Are you worried about
the addition of multiplayer to Mass Effect 3? So were we. This is a series
defined more by its role-playing elements – story, character, world, choice –
than by its shooting, and we couldn’t imagine an online mode, competitive or cooperative, capturing that style of
gameplay correctly. In fact, when we finally sat down to sample Mass Effect 3’s
multiplayer for ourselves, we feared not just that it would be pointless, but
that it would be detrimental to the single player campaign as well.
Fortunately, we were only
To begin with, though,
how does the multiplayer work? Well, if you’ve played Gears of War’s Horde,
Halo’s Firefight or Call of Duty’s Zombies, you already have a pretty good idea:
this is yet another co-op survival mode in which you and your friends (four
total) team up to battle wave after wave (up to 11) of computer-controlled
enemy forces. Like in those previous examples, the bad guys increase in
difficulty, progressing from basic Cerberus foot soldiers to the new,
ninja-esque Phantoms or the heavily armored Atlas mechs. Like in those previous
examples, you can rush to and revive your buddies when they fall. Like in those
previous examples, you earn spending points when you successfully finish a wave,
and must start the wave over when your entire squad dies.
“Like in those previous
examples”… obviously, Mass Effect 3’s idea of multiplayer isn’t exactly
original. Considering those other games have had years to improve and expand
upon the idea of a survival mode through sequels, Mass Effect’s initial attempt
might even seem outdated to some. There are no tower defense-style upgrades.
There are no massive bosses. There are no vehicles. With the exception of occasional
(and optional) mini-objectives, such as capturing data points spread across the
map or hacking a computer terminal, you’re mostly just shooting. And let’s be
honest – without the power wheel to pause and more slowly, strategically direct
the action as you would in the single player campaign, Mass Effect’s combat is
a lot less distinctive.
Three things, however, still
make Mass Effect 3 multiplayer special. First is the uniquely Mass Effect opportunity
to play as both multiple classes (Soldier, Infiltrator, Engineer, Sentinel,
etc.) and multiple races (Human, Asari, Krogan, Salarian, Turian, even Drell). While
the gunplay may feel generic, playing as a powerful Asari biotic who can send whole
groups of helpless enemies spiraling into the sky with her Singularity, or controlling
a blood-enraged Krogan as he charges through the opposition like a bull through
a meat shop, certainly don’t. Neither does evolving and personalizing your online
hero through a skill tree, assigning experience points earned through completed
waves to your choice of abilities and specializations. Imagine the
possibilities and combinations for one character, then imagine how those might
grow exponentially with a superheroic team of four.
Second are the maps, set
in areas inspired by Commander Shepard’s journey through the main story mode.
Of course most games’ multiplayer arenas are taken from sections of the single
player, but because Mass Effect is an epic RPG and you’ll likely have spent
hours exploring and getting to know each of these planets, visiting them again
for co-op is more of a treat. We experienced a minor geek seizure when we
realized we were battling across Noveria, the secret snowy base from the
original Mass Effect, during our demo.