Home > Games, My writing > Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360 hands on preview)

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360 hands on preview)

Mass Effect 3The original Mass Effect was a great game with some significant but easy to overlook flaws. Mass Effect 2, most agree, was a vast improvement over the first game. It improved the combat system considerably making ME2 feel more like an action game than ME1′s less refined systems. Whichever class you played, you were guaranteed a far more fun experience in ME2, especially if you employed the use of Biotics.

There wasn’t too much that needed to be improved in ME2, so it’s not surprising that Mass Effect 3 plays a lot like its predecessor. The few changes I did notice weren’t as major as the transition from ME1 to ME2, some don’t even bear mentioning. The melee system has been slightly improved, with some classes now able to use the Omni-tool as a blade for a take-down manoeuvre. Other than that the changes are things most people won’t even notice, like on-screen indicators showing when you can move between cover. Or slightly tighter aiming on the guns, it felt much easier to be accurate than before. Were I not being intentionally mindful of any changes I might not have noticed them at all.

Mass Effect 3 marks the final chapter in the trilogy. Shepard has spent the last two games trying to stop the Reapers, a race of sentient machines. He’s managed to slow them down but they’re still coming and now they have their sights set on Earth. After all humanity has proven to be quite the pest. Sadly the level I played didn’t give much indication of this wider story.

I was dropped right into the middle of a mission for the demo; tasked with protecting a female Krogan (something not seen in the other games), it’s not explained who she is or where we are. With Liara and Garrus in tow the sequence consisted of fighting my way through some bad guys to access a control panel. I repeated that a couple of times before being confronted by a human controlled mech. Much like in the previous games taking down this tougher enemy required using the right combinations of weapons and abilities. Machine guns for shield, the Warp biotic power for armour and that sort of thing. It all played very much like Mass Effect 2, it was a fairly standard combat situation. That’s not a bad thing though, the refined combat of Mass Effect 2 was incredibly fun and allowed for a ton of experimentation and variation.

The main improvement I noticed while playing was the level design, which is something that’s rarely noticed unless it’s especially bad. Level design in the previous games wasn’t bad per se but it was somewhat uninspired. You could always tell when you had entered a combat environment, the room would be laid out in a way which showed it was clearly designed to allow players to take cover. That in itself would be fine but when you’re running through lots of different environments and they are all laid out almost identically, save for an aesthetic change, it makes the world feel very artificial.

In the Mass Effect 3 demo I played however, the cover around the environment felt a lot more natural. Everything was a lot less symmetrical and made sense in the world, of course Shepard would use the side of a staircase as cover! The design felt far more cohesive and grounded in some kind of reality. It’s a seemingly small change but in practice is does a lot to keep you immersed in the game world. Whether this was just a fluke in the section I played or it’s a change that we’ll see through all the games environments remains to be seen.

At this point in the series I don’t think anyone is really expecting a huge change up in how Mass Effect plays. The second game gave us that and the extremely positive response almost guarantees we will get more of the same, which is what we appear to be getting. But when more of the same means more of one of the best games of 2010 you won’t see me complaining.

Originally published on Square-Go.com

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