Mass Effect 3 is the final chapter in the much-loved, colossal series of sci-fi RPG-action titles that has wowed gamers for years. The third instalment sees those ancient hyper-advanced machines, Reapers, finally reawaken and set about trying to destroy our galaxies. On their way to Earth, it’s up to Commander Shepard to rally as many alien races as possible to join the resistance an prevent mankind’s extinction.
The hands-off presentation at E3 was an extensive display of what to expect from the third instalment. Namely, lots of large-scale epic action. The first mission we’re shown we got a peek at during the EA conference earlier in the week. Shepard is invading a Reaper stronghold, blasting assault troopers before ordering an airstrike on the base. It’s not the wisest of moves, as he awakens the towering Reaper lying dormant inside.
One outstanding mounted-gun action sequence later and we’re on another planet trying to extract an official off the planet (in the hope of allegiance), while the Cerberus troops storm in. While the action hasn’t undergone a great deal of transformation since the last instalment, little tweaks to the formula certainly look enticing. Most notable is the holographic blade that springs from Shepard’s arm in an attractive shade of neon-orange and can be used to excavate organs from enemy bodies to great effect in both stealth and standard manoeuvres.
Using your squad is paramount to success and there’s a great deal of teamwork on display to reinforce this. Shepard commands two teammates to give suppressing fire on shielded adversaries while he flanks them. It’s a simple strategy, set to be made even more simpler with Kinect functionality for 360 players, using voice commands to direct your squad.
It’s also staggering to note how vivid the whole universe is. This particular planet is tropical, full of plant life and waterfalls. Verticality plays a more integral role, as Shepard will climb levels to reach his goal.
This section of the demo ends with a giant mech crashing in front of Shepard. This Cerberus Atlas can be controlled by Shepard himself if he takes out the officer inside. With that, Shepard throws his last grenade (a returning weapon from the original ME) and the screen fades to black.
The final sequence BioWare present is a new scene that takes place at the beginning of the game. Without giving anything away, Shepard is on trial for crimes he has committed but the proceedings are cut short when the Reapers arrive. As the invasion of Earth begins, Shepard jumps into action and the scene is set for an explosive galactic adventure.
Reapers start laying waste to the environment, which crumbles and evolves, leaving the player new routes to take. Cannibals start attacking with bulging boils on their back and, as the intensity of the attack increases, all hope appears to be lost.
It’s an incredibly impressive presentation from BioWare, showcasing how multiple facets of the game work and bringing about an amazing sense of urgency too. But what impressed most was the sheer emotional wallop that it left the audience with. For all the run-and-gun action, all the environment detail and the wealth of exploration available, it’s the story of Mass Effect that remains its strongest component.
Mass Effect 3 heads to Xbox 360 and PS3 March 6th 2012.