Joe Dale - EA Community Reporter at GamesCom 2011 brings us his take on Mass Effect 3.
Probably the best thing about being out at Gamescom with EA UK is that I am able to track down, rather easily, fast-track passes. Imagine a scene from a zombie movie: the handsome protagonist cuts his arm whilst trying to run from a couple of the undead and, all of a sudden, a whole horde descend, clamouring for a taste of the red stuff... that is what would happen if I was caught in possession of a fast-track pass by the public attending the show who have been queuing patiently for three hours.
I walked across the show floor over to the Mass Effect 3 booth, stopping to watch a few people have their photo taken with a real life Shepherd who had been patrolling, ready to take down any Cerberus operatives who decided to storm the show floor. I was then ushered into a standing cinema room where I viewed a mixture of already released trailers, including the fantastic real life trailer. Then the time came to go hands on with one of the levels that has been shown off here at Gamescom.
Shepherd, Garrus and Leoni are on the Salarian home world with their old friend Mordin who has the last female Krogan capable of breeding after the introduction of the genophage. While the female Krogan is being transported out of her holding cell, a squad of Cerberus operatives storm the area, trying to capture the Krogan for themselves.
When taking control of Shepherd for the first time, I was encouraged to head into the squad menu to try out the updated squad improvement mechanic. One of the big changes from ME to ME2 was the upgrade system, which was stripped back. In ME3 each power has a few more options; with hand grenades, for example, your basic three options allow you to improve damage, the amount you can carry and blast radius. After you have purchased these three improvements you can then choose three more options out of a possible six. Choosing one will lock one of the others, so you have to think long and hard about exactly how you want to level your characters up.
The combat in ME3 is virtually the same as the previous game, with everything feeling very familiar. The newest addition to the combat is the inclusion of the Omni Blade that Shepherd can now use to skewer his enemies. Now, I'm not 100% sold on this biotic sword. By keeping hold of the B button, the camera pulls in tight and the animation takes control; you cannot change direction of the sword while the animation is taking place and it just seems that you can't swing the Omni Blade in whatever direction you want and handle enemies that may be behind you. Maybe this is something they will change for the release, but it certainly doesn’t look like it.
As was pointed out to me when I saw the Mass Effect 3 presentation earlier in the day, you can play through the combat sections in ME3 however you feel comfortable, be that running and gunning your way through, playing it more tactically and carefully ordering your unit around to help take down the enemies, or you can play it as a cover based shooter. I personally prefer to play the game as more of a cover based shooter, moving from pillar to post, deflecting incoming fire as I go, while popping out, taking down my foes with a couple of well aimed shots before moving on to the next bit of cover. It certainly feels satisfying when you feel the vibrations of your gun go through your hands as you watch an enemy soldier fall to the floor, while your team sweep alongside you and clear up any loose ends.
As I made my way through the level, clearing the rooms and reaching checkpoints, a new type of foe appeared, just when I thought I’d saved the female Krogan: the Cerberus Atlas Mech. This giant exoskeleton is home to a Cerberus soldier who is equipped with rockets and a machine gun and is capable of dealing massive damage. This is where Shepherd’s new combat roles come into full effect. Shepherd can now roll in any direction, giving you more control when trying to evade enemies in combat; gone are the days where you had to turn and run away and it is a very welcome addition to Shepherd’s arsenal.
When the Atlas Mech was defeated that was it, demo over. Reluctantly, I left the booth with an ME3 poster and inflatable Omni blade (that I later gave away to some of the EA Community on the show floor, aren’t I nice!?), but not only did I leave with some free swag, I left with a heavy heart. Mass Effect 3 is my most anticipated game of the next twelve months. I had just been playing it and all I wanted to do was get stuck into the story; after seeing a little glimpse of this it was snatched away from me. March 2011 seems a long way away right now... anybody got a time machine?