Preview: Mass Effect 3

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After arriving a little later than most to EA’s Mass Effect 3 and Battlefield 3 preview night, I found myself in a battlefield of my own. Picture one penthouse suite littered by an explosion of empty food platters and hundreds of empty bottles, each held at one time or another by one of more than seventy passionate gamers who’d gathered to get their hands on some high-calibre titles.

It was fitting the night also marked the midnight release of Gears of War 3, because – and pardon the pun here – it was epic.

I made a beeline for Mass Effect 3 as soon as I saw a station free up, and felt a wave of relief for a very specific reason. That amazing PAX demo that everyone waited five hours to play? I was sitting on a cushy couch, beer in hand, playing it only two weeks later.

The demo is balls-to-the-wall action, featuring Shepard (the default male one, just in case you were wondering), Garrus, and Liara fighting as a squad. From what I gathered, good ol’ Doc Mordin has found a cure for the Krogan genophage that rendered the species sterile; the demo starts with Mordin and a female Krogan trapped under quarantine as Cerberus tries to prevent you from reaching and releasing your allies. As to why you’re suddenly fighting Cerebus, I have no idea. I played a ten to fifteen minute sequence in an attempt to rescue Mordin and the Krogan.

To be painfully honest, if I didn’t know any better I’d have thought I was playing a section of Mass Effect 2 that I’d simply forgotten. Saying that, it’s a good thing that ME2 was so damn good, because I didn’t mind it one bit. To the game’s credit, the enemy AI did seem a bit improved, as did my that of my squadmates – the firefight I found myself in felt challenging and dynamic…and dramatic as well as I was fighting against time, otherwise I would have compromised Mordin.

Of course, as soon as I had a chance I ran up point-blank to an enemy and unleashed Shepard’s new melee attack; holding the Xbox controller’s “B” button unleashed a devastatingly cool onmi-blade attack on my Cerberus foe. It’s VERY neat; use it often.

A mech boss battle finished off the demo, and while I’m sure the difficulty was turned WAY down to help previewers get a sense of the game and its gameplay, that final set piece felt very lacklustre. It was extremely easy to finish the mech off with the combined might of Shepard, Garrus, and Liara – in fact, half of the Cerberus enemies posed a bigger threat simply because they dove for cover.

The bottom line here? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’m very much looking forward to Mass Effect 3’s March 2012 release.

To see how I went with Battlefield 3, just watch this space. A full write-up is coming very soon.