With the OXM magazine cover revealing a Mass Effect 3 multiplayer element, the gaming world nearly exploded. Anger, excitement, fear, sadness, hope … Twitter only showed a sample of the gamut of emotions followers of Bioware’s massive trilogy felt. The frenzy slowed and fans seemed to settle on a general sadness for the delay of the final installment to add this component. Meanwhile we bit our collective tongues. Hard.
Nearly a month ago, we got hands-on with Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer mode. We played it, then played it some more. Then we got pizza, a couple of ridiculous desserts, went back to the comfy couch and played it again. While it won’t fully defrost the hearts of those chilled by the delay, we can assure you that it most certainly, with the exception of expected bugginess and glitchery that comes from playing a demo, doesn’t suck. Are you a fan of horde? Mass Effect has adopted similar gameplay for their multiplayer experience. Not a fan of multiplayer? Okay, then don’t play it. Bioware has made it very clear that there’s no punishment for not playing multiplayer and as it stood a month ago, no real gain for players to engage in multiplayer, either.
In designing a multiplayer experience, it was important to Bioware to be able to insert the aspects of campaign that players loved and related to into their multiplayer experience. To do so, their first focus was on character customization. Much like in campaign, you and three other squad mates can choose, build and customize your characters. Choose from the familiar list of classes and further tailor abilities, focuses and of course, change appearance and choose armor.
Once you’ve decided who you want to be and have assigned your points, you’re ready to rock. We sat down with three other games journalists on a system link and began to systematically destroy wave after wave of enemies in the available map. Combat remains true to the campaign experience. Cover can be taken, health packs used, the only difference we noticed was that downed comrades in multiplayer, unlike in campaign combat sequences, can be revived.
To survive and come out on top, all manner of weapons are employed. Biotic training, shotguns, sniper rifles, assault rifles, submachine guns and of course, your trusty pistol are all in play to help you bring down Geth, Asari Commandos and all sorts of baddies.
As with campaign, you’ll want to strategize your teammates to get maximum slaying power. A biotic who can protect your chosen base coupled with a sniper who can stave off incoming enemies balanced neatly with a combat specialist who can shotgun them in the face when they get too close? Perfection. While our mighty team of games journalists were nowhere near as organized, the potential to create and hone a perfect killing squad is at the player’s fingertips.
Unfortunately, we may find that in Bioware’s haste to draw a definitive line between campaign and multiplayer to assuage fans, the overall experience could suffer. Things like the ability to carry characters and levels between single player and multiplayer do not exist, nor are they planned in an attempt to keep any gamer from feeling like they have to play the multiplayer mode. While it makes sense to cater to your core demographic, releasing the first multiplayer mode along with a masterpiece of a single-player campaign really puts the pressure on and leaving out multiplayer aspects that gamers are used to in general could possibly be detrimental.
The Mass Effect 3 multiplayer is fun. Is it essential? Probably not. But it does give you a little more of the ME universe to explore and engage with long after the story lines are exhausted and the DLC has run dry. Once we’re done with the campaign mode, we will definitely be working next on perfecting our multiplayer kill squad. You in?
Mass Effect 3 hits stores on March 6th, 2012. Preorder it now on Origin.com.