10 Thoughts On…Mass Effect 3 Single Player Demo (PC)

Mass Effect 3 is one of those games you know they’d either have to go big with or go home. It’s The Reaper invasion, and if the demo is any indication, the road to beating them is going to be rough, but a helluva lot of fun to play through. I wasn’t one of the people who bought Battlefield 3 so I don’t have early access to the multiplayer, so I’ll be tackling the demo in two parts, this time focusing on the single player. Most of the functionality seems to be there, and the shooting and cover systems have been fine-tuned to be just about perfect on the PC. One of the first things I checked out, though, were the RPG elements.

1. Role-playing – The first Mass Effect was an RPG first and a shooter second, Mass Effect 2 was a shooter with RPG elements, but I wanted to see where they’d taken Mass Effect 3. I mean, BioWare has said we’d get more of the first game, right? Wrong. While there are a lot more options for character customization in the demo, especially in the second part of it when you have some experience to play with, the options there are a far cry from all the options we had in the first game. I’m doing a replay of it and Mass Effect 2 just to have a fresh run of each in my mind when Mass Effect 3 does hit, and while I’ll admit the RPG options in leveling up are light years better than we had in Mass Effect 2, they’re still pretty simplified from the first game. This isn’t to say they’re bad, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

2. PC Interface – The interface to level up and in the menus is a bit clunky as well on the PC. You go in and look at where you want to put your points when you level up, and you can’t just put them there, you then have to click into that stat and click the next icon in the chain. It’s a completely unnecessary step if you’ve played Mass Effect before because you pretty much know what each is going to do and the benefits. It does look pretty, but looking pretty and working quickly aren’t always the same thing. It at least works, which is a huge step over some other titles I’ve played recently.

3. Weapons Hot – The other thing that bugged me is they have no way to holster your weapon. I hate running around with my gun drawn all the time. It looks dumb. It looks even more ridiculous when you know you’re completely out of ammo and are going to be using melee attacks. Yes, let’s run around with an empty gun pointed at everyone when we’re just going to charge up to them and hit them with a giant glowing blade.

4. Omni-blade – One thing I really do like is the refined melee system. The Omni-blade attacks look great and add that extra oomph. Triggering the actual omni-blade attack was a bit tricky as they didn’t really explain how to set that off as opposed to the ginger little gun tap attack you do by just hitting the attack key instead of holding it. Each class seems to have a slightly different look to their blade, which I thought was very cool.

5. Weapons Not – The demo let me down in other ways though. For some reason they give you a base set of weapons that’s great for the soldier class in the second part of the demo. I’m playing an Infiltrator. I like the cloak and I like sniping people. It’s my thing. There wasn’t one sniper rifle in the weapons they give you. It’s an assault rifle, a heavy pistol, a machine pistol (yay two of them?), and a shotgun. So right away I’ve specced myself up for sniping to test that and I get in and there’s no sniper rifle. So checking out how well you can snipe in the game is out. I do like the reduced cool down on using the cloak and that coupled with someone who has been playing shooters forever can make you extremely deadly in this game. Even without the sniper rifle I was getting head shots like crazy, and now they don’t just crumple, but the head kind of goes away in a fine mist.

6. Looking Good – Character appearance customization is basically the same as the previous two games, except with the added new FemShep default face, which surprisingly looks better on the PC demo than it did in the FemShep trailer they debuted last week. I think the make-up is toned down just a little bit, and I like that she looks a little older – gives her some character. The hair visuals are much improved over the first two games, and while they’re the same hairstyles, they look less like glued on plastic molds and more like, well, real hair. I’m happy to say that if you have a face code from Mass Effect 2, it’ll more than likely work in Mass Effect 3 but you may need to tweak your hair color. I popped in my older “Ëœcanon’ FemShep face code and while the face was about perfect, instead of being a redhead she was dirty blonde. After I moved a few sliders, it matched fine. Once I got to see her in action in Mass Effect 3, I could really see the improvements they’d made to the graphics just because I’m so used to seeing the other versions on screen. Seeing Garrus, Liara, Mordin, and Wrex in the second section of the game highlights that even further. The team looks fantastic as well. You will not be hurting for alien eye candy this go round. They’ve upped the cutscenes as well, so it’s less of them standing around with a few hand motions we’re used to seeing. There’s a lot more movement going on and it really makes this feel like more fast-paced already.

7. Must have control – Control wise, you’re looking at the Mass Effect 2 keyboard set-up with a few extra keys for the new commands, but if you’re comfortable with the second game, you’ll feel right at home here. It looks like you might be able to change your keybindings, but to be honest, the Mass Effect 2 layout worked for me. It’s jarring going from the layout in the first game to the second and third, but both have their merits.

8. Loading Much – I didn’t have any issues with it responding slowly, and on my gaming rig, not to brag, but the loading screens I’ve seen littering the Xbox demo playthroughs are pretty much non-existent. I had to read the screen that sets up the second half of the single player demo really fast because it popped through the first time so quick that I couldn’t read it all. The only time I got that little loading disc in the corner was when I first loaded up the demo into the actual playthrough in the ready room they start you in. After that it was smooth sailing.

9. Medic – I’m also very happy to see the med packs return. While I liked not having to worry about them in Mass Effect 2, waiting to heal up was annoying, and having a nice combination of the two systems seems to keep combat moving pretty quickly. I only had to dip into the med packs once in the second part around when the Atlas power armor shows up because I’d decided to try and get cute with my stealth and the omni-blade. I would probably have been doing that part over again without the medpacks.

10. Good, Bad, I’m the Shep with the Gun – I’m a role-player at heart, and that’s a big reason I like BioWare games, but I’m a little concerned, and I don’t know if it’s just because it’s the demo or the set-up for the scenes, but as far as dialogue goes you only have two options, Renegade and Paragon choices. There was no middle of the road, no way to explore the conversation tree to get more info, just make your choice and go. To me this seems limiting but like I said, the scenes they gave us to play in weren’t exactly demanding of full blown conversation, more get to the point and get on with it.

Overall, the single player experience looks like it’s going to be solid on the PC, a few things I would have liked to have seen toyed with in the demo, but overall it looks and plays extremely well. If multiplayer is as good as the singleplayer is, I will have to be splitting my playtime between Mass Effect 3, Star Wars The Old Republic, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning a lot.

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