Calibrations you say?

Got a minute? The Mass Effect 3 demo is out, and that means I get to ignore Valentine’s day in lieu of a sneak-peak at some fun space marine action. I also get to test out my new review formula, though it’ll have to do without funny internet pictures as I have to get up in 4 hours. Do tell me what you think in the comments. Especially if you disagree. After all, the reason I’m so harsh in this review is probably because I love this series so much…

In the demo you play through two levels; the opening mission, which is a terrible representation of the gameplay (you have no powers) but a great representation of why Shepard is shooting things, and a later mission that puts you around level 12 in order to give you a taste of the different powers at your disposal.

Being a lover/critic of Mass Effect I went ahead and tinkered with all the classes. Unfortunately the multiplayer is unavailable to PS3 users even if they have an EA account, so I was unable to experience that. For my playthroughs, I utilized all of the classes to see how things have changed. Not as much as I had thought they would actually. I don’t even want to imagine playing this on Insanity difficulty however, considering the how the enemies behave. Dicks.

-Class Breakdown-

Soldier is… crap I think. The one saving grace is incendiary ammo, which kills things extremely quickly. Adrenaline Rush doesn’t slow things down enough for me to really like it, though the damage boost is nice. Concussive blast, while fairly useful, recharges far too slowly. Grenades are normal frags, and not really noteworthy, especially since they are in such short supply. The melee is a punch reminiscent of God Hand’s punches, only with a holographic blade to the face. It’s just that satisfying. Unfortunate that the worst class has the best melee kill.

Sentinel is the class that can take damage and dish it out at close range. It’s main function is the Tech armor, which increases pretty much all of Shepard’s stats while activated. Better yet, when it’s depleted it explodes outward, damaging surrounding enemies. Add to that both Tech and Biotic powers, and Sentinel is the most versatile and arguably the best class in the game. Grenades lift oponents into the air for you to shoot at, replacing the Biotic pull in function. The melee is a satisfying decapitation move with two omni-blades.

Infiltrators are the stealthy snipers. They have a cool trick of automatically slowing down time when they zoom in with a sniper rifle, and the ability to turn invisible. Basically they’re all about the kill shot. In addition they have the ability to take control of enemy synthetics and light things on fire. Their grenades… are sticky. They stick to people so that they can’t run away when they explode. They’re my favorite, obviously. It would seem like the Infiltrator is more suited to long-range fighting, but it does have an interesting melee with an electrified omni-blade. Of course there’s also the option of cloaking, walking up to someone, and shooting them in the face before they realize you’re there. That’s always funny.

Engineers are specialized in tech powers. They come with the ability to control synthetics and mess with enemy weapons, but they go even further by having the ability to summon a drone into combat that distracts and sometimes incapacitates enemies. They also have the Sentry Turret in place of grenades, which is self-explanatory and useful for bringing added firepower to bear. They are masters of the electronic field but lack skills specialized in getting through fleshy enemies. The melee is essentially the fire punch from pokemon, only with a bitchslap rather than a punch.

Adepts are considered the Biotic powerhouses. Essentially you’re supposed to focus on using your powers when you’re an adept because your weapon proficiency is less than ideal. That was not the case in this demo, as you’re presented a full arsenal in the second mission. Nevertheless the adept class allows you to fullow manipulate the physics engine in this game to toss your enemies about like the rag dolls they are. While the signature move is the singularity, the pull move is notable for being specifically useful in taking out Cerberus Riot shield users. The grenade of choice is the cluster grenade, a biotic grenade that releases multiple fragments which cause a number of biotic explosions, sending enemies flying. It’s actually the most useful in terms of damage/area covered. The melee move is simply a palm thrust backed by a biotic shockwave.

Vanguards are by far my favorite class for one simple reason. Biotic charge, or “stinger” as I like to call it- Dante would be proud. There is nothing quite as satisfying in this game as zipping around the battlefield smashing foes and blasting them in the face with a shotgun. High risk, high reward. I’m going to die a lot as a vanguard. The vanguard also comes with some other basic biotic abilities and the fantastic incendiary ammo. While not exactly a glass cannon, this class is far more offensive than the rest, which makes for a significantly different playthrough from the others. In a departure from the other classes, Vanguard doesn’t actually have a grenade power. Instead, the Nova ability creates a shockwave around Shepard, utilizing his/her biotic barrier instead of a cooldown function. I didn’t really fancy it and stuck with Stinger. As for the Heavy Melee, it is surprisingly identical to he Adept’s melee in that Shepard backs up his/her palm thrust with a biotic shockwave.

As it stands, I played each class at least once in their “default” style, similar to ME2. According to numerous other reviews I’ve seen, it seems like it’ possible to vary the class playing styles further. BioWare encourages heavy tinkering and multiple playthroughs, so I figure there’s still a lot I haven’t discovered about this game (and not just because it’s a demo). One thing I found interesting and a bit disappointing was that I got the same weapon loadout regardless of class. Whether that is because of class customization later or because Shepard lugs all his weapons around like in the first game, I’m not sure, though I suspect the former.

-What I Liked-

1)     You seem to be able to run much faster in this game, not to mention the dodge roll.     Mobility in the previous games was inadequate in the thick of combat. Now it is simply as     it should be.

2)       Enemies are much more… mobile. Dicks, all of them.

3)     Guns make better sounds in this game! I swear they did a developer diary about this but it’s     cool to see in action.

4)     Heavy melee is an inta-kill move, and oh so satisfying after the malarchy that was the melee in the first two games. Still, I do have a major issue with it that I will go over…

5)     Wrex, Liara and Garrus. All in the same mission. Hell yes, these new characters can bugger off. Bugger, I tell you. I don’t WANT new people. All I want is some beautiful third persona quality time with Liara, Garrus and Wrex. And Tali. Maybe even Alenko. But not Ashley. She is so very dead. But back on topic, I’m playing this game for the returning characters, not these Gamespot wannabes.

6)     Character creation still has codes for making pre-built shepards. This is going to be hilarious, though admittedly if I truly wanted the best Mass Effect experience I’d play it on PC. Alas…

7)     Jennifer Hale’s voice is awesome. Again. Once you go FemShep you can’t go back.

8)     Character dialogue didn’t show up enough in the demo, but what I did see was promising. The fact that the conversation barely involved Shepard was also cool. For all the cool characters in ME2, they didn’t interact with each other enough. They just stayed in their corners of the Normandy, doing calibrations…

9)     I like the new loading screen. None of this blueprint crap, just Earth… burning… :3

10)     The game is a lot more cinematic. Characters rarely just stand around and talk, they’re almost always doing something while conversing.

11)     The character animations, while still using the same engine, are more elaborate. The cinematic scenes mean that you don’t have to stare at people standing around talking in the middle of warzone this time.

12)     Switching between weapons is smoother than before, and aiming is tighter.

13)     Biotics seem to be a bit more useful in is game than in ME2. Each class is given the proper tools to take down certain targets in one way or another.

14)     The majority of powers are the same as in 2, though the grenades and melee moves are new. Still, those who played through ME1 and ME2 will be familiar with most of the powers and will be able to jump right in.

15)     Based on some of the items I looted during the demo, it seems both weapons AND armor are customizable. That’s good, because armor customization was great in ME2… if you had the DLC.

16)     Your health no longer recharges like your shield does, which makes sense. You have toadminister Medi-gel to heal. Not sure if I like it, as it caused me to die a few times, but it does make things more tense and interesting.

-What I DISliked-

1)     Conversation options aren’t really there. You make a decision once or twice in the demo, but most of Shepard’s dialogue is pre-determined. Other characters’ dialogue isn’t affected much by your decisions in either. However, this is the demo we’re talking about here.

2)     The power trees aren’t really much more elaborate than the second game’s so much as they’re disguised to look complicated. What it boils down to usually is increasing the range or power of the move, or reducing the cooldown period.

3)     Melee combat is not some amazing new thing. Sure I like the animation, and it works pretty much perfectly, but it doesn’t quite have the “visceral” feeling certain other 3rd-person shooters have. It’s a feeble attempt to copy Gears of War that falls flat. No limbs are lost, there are no marks on your enemies, and blood stays inside your adveraries. It’s a war for the survival of the galaxy for crying out loud, we expect a little blood and guts!

4)     While the graphics are an improvement over the previous games, it’s not so amazing as I was lead to believe. The animations feel a bit off at times and the environments surrounding the levels seem a bit poorly done if you stare at them for a bit. I’m hoping the final product looks better, as I know demos are prone to being somewhat unfinished in this regard, especially in the case of Mass Effect 2’s PS3 demo.

5)     Why haven’t they rendered the Normandy’s windows… again? They’re odd block designs that don’t allow you to ascertain what’s going on. Maddening…

6)     BioWare still can’t get hairstyles right. Also for some reason the default shepards have unique features to their design that you can’t utilize in character creation. Wtf? This is the main reason I wish I could play the PC version. This game will be modded to all hell, and the community will end up making some fantastic looking Shepards. Perhaps someday… Preferably in a future where Origin has flopped and the series is back on Steam. 😛

7)     The demo did not allow you to select your weapons. I understand not being able to modify the weapons, but I would have liked to be able to pick particular kinds of weapons for the class I played. There is no sniper rifle in the demo and I was claustrophobic with the new AI.

8)     I find it grating that BioWare seems to have given no elaboration whatsoever about what happened at the end of the second game. How much time has passed? Why is shepard lounging about in a room? Why the heck would my shepard give these incompetent humans my gorramn space yacht? And most importantly, what the hell happened to my space hamster?!

9)     The scene with the kid was rather…. forced and annoying. What is this, a Michael Bay film? Ah… EA did hire him for Need for Speed didn’t they? Shit.

10)     What’s with these “action” and “narrative” modes? If people don’t want to worry about the story or gunplay mechanics, they shouldn’t be playing Mass Effect. Maybe it sounds dickish, but Mass Effect is a shooter RPG series. Play it for what it is dammit.

11)     Major powers all use the same cooldown period for each character. It’s aggravating, even more due to the fact that it was made this way on purpose for the sake of balancing multiplayer. I use adrenaline so I can’t use concussive blast? Using singularity means I can’t use pull? Why not give us a mana bar or something if this is how you’re gonna do it? Mass Effect has divurged from Kingdom Hearts and I don’t like it! At least Kingdom Hearts fixed their spell system… But it’s not all bad, since they did tweak it so that only actual powers are affected by cooldown. Medi-gel and Ammo powers are considered separate it seems…

12)     Why oh why can I not blindfire from behind cover? Stop getting up when you have no shields Shepard! Cover fire damn you! Garrus is bleeding out and Liara is being manhandled by Cerberus operatives who probably pre-ordered her figurine!

13)     I know this is an old thing that came up in 2, but WHY IS THERE AMMO?! It makes no sense in the universe of Mass Effect! Heat sinks are only barely acceptable on automatic weapons. There’s no good reason to use the system with your sniper rifle! This is one of my biggest problems with the series, and BioWare basically just ret-conned it before forgetting they ever changed anything in the first place.

I’ll be keeping my optimism in check for this one. I’m buying it day 1 on PS3 (which was graphically inferior to the 360 version, much to my infinite sadness), but I’m going to assume the worst as far as this game is concerned. I’m going to assume stupid decisions, broken gameplay, and another retarded final boss fight. I’m going to assume there will be more cheap scenes like the one with the kid, and expect less than half of my old party members to show their faces. Why? Because I assumed as much with Dragon Age 2. I was right about a lot of my assumptions about that game, but there were also some great surprises. I’m trying to be a realist or something. I look at where the Mass Effect franchise has gone, seeing facebook games, iOS games, sensational novels with glaring plot inconsistencies, eight-page comics that could’ve been part of the actual game story, and more!

I already know BioWare has sold out. I’m merely hoping that the huge amount of money EA has throw at this game is enough to make it a mildly cohesive experience. Who knows? Maybe Mass Effect 3 will totally blow my mind narratively. Or maybe it won’t. At the very least, I enjoyed playing the demo. Thanks for reading, but I should go. I was in the middle of some calibrations.

God that sounded forced…