum enhance the story and make it easier to achieve the best ending of the game.
Honestly, it would just be too hot to have a foursome of Shepards (FemSheps or otherwise). That's why no one on the multiplayer team gets to play as the commander. Instead this is the time to illustrate how much the outcome of the war doesn't rest solely on the shoulders of Shepard and his squad. Now gamers get to play as non-humans, trying out familiar species like Salarian, Turian, and Asari, just to name a few. From our hands-on time, it was not surprising that the more diverse the team make-up, the better. A sample squad of complementary members is one with a biotic who uses a warp ability to toss up an enemy hiding behind cover, leaving that foe helpless to the firepower of your tank-like Krogan team member.
If you’ve put in considerable time into the previous Mass Effects, you’ll find that the controls in this multiplayer will be very familiar, regardless of the race you choose. The gunplay and cover system might not be as tight as a focused shooter like Gears of War, but one can’t help but be optimistic that Mass Effect 3 will feature the strongest gunplay in the series, further accentuated with the added time in the game’s universe through multiplayer. This is also aided by the refined UI, which offers easy access to grenades, medipack, and powers via d-pad.
The BioWare and EA spokespeople were mum on any additional modes and maps, but we at least got to see two locales: a base set in the snowy backdrop of Novaria and the Slum, a gritty map filled stacked colony pods. Both maps feature an involving mix of surviving waves of enemies and completing objectives. Think of it as Horde from Gears of War or Firefight from Halo and add in assignments during the gun battles like computer hacking and bomb disarmament. A single session can certainly give you lots to do, making it all the more important to have mics for all your friends. Moreover, the experience points earned at the end of a session are shared, so there shouldn't be any reason to be a lone wolf. You can certainly be a hero at times, since everyone has the ability to revive downed team members.
To BioWare's credit, these kinds of set-ups make sense in the scheme of the war where you and your friends are working together. BioWare is more than capable of adding a deathmatch mode, but that would be out of place in the scheme of Mass Effect. Much like how your squad works best when made up of diverse members with different abilities, so to do the waves of enemy often complement each other. Just when you think you have a handle of the enemy grunts and cloaked soldiers, in comes Cerberus Centurions with jetpacks and hulking mechs.
Like how you've crafted a Shepard that is unique to you, multiplayer will offer its own level of customization including how your character looks, his/her abilities, and weapons, all of which helps tailor your experience to your preferred play style. With a level cap of 20 for each character and with the Mass Effect galaxy as large as it is, it would be great to have a multiplayer mode so involving that there'll be players who'll want to have maxed out a character from each race.
With about four months left before release, I surely hope that BioWare has allotted themselves enough polish time for this mode as the build I played was a clear work in progress, bugs and all. The biggest concern I always have when a developer adds multiplayer in the middle (or end) or a series is if this comes at the expense of the single-player reaching its full potential. Ideally, the project should have added extra headcount solely devoted to the multiplayer. EA assured us that if we're too emotionally invested in Shepard's story to care about multiplayer, we would not be penalized for not playing with others. Still, a quality multiplayer mode should make you feel like you're missing out by not playing it. We're hoping for more pre-release opportunities to dig deeper into this before Mass Effect 3 ships on March 6, 2012.