The Mass Effect 3 demo hit X-box 360, Playstation 3, and PC last week (Via Origin, unfortunately) and I was out of the state and didn’t get my hands on it until last night. I downloaded it on X-box 360 because that’s where my saves from Mass Effect 1 and 2 are, so this first impressions will reflect that. I’ve got to say, I’m a little disappointed!
First off, even though this is a review of the demo, I don’t like calling it that because it is just a demo. You can never get a full sense of a game from a demo, even if it offers a good view of the game itself. The demo may have glitches in it or full areas that will not be in the final game, although that is increasingly less likely than it used to be, so because of that I won’t give this a rating but just tell you how I felt about it. I will also say this contains spoilers from the demo, although I’m sure none of it is unexpected.
The demo starts by throwing you back into the mix of things a while after the end of Mass Effect 2. Shepard has now lost control of the Normandy and is some what of a outcast. After bringing the news of the Reapers back to Earth, no one really believed him, except of course Anderson (Yay! Very happy to see him again). All of a sudden, there is attacks being reported throughout space and you are summoned to the counsel for advice. You’re not too happy about how you’ve been treated, of course, and tell them it’s probably already too late! Then the Moon is attacked and, shortly after, the Earth. When you gain control, you and Anderson are trying to escape to the Normandy.
The first enemy you fight are Husks, followed by a new enemy that I didn’t catch the name of. Getting back into the gun fighting with absolutely no tutorial (Other than press RT to shoot, take cover with A, zoom with LT, etc.) actually took me a few fights. The camera angle seems to be different than it was in Mass Effect 2, but it could just be because it’s been a while since I played.
After you make your way through this area and get away safely (at what cost?), a dialog pops up saying that you will now get to play a scene from later in the game. It takes place on the Salarian home world where you are tasked with getting some of the last female Krogan’s alive (or so I assume, it didn’t explain in the demo). Some familiar faces pop up as potential party members, including Garrus, Liara, and Wrex (Would be interested to see how that plays out if Wrex died in Mass Effect 1!) I think there is a way to pick which characters go with you via choices, but I ended up with Liara and Garrus (The party I used pretty much exclusively in Mass Effect 1!) and then the fun started.
Cerberus attacks, trying to kill the female Krogan. You have to fight your way through the waves of enemies all while protecting the Krogan pods and getting them through each checkpoint to be loaded onto your ship. This was a lot of fun, but the controls didn’t feel as tight as they did with Mass Effect 2. What I mean is that I was having problems finding and staying in cover. This is something that plagued the original game, but not the second, so I’m not sure why this is an issue. However, there were a lot of rounded corners and half walls in this level, so that could be a important factor in this issue. The demo ends as you get through the last checkpoint and kill a boss (who was the easiest Mass Effect boss I ever faced).
Before I get further into this, I think it’s a good spot to talk about the Kinect support. First off, I thought that it was going to be just a novelty that only the most hardcore Kinect lovers use. With my current setup, the Kinect is right next to my speakers and I often play 10+ feet away from it, I didn’t think it would pick my voice up over the noise and distance. After using it as much as possible in the demo, I have to say that I am blown away at how it works!
First off, it feels natural. I need Garrus to take out a target, I say “Garrus, attack”. A group of enemies are standing in the same spot making it hard to attack, I say “Liara, Singularity” and all of a sudden, they’re floating in the air! If I see one of them was getting attacked too much, I yelled for them to fallback (I think fallback is the one that ended up working) and after a fight, I tell them both to follow me and there they are. Sure all this can be done with the controller, most of it can be done with the D-pad, but it makes it feel more interactive.
With all that said, my biggest problem with the demo is simply that it was not enough and, to me, not the right parts of the game to share. The beginning level was a good way to show where we are in the story, but it’s a demo, I don’t need any back story! Put me into an easy area where I can take my time and re-learn how to play in this universe. Also, the second stage they give you was difficult. I’m sure if I had been playing for 5 or 10 hours before getting there, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but it went from 0 to 7 within a matter of a few seconds. The third thing that got to me is that the so-called two hours took me maybe an hour. Granted, I did not play the multi-player at that time, so they might be including that in the time estimates, but it just seemed really short.
Bottom line is this: I am looking forward to Mass Effect 3 and the demo really made me remember why I loved the game. The game play in the demo may have felt a little behind it’s previous installment, but it still felt good. Anyone who is interested should try the demo, especially if you’re curious about the Kinect support. However, do not expect the demo to give you much in the way of content, and don’t get frustrated if you’re confused, lost, or just plain suck at the game when playing the demo, the difficulty ramps up fast!
What did you think of the demo?