E3 2011: Mass Effect 3 Hands-On Preview - Combat, Crew, and More

In Mass Effect 3, the Reaper invasion has begun. At E3 2011 we witness their destruction firsthand.

Mass Effect 3 marks the beginning of the end for this intergalactic action role-playing trilogy. Despite Commander Shepard's best efforts, the Reapers--an ancient race of genocidal machines--have returned and are ready to devour a divided galaxy. While visiting publisher Electronic Arts' booth during this year's E3, we got to see three different areas from the game, as well as go hands-on. We'll go ahead and skip the first area since we already covered it during the EA press conference.

The second section was where we got to go hands-on. Alongside Garrus and Liara, our mission was to help extract a fertile Krogan female from a facility on the Salarian homeworld that was under attack by Cerberus. If none of that made any sense, you might as well stop now--it's all downhill from here. With Mordin's help, we sent the Krogan ahead to another part of the facility. And the Cerberus troopers weren't far behind. At first blush combat felt pretty similar to how it was in Mass Effect 2. But as we played we uncovered more and more little changes developer BioWare is making. Most obvious were the blue contextual arrows that indicated where Shepard would move next when he reached a break in cover.

Shepard's omni-tool has also changed so that it's not just for hacking robots or stealing credits. Depending on which class you play, the device will have a new ability for you to use. As a soldier, our omni-tool came equipped with a short blade designed to relieve an enemy's guts from his body. We used this technique to great effect after sneaking up on an unsuspecting trooper, and while behind cover, we pulled him down to us and eviscerated him. Another new and deadly tool at our disposal was the grenades. Absent in ME2, the grenades are back and have been tweaked to behave more like real grenades and less like flying, explosive Frisbees.

Weapon customization is also back in Mass Effect 3, though with all this carnage we were causing we almost missed it. In order to upgrade our weapons we had to find a workbench. From there a simple screen displayed our weapons, each with two slots for upgrades. Since this was a demo, our options were limited, so we settled for sticking a laser sight on our pistol. However, other upgrades will be able to modify a weapon's statistics--such as damage or range. Character customization has been expanded as well, though we didn't get to see it firsthand. When leveling up Shepard's class skill, instead of receiving a flat bonus to certain stats, you will be able to select which areas you want to advance Shepard in.

Sadly, we had to relinquish control for the final act of the demo. This section took place near the start of the game, with Commander Shepard being forced to stand trial on Earth for his actions in the previous games. We didn't get to see any of the proceedings, however, since it was cut short by the Reaper invasion. Standing on a rooftop, Shepard and Anderson gave us a moment to drink in the scale of destruction inflicted by the Reaper ships. All around them the city burned in a scene more visually dense than anything we'd seen in a previous Mass Effect game.

The pair pulled their heads from the clouds when a couple of hulking cannibals--a new enemy type--caught their scent. These monsters looked not unlike bloated husks with particle beams graphed to their wrists. Tough and slow-moving, they preferred to fight at range while shambling around in the open. At one point Shepard and Anderson found themselves suddenly outnumbered by enemies. Thankfully, the Normandy showed up just in time to blow the cannibals to bits and pick up the grateful commander. Anderson stayed behind, stating that the forces on Earth needed a leader while Shepard rallied the fleets of the galaxy.

Overall, we had a lot of fun with Mass Effect 3 and can't wait to see more of it when it appears on Wednesday's episode of our E3 live show. Mass Effect 3 will be released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on March 6, 2012.

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Discussion

177 comments
CONV1KT
CONV1KT

garrus and wrex combo again?, awwww sheeeeet, i hope that the companion armor customization from me1 is back

Carlos161
Carlos161

@icecoldkilla78 I will make the same. unfortunately the day of release is 26 march so if we follow that strictly those 26 days will be damn long

Carlos161
Carlos161

Let's defeat those Reapers. They won't destroy humanity

Wensea10
Wensea10

the gameplay is greatly better tis time

Jon71992
Jon71992

Anyone, let me know what you think.... Do you guys think it was a good move to go back to the (almost) original 5 partner characters from te first game?? I haven't decided how i feel yet lol

Jon71992
Jon71992

I can already bet it's gonna be game of 2012 =D

ChaosUndivided
ChaosUndivided

One of the only games I am truly waiting for. Along with Skyrim. Looks Epic.

reavin81
reavin81

@ihl0700677525 earth will be speard sheperd will lead us to vitory and the reapers will fail AAAHHHHH YEAH!!!!!!

reavin81
reavin81

one word for this game and thats WOW i am so looking forward to this game that i want it now BUT id rather wait that bit extra to make sur its one of the most awesom games ever HELL YEAH!!!!!!

MN121MN
MN121MN

@Battleseed : Good thing I'm running it on PC (where everything must be done manually) @Slazton : DA2 was emphasized (in my opinion) on the lead developer's idea, while game developing is teamwork, ideas from people, like Mass Effect 3 (because the game received ideas from all of it's developer)

Nickious
Nickious

@MN121MN Yeah they defected Cerebus. If you took miranda along for the final mission in the collector base, she basically tells The Illusive Man to go screw himself and resigns.

Battleseed
Battleseed

How fat and lazy have we become that voice commands for a game like this is a selling feature... /sigh

Slazton
Slazton

Dragon Age 2 was the fact some pounce decided HE knew better then the players and when met with the critics, practically said: I don't care its how I wanted to do it. You can bet he's looking for another job like the folks who created FF13..... Mass Effect 3 looks like it will blow us away. I hope they have the probe/resource streamlined, it was an interesting concept, but took way too much time and effort. Now I wonder how many of us will complete ME3, load up ME and play right through. I want to know if there is an ultimate ending ...

revanknight
revanknight

DA2 was just a minor tarnish on an otherwise perfect resume. I am confident that Bioware will deliver with ME3

MN121MN
MN121MN

What would happen to Jacob and Miranda? Did they defect from Cerberus, or not?

Hydra270
Hydra270

hmm gues i have to play this game at hardest dificulty again (own both parts preorderd 2nd and got 1st one on bargain price) now will preorder 3rd one after my b-day party CANT WAIT! march 6th well 2 years of wait = terific game.

KAM10000
KAM10000

This Game is going to be Epic.

icecoldkilla78
icecoldkilla78

January im playing ME1 from the begining, Febuary im continuing my character on ME2, and in march im finishing the story... glad i have the first three months of next year planned out already

ihl0700677525
ihl0700677525

@noigel: Well, in ME-1 single Reaper (Sovereign) was able to defeat citadel fleet by launching a surprise attack, not to mention that it bring entire Geth fleet. I can't remember it clearly, but I think Sovereign wasn't able to destroy an Asari's Dreadnought... and we knew from the codex that every major species has at least several dreadnoughts in their arsenal, so it won't be easy for the Reapers. I hope Earth can be saved in ME-3.

Tevi
Tevi

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

starduke
starduke

Hmm, I'm guessing Shepard fails to stop the Reapers and they destroy everything! Actually, it would be incredibly stupid for them to end it like that after three games. Of course, that could be the ending if the player messes up, it could be the Mess Effect ending.

Cataclysmm
Cataclysmm

all asking for Miranda,i know you all can't get past that a.s i an,t mad at you all hehehe,any ways still have my save files can't wait for this to add to the rest Vanguard all the way,a lot more game is releasing in between by then so i am good for the moment on till then.

masterthrall
masterthrall

Miranda better be in it! Anyways, does look similar to ME2, but I am hoping to love it, even if it's just slightly better than ME2 I will play the heck out of it!

Rz118
Rz118

game play still looks quite the same as it's predecessor. I think they are learning from dragon age 2.

kiopta1
kiopta1

damn you 8-9 months...and that damn Mayan calender.

kiopta1
kiopta1

"not everyone will survive." First line on the ME website. I would hate to have to choose between my L.I. and somebody like Garrus...I am also very interested in how my choices from ME & ME2 affect this story.

murakami61
murakami61

prequel --- A literary, dramatic, or cinematic work whose narrative takes place before that of a PREEXISTING WORK or a sequel. or-- prequel: sequel that depicts events preceding those of the original work

arcaneguilt
arcaneguilt

@MXVIII I agree with Sportsfan282, you can say Star Wars Ep. I is the prequel of Ep IV... BTW I'm curious how will they end this series... Just please don't force me to play Mass Effect: Online. LOL xD

Oracle2k
Oracle2k

Dragon Age 2 failed I hope this won't at least.

darzon
darzon

Can't wait until ME3 comes out. Wonder what all new things they'll surprise us with in the coming months. Good Luck BioWare, hope the game creation turns out nicely.

method115
method115

@Kabals A lot more RPG elements? What exactly is a lot to you? What exactly does ME1 have as far as RPG elements goes that ME2 doesn't?

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

PCsama
PCsama

wow can't wait to get my hands on it :p

h_cj
h_cj

Miranda my love, where are you? Is she in team Sheperd or team Cerberus ?

starduke
starduke

I've already pre-ordered ME3. When it comes out I'll play all three games in order!

Nadav16il
Nadav16il

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Sportsfan282
Sportsfan282

@MXVIII No, I am not wrong, you are. Prequel is the word sequel, with prefix pre, which means before or prior to. It means it is a sequel that takes place prior to the earlier release. Still don't believe, here is a definition taken directly from dictionary.com prequel - a literary or dramatic work whose story precedes that of an earlier-written work. For example, Lillian Hellman's play Another Part of the Forest (1946) portrays the earlier lives of the characters she first wrote about in The Little Foxes (1939).

mwgulby
mwgulby

@ 1018 You're wrong. A prequel is a sequel set prior to the original. Look it up. Seriously. In a dictionary.

mwgulby
mwgulby

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

MXVIII
MXVIII

@Sportsfan282 That is incorrect. the term prequel simply means the one that came before in a series. For instance Robo Cop is the prequel to Robo Cop II which was released later. It doesnt have to be released later to be a prequel. Halo 1 is the prequel to Halo 2, which was the prequel to Halo 3 which is part of the Halo trilogy.

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

@Sportsfan282 Great? I'm disappointed you've not marked it out of twenty... I still stand by my statement regardless, you clearly got the gist of it. Two 3DS games for a simple reason, the original Ocarina of Time is still the most critically laundered title of all time in terms of total review scores. As for Metal Gear Solid 3D, Metal Gear Solid 4 was a huge success and again is one of the best games from this generation and received a lot of GOTY nominations/victories. Gamespot and IGN both awarded it a 10 as well. I hear you ask "what about Rising?", the game's a spin-off and not a main part of the franchise, Snake Eater is a MGS3 remake.