Electronic Arts descended on New York City earlier this week with one of its semi-frequent preview showcases. Some new Mass Effect 3 content was revealed, as you'll learn soon enough in our hands-on look at the game's early mission to Mars. That's not all though. EA also had two of the mobile offerings connected to the upcoming game on display for a hands-off preview demonstration: the Mass Effect: Datapad iPad app and Mass Effect Infiltrator, a third-person action game coming first to iOS and later to Android devices.
Mass Effect: Datapad
First we got to take a look at Datapad, a free-to-download informational app for fans of the Mass Effect series. It's an iPad-exclusive release that works like a digital reference guide to BioWare's sci-fi universe. (UPDATE: Destructoid's Samit Sarkar let me know that EA is actually saying this is a universal iOS app. Yay iPhone!) The main component of the app that we got to see was the Codex.
Those who have played previous Mass Effect games should be familiar with that term. In-game, the Codex is a constantly updating compendium of information covering the characters, races, technology, history, locations and the like that Commander Shepard encounters during his/her adventures. In the two previous games, the Codex embraces an encyclopedia-style format for easy navigation and info consumption. That exact style is copied for the iPad app as well, only with the expected touch screen controls.
The Datapad's Codex will include all of the topics from the first two games, plus a little bit more. It won't update automatically with Mass Effect 3 information as you play, an odd choice considering that the app itself is tied to your Origin account -- and thus, your ME3 profile -- in other ways, but that's the way thing are. You can, however, find Codex entries in Datapad the run through the Paragon and Renegade game endings for the first two Mass Effect titles.
That's not all for Datapad, however. The app also allows users to check their progress in Galaxy at War, the ME3 meta-game which is informed by the main game's online co-op mode and transmedia offerings like Infiltrator. We didn't get to see this part of the Datapad puzzle, but you'll apparently be able to manage certain element of your own Galaxy at War progress from inside the app.
Beyond that, there's a mail tab where you'll receive updates from your party members based on how far you've progressed through the game. There are also community news and media tabs, which will be populated with the sort of content that you'd expect to see under such headings. Our look at the app was brief and focused primarily on the Codex section, so there's not much to say about the rest right now.
Mass Effect Infiltrator
If you played EA's Dead Space iOS game, then you already have an idea of what to expect from Mass Effect Infiltrator; the same dev, Iron Monkey, worked on both titles. The controls consist of virtual dual analog inputs governing movement and camera angles, tap-based targeting/shooting/cover-diving and a pair of handy drop-down menus in the upper left and right corners of the screen for swapping between different abilities and weapons. In short, Infiltrator sports all of the familiar combat features that you would expect from a Mass Effect game.
The story follows a Cerberus spec ops agent named Randall Ezno, though it's not long before he bails on his employer and throws his lot in with Commander Shepard. The demo consisted of a playthrough of one of the game's missions, a relatively straightforward gauntlet through a series of Geth encounters on the rocky surface of an alien planet. Randall is pursuing a Turian for reasons that weren't made clear.
For this mission at least, the path is a relatively straightforward one, punctuated along the way by combat encounters. Making use of cover seems to be a big part of Infiltrator's hook, with on-screen swipe commands allowing you to easily vault over objects or dash from one to another. To shoot, you simply tap on the desired target. Score a kill and the game kicks into slow-motion for a brief time; scoring additional kills during the slow-mo sequence improves your Style rating for the encounter and, ultimately, gives you more upgrade resources to work with.
After each combat encounter concludes, a summary screen pops up, noting any physical rewards you received and assigning three-star ratings in Style, Time and Health categories. The better your rating, the more upgrade flexibility you have. You'll earn credits that can be used to improve Randall's skills with buffs like increased weapon strength or longer biotic power durations (like Cloak). You'll also pick up Intel as random drops from downed enemies, which is put toward your Galactic Readiness rating in Mass Effect 3.
After several more combat encounters, featuring a mix of enemies -- standard Geth, Geth Juggernauts (best tackled at close range with a shotgun) and even a random Turian sniper -- Ezno manages to corner his mark. Infiltrator doesn't use the standard Mass Effect dialogue system; instead, a situation like this presents players with a simple binary choice: swipe in one direction to go the Paragon route and swipe in the other direction to go the Renegade route instead. The rep chose Renegade on this particular occasion, so we got to see Ezno smack the Turian in the face with his bootheel.
Some mention needs to be made of the game's visuals. Infiltrator looks, as one of my colleagues pointed out after the demo, like a first-generation Xbox 360 game. We got to see it running via and HDMI connection on a big screen LCD, and you'd never know that this wasn't actually some kind of XBLA/PSN release if you weren't seeing someone play it right in front of you on a tablet. Iron Monkey did some impressive work with Dead Space, but Infiltrator is certainly a step up from even that fine-looking game.
Both mobile apps should be arriving close to the launch of Mass Effect 3 next month. Datapad is a free, iOS-exclusive download, as mentioned above, but Infiltrator is not, on both counts. The Android release date isn't set yet, but it'll be coming sometime after the iOS one. No word yet either on the cost, though it's worth mentioning that Dead Space launched last year with a price of $6.99. It's pure speculation at this point, but I'd be surprised if the price of Infiltrator fell much higher than that.