E3 2011: Mass Effect 3 first live demo

Although we wish we could have spent all day with Mass Effect 3 at EA's E3 booth, it's amazing how much was revealed during our all-too-brief 30 minute look. This is the first time the game has been demoed live, and we saw three remarkably diverse missions that shed light not only on the gameplay changes in ME3, but also the story of Shepard's final battle against the reapers.

The demo began with a mission that showed that Shepard will deal with situations that occur on a much bigger scale than anything he's faced before. After securing a geth base, Shepard commands Legion, who's piloting a shuttle above the site, to deploy an orbital strike as a giant reaper ship materializes to attack Shepard. In what looked like an on-rails shooter segment, Shepard mans a giant turret and pelts the reaper ship while it pursues him mercilessly. Think back to when Sovereign attacked the Citadel at the end of the first Mass Effect and you'll have a feel for how it dwarfs everything else. As you can imagine, Shepard is quickly forced to retreat (although never stops firing!) as the reaper gains ground on him and the mission suddenly fades to black. While not very interesting combat-wise, the area definitely showed off the massiveness of some of the set pieces this time around.

The next mission we saw had a much more familiar feel, and gave us the biggest insights into how the combat has been changed compared to ME2. Shepard and two squadmates, Liara and Garrus (!!), must protect a fertile female krogan encased in some kind of chamber/elevator thing while Cerberus troops attack the facility. As Shepard and friends do what they do best, it's clear that the cover system has been revamped. Shepard can now easily move from cover to cover when directional arrow prompts appear on screen, which allows him to navigate battles more stealthily than before and use the environment more strategically.

Above: If you shoot out the Cerberus agent, Shepard can climb into the Atlas walker and pilot it himself

Stealth plays a much bigger role even in the soldier class now too - one enemy holds a riot shield that completely covers him from the front, making him impervious to frontal attacks (we're not just talking about shields/barriers like in previous MEs, but rather a completely impenetrable physical, hand-held shield). Darting from cover to cover, Shepard flanks him until he's in sight of the enemy's exposed side and opens fire to take him down. Stealth also makes it much easier to successfully pull off melee attacks, and so it makes sense that Shep is now equipped with an omniblade that he can use for brutal up-close kills.

RPG elements make a comeback in ME3 too, with a totally reworked weapon customization system, and even more options for leveling up Shepard and squadmates. Upgrading and customizing weapons is absolutely nothing like the tedious inventory system of the first Mass Effect, and the weapons menu looks absolutely clear and intuitive. To upgrade a weapon, you can bring up a menu that displays the weapon clearly on the left, and you can select which parts you want to customize and upgrade and see the changes on the gun itself. Character growth looks much more malleable too, and instead of just maxing everything out as your crew levels up, you'll have to make some tough decisions about how you want each person to develop. 

The dialogue in this mission also reveals some juicy story tidbits – first, Wrex is back! Shepard checks in with him briefly via radio and it sounds like he has rejoined the team. We've heard in previous coverage that Shepard will be tasked with visiting each alien species' homeworld to recruit each race in the fight against the reapers, so it makes sense that Wrex, as a leader among krogans on Tuchanka, would have answered his call heartily.

Whilst chatting with the veiled female krogan we also picked up a detail that explains why Cerberus has become the enemy – they've been indoctrinated by the reapers. It seems like a simple explanation on the surface, but it's likely that the situation is more complicated than it appears and we're eager to find out more about how it came to pass that Cerberus succumbed to the old machines.



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  • briangodfather - June 16, 2011 1:43 p.m.

    When they say you move from cover to cover do they mean like in Splinter Cell: Conviction??
  • zanthox - June 9, 2011 7:34 p.m.

    CAN'T WAIT! and was that star wars music in the background?
  • GamingBear - June 9, 2011 9:46 a.m.

    I hope they don't reveal too many plot details, and just focus on what improvements they have made, still can't wait. I can understand maybe cerberus getting indoctrinated especially if they obtained the base at the end of me2, maybe the illusive man had his finger in too many pies it seems - he must of had some sort of previous with the reapers or something
  • Clovin64 - June 9, 2011 8:06 a.m.

    March 2012 can't come soon enough. At least Skyrim will keep me busy in the months leading up to ME3's release.
  • smallberry - June 9, 2011 6:18 a.m.

    @Carolyn You mentioned "RPG elements"; does the game feel increasingly like an Action game with some RPG bits thrown in? The videos they've shown mostly convey action; which I totally get...that's what you need to show to grab people's attention at E3. I really want to be able to set up tactics for my squad based on their powers, armor, loadout etc. Not to mention a stronger story that I really think was lacking in ME2 (in comparison to ME1. It was still a great game). I'm sorry if you've covered this in the interview. I'm trying to buffer it on my office connection but it's taking ages.
  • Longnuts - June 9, 2011 5:55 a.m.

    What if you killed Wrex in ME1? Wonder if his wussy brother will fill in again in that event.
  • Smeggs - June 9, 2011 4:49 a.m.

    Well, I expected Illusive Man to become indoctrinated and then come up with some bullshit lie to get the rest of Cerberus after Shepard, but the entire Cerberus organization? I wonder how that happened...Maybe they took Illusive Man and used his console communication stuff to spread the indoctrination through com-links and stuff.
  • Spybreak8 - June 9, 2011 4:10 a.m.

    Do want to watch but don't lol. I saw too much when I watched EA Pres Conference. OMG I can't wait for 2012!!!
  • pimpdaddie - June 9, 2011 4:08 a.m.

    dude I can't decide on tali or ashley for mass effect 3 they are both so fing hot!!!
  • tacoman38 - June 9, 2011 3:15 a.m.

    I am just very much confused on the omniblade. the omnitool was supposedly a holographic display for tech interfacing. so how is it stabbing things to death. unless its just a graphic way of introducing a virus into their suit that will kill them by changing life support and controls and stuff....
  • KolbitosFruitJuice - June 9, 2011 3:04 a.m.

    Ahhhhhhh! I want more info on the upgrade/power/skill system! This preview says there are more options to upgrade sheperd and squad, but thats pretty vague. Not that this isn't a good preview, but I'm already convinced on the new combat and everything else, all thats left is to see how the upgrade/power system has been expanded/reworked. Its driving me nuts. I'm going to get the game no matter what, but I want to see how Bioware is fulfilling its promise to us (promise via Christina Norman) of a more fleshed out RPG experience for the 3rd game. Graaaaahhhh! Will I have to wait until March to find out!?!?!? Well we have to wait until March anyways for the game, soooooooooo...............*facepalm*
  • Reaver_Beaver - June 9, 2011 1:24 a.m.

    *Drool* Can't wait...
  • Yeager1122 - June 9, 2011 1:12 a.m.

    The wait for this is going to be pure torture.
  • gilgamesh310 - June 9, 2011 12:34 a.m.

    My god, this looks absolutely fan-fucking-tastic. Im expecting it to be nothing short of the best game ever.
  • Samael - June 9, 2011 12:08 a.m.

    SHIT. The kid dies? Fucking hell...they didn't show that in any of the "Earth" demos they've released to the public. They always cut away before Anderson opts to stay behind. Speaking of which, he better not be dead when Shep finally comes to take back Earth. URRGH. If anyone can survive it's Anderson... I'm gonna tear these metal-organic bastards tentacle from fucking tentacle.
  • MyCoolWhiteLies - June 9, 2011 12:06 a.m.

    Yeah, the story bit about the trial is from The Arrival DLC.
  • GamesRadarCarolynGudmundson - June 9, 2011 12:01 a.m.

    @Defguru7777 - you're right about the trial, yeah. I haven't played The Arrival yet... I'm saving it because I can't stand the mental anguish of not having any new Mass Effect until March.
  • dontshootthereviewer - June 8, 2011 11:46 p.m.

    Soooooo excited for this game
  • Defguru7777 - June 8, 2011 11:44 p.m.

    My understanding of Shepard's trial was that he was in trouble for the Batarian colony (and system) that he destroyed in The Arrival DLC for Mass Effect 2 that ended up killing 300,000 people (er, batarians). At the end of the DLC, Hackett even said that Shepard would need to return to Earth because of it shortly. Maybe they didn't elaborate to keep their promise that you don't need the ME2 DLC to understand ME3's story (but I think that's the reason).
  • babyhenchy1 - June 8, 2011 11:38 p.m.

    Quite possibly my all-time most anticipated game. So excited. March can't get here soon enough.