Mass Effect 3 Demo Impressions: Single Player Campaign On XBLA
With two weeks to go before the release of Mass Effect 3, BioWare has released the single player and multiplayer demo on PC and XBLA. Naturally the demo is short, probably not more than 15 or 20 minutes worth of play. BioWare isn’t going to give the milk away for free after all. But is there anything new? While it’s certainly true that those of you following Mass Effect 3′s somewhat schizoid development over the last year will already be familiar with the majority of content contained in each scene, there’s a surprisignly large amount of new, if vague, information about the final chapter in the Commander Shepard trilogy.
The demo begins (somewhat) in media res with a very brief prologue set aboard Admiral Hackett (Lance Henriksen) command ship. We then cut to title cards explaining the facts of life in the Mass Effect galaxy (more on that below), and then to a new cutscene set at an Alliance base in Vancouver, where Commander Shepard meets James Vega . Vega will be escorting Shepard to a meeting with Alliance brass convened to deal with an unknown (but obviously, Reaper) threat. On their way you’re joined by Anderson, experience your first taste of ME3 dialogue, and run into either Kaiden or Ashley.
The meeting with Alliance command coincidentally (and as far as the narrative is concerned, ham-handedly) happens just in time for the Reapers to begin their attack on Earth. Naturally, Vancouver is among the targeted cities, the base is hit, and everyone in the room except for Shepard and Anderson are killed and the cut scene ends. The player can finally play the Mass Effect 3 training mission, which coincidentally happens to be one of the three scenes we saw at E3 2011. Shepard following Anderson through the wreckage of the Alliance base in order to reach the Normandy. You get two more bits of dialogue, see the much-talked about child, fight off several Reaper husks and finally get rescued by the Normandy. At this point, Anderson urges Shepard to flee earth and seek help from the Citadel Council. The scene concludes with a very pensive looking Shepard bearing silent witness to the destruction of Vancouver.
The second playable sequence, taking place much later in the game, is the same one we got our hands-on last summer. It begins with a short cutscene on an Alliance shuttle. Urdnot Wrex has joined Shepard’s party and the two are discussing an undescribed conflict between Salarians and the Krogan. For some reason, the Salarians have a captured Krogan Female, one they’ve apparently agreed to turn over to Sheridan and Wrex. We get a another taste of dialogue between Shep and Wrex, followed by the appearance of Liara and Garrus, who give Wrex the opportunity to show that he, like, totally misses the old gang and stuff. Then it’s planet time, and time for Shep to mitigate tensions between the Salarian soldiers guarding the Krogan female, and Wrex who, being Krogan, already spends 20 hours a day angry for tax purposes and is just itching for an excuse to kill members of the species that inflicted the Genophage on his people. Crisis averted, Wrex agrees to stay in the shuttle while Shep, Liara and Garrus handle things on the ground.
We then skip again to a short scene with Mordin, who appears to be in charge of the Krogan Female. He is concerned she may be indoctrinated and is performing tests. Into the middle of this, Cerberus troops arrive and start blowing things up with the kind of abandon that can only come from having unlimited corporate funding from your corrupt, shadowy mastermind of a boss. At this point, the action begins and it’s largely the same as we saw last summer, minus some key content (more on that below). After battling Cerberus shock troops up three floors of a bombed out science facility, you get more of the scene than was shown last summer, finally face off against a giant Cerberus Mech. Defeat him, and the scene ends with a dying Cerberus soldier gasping for breath, calling for Shep’s attention. Shep tries to get the soldier to explain what he wants, but the soldier dies, leaving an incredulous Shepard staring blankly and the player wondering “what happened?”.
None of this, as we’ve said, is that new (aside from more cutscenes than we’ve seen before). So what’s our verdict? The demo is mostly good news, even if this close to release there’s still plenty to worry about.