Note: This is a spoiler free review of the Mass Effect 3 demo.
The Mass Effect 3 Demo is a small taste of the final chapter and ultimate climax of the Commander Shepard story of saving the galaxy against the dreaded Reapers. Bioware, renown for itscombination of compelling story telling and effective game play, recently released a teaser, on Valentines Day no less, of what’s to come. Luckily I’m celebrating the couple’s day on the weekend so I had a chance to sample the tasty morsel that the proudly Canadian company served up. If this amuse bouche is any indicator of the story and scale that we’re about to experience in March, I’m going to have a very angry wife and will be stumbling into work due to the lack of sleep as I plow my way through to the end. To sum up my thoughts succinctly…
I’m continually astounded at the amount of work that goes into a Bioware production; their games should really be epic movies and from the amount of dribble that Hollywood has been producing, I’m surprised they haven’t been knocking at their doors more often. Mass Effect 2 did a fantastic job starting off with a bang and getting you into the action; with the 3rd installment the desperation of the situation is quickly established making you instantly feel you have the weight of the galaxy, and human kind, on your shoulders. This game feels like a huge epic and to hammer this point home it looks like Bioware spared no expense by bringing in the entire cast from it’s previous two outings. If they actually pulled this off, the voice talent that has gone into ME3 is enormous! Jennifer Hale resumes her role as FemShep and her voice really does make her character pop to life; so much that I actually hate that the default FemShep hair is red! I know that the fans chose this version, but Hale’s badass voice acting really screams that her hair should be raven black (it’s hard to believe that from someone’s voice that their hair color comes through). Sorry fans, I’m customizing FemShep.
The best part of the demo is seeing how Bioware combined cut sequences within combat/gameplay. There is one sequence where you’re running behind Admiral Lance Henriksen (a familiar face in the ME universe) and suddenly the floor gives out from under you; it’s seamless how the scene is carried without missing a step. Small things like this really immerses you in the gaming experience as there is no artificial pause and because it’s rendered with the game engine in real-time.
Game controls will be very familiar to people who have played the previous versions; the PC version which I played everything has so far remained constant. They improved melee combat to the point where it is very satisfying; I was actually looking for opportunities to rush into combat and eviscerate opponents with the glowing blade that magically appears on your arm. Grenades are done extremely well; I’ve never really used them in other first person shooters (as they were difficult to control), but Bioware seems to have the combination down pat; point your aiming cuticle where you want to grenade to land and it does so perfectly.
Graphics are fantastic; I have a modest gaming rig (an almost 2 year old i7 computer with a modest AMD 5770 graphic card that I’ve played ME2 and Dragon Age on) and the quality of the images were superb – I’m not sure what the graphical settings in the demo were set at, but it showed everything turned on and I didn’t experience any jutter or defects. The engine that is being used must be really been fine tuned as this is one of the finest looking games I’ve ever seen. I can only imagine what things would look like if I was using one of the cutting edge cards from AMD or Nvidia.
The only drawback I’ve had so far is the cover system. I find that in some hectic situations I was trying to get out of cover but the game engine sent me in a different direction or I was prevented from hoping over a barricade; hopefully some fine tuning can be done to fix this at launch.
Verdict – BUY, BUY, BUY
It’s been a long time since I’ve actually purchased a physical copy of a video game. Most of the time I’m using Steam or the EA store aka Origin for the convenience there is something about this series that makes me want a physical copy (I know some people hate it, but let me say that when my physical copy of Dragon Age: Origins was scratched to hell and that I was able to download it, enter my key and continue playing where I left off without shoveling any extra cash, it’s fantastic). The pre-order package looks fantastic that includes an art book, a lithograph, and special extras for the game; Bioware has poured their heart and soul into ME3 and it absolutely shows.