Mass Effect 3 Co-Op Hands-On Preview – For the Good of the Galaxy?
Written Thursday, October 27, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
The controversy and negativity that surrounded the announcement of Mass Effect 3’s co-operative multiplayer still hums and echoes in the darkest corners of the internet. “It’s not needed!” “Why do developers have to ruin great single-player games!?” “What are EA and BioWare smoking?” All valid questions and statements for anyone who’s been misinformed or who hasn’t really read up on why and how Mass Effect’s 3 co-op has been put in and what BioWare hopes to achieve with it. In truth, the ‘Galaxy at War’ aspect of Mass Effect 3 sounds like a mouth-watering prospect on paper, but then again so did the Max Payne movie. In order to put fears to rest and give you the skinny on whether it it’ll live up to its billing, we went hands-on with it recently to put the mode through its paces.
For those not up to date on Mass Effect 3’s co-op, in a nutshell, it'll have you and three mates battling it out against 11 waves of varying foes in key strongholds across the galaxy to assist Shepard in his war against the Reapers. Firstly, it’s entirely optional and not necessary if you want to achieve the “optimal” ending; and secondly, it’s been made by an entirely new studio (BioWare Montreal) with only guidance from the Mass Effect team, meaning your single-player game shouldn’t suffer as a result. Now that that’s out the way, let’s get into the nitty gritty.
Players can choose characters from one of six races: human, Krogan, Asari, Drell, Salarian and Turian (what, no Quarian?! What the hell BioWare?!) each of which have their own special abilities to separate them from the others and have certain classes to choose from. For instance, the Asari come in two forms: Adept and Vanguard, because of their biotic strengths. Unfortunately for us and our timing, we were stuck with a female human character – which incidentally is the only species with a male and female to pick from – who specialised as a Sentinel. Unlike the single-player game, because you have no squad members to choose from, the special abilities are mapped to the directional-pad to use – we had three: push, warp and tech armour.
Setting up on a map called “White” – which we’re pretty sure isn’t the final name of said map and if it is, creativity’s obviously dead at BioWare – we took the battle to an icy-landing pad of sorts with various warehouse style interiors – you know, your traditional Mass Effect combat setting where crates are as common as stupidity is in this day and age – to fight 11 waves of indoctrinated Cerberus soldiers. With alleyways surrounding a jet-fighter of sorts that acted as good cover on the landing pad, the four of us huddled round and proceeded to fortify ourselves in a protectable position.
The objective of the game is simple: kill any enemy combatant that crosses your path, earn money and complete all 11 waves that get progressively harder. In short: it’s ‘Horde’ but in the Mass Effect universe. It’s not just about straight up killing though and it’s not always as simple as that, as BioWare throws mandatory objectives into various waves (such as hack a computer, which acts much in the way as a territory or king of the hill game mode would play out) and they even throw much bigger beasties your way, for example, in wave 5 or 6 we faced off against a huge Atlas mech, which requires teamwork to takedown. It’s a matter of making use of your powers and weaponry then, topping up ammo at the red crates dotted around the map should you run out.
It wasn’t long before that initial notion of teamwork went out the window though, as the landing pad seemed rather quiet and our bloodthirsty team went looking for blood. That in itself was a mistake, as splitting up from the rest of the team means you’re vulnerable should you find yourself in a spot of bother and get downed. Unfortunately for me, my teammates went too far away at around wave 7 or 8, as they were inundated with Cerberus troops and I subsequently was the last man standing. It’s a matter of fighting through to the end of the wave so they respawn or lying down and admitting defeat and starting the wave again. That wasn’t about to happen! Using the walkways around the side of the landing pad, the 10+ playthroughs of Mass Effect 1 & 2 to date started to really come in handy. Using cover and a combination of some carefully swerved biotic powers and shotgun shells I was able to pick off the remaining 10 or so troops one-by-one and then it was time to rinse and repeat.
And therein lies Mass Effect 3’s co-op’s problem… the combat in Mass Effect to-date, although much stronger in Mass Effect 2, has always taken a back seat to the story, the squad management and interaction, and the dialogue; none of that which is present here. It’s all rather soulless and repetitive, and if I’m being perfectly frank, it’s rather boring as well.
Look, now we totally understand why BioWare has shoehorned co-op into Mass Effect 3, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. Unfair to say shoehorned? Not at all, because that’s how it plays. While the combat itself isn’t that bad, it only goes to highlight the weaknesses when the game relies on its third-person shooter mechanics. It feels like they’ve taken out what makes Mass Effect what it is today just as an excuse to promote longevity. Of course, we’ll reserve final judgement until next March, but unless things drastically changes in the meantime, we suspect that the finished article will be as soulless and shallow as we experienced with our hands-on recently. Thank goodness that Mass Effect 3 is all about the single-player then, because otherwise we’d be up shit creek without a paddle.
Mass Effect 3 is scheduled for a March 6th and March 9th release in North America and Europe respectively.