When it was first announced that Mass Effect 3 was going to have multiplayer, many gamers including myself were concerned that BioWare was going to include some form of deathmatch that felt tacked on and half-hearted in comparison to the rest of the game. Thankfully, Mass Effect 3 dodges that bullet and instead provides an incredibly well-put together cooperative mulitplayer mode.

ME3’s multiplayer sends you to the front line in the intergalactic war against the Reapers, but doesn’t really have much of a story other than setting you up as a member of a special forces unit completing tasks on the side to help the war effort.

The particularly interesting aspect of the multiplayer is how it affects the single player campaign and your Shepard’s ability to take on the Reapers. There’s a galactic map that gives a percentage value of each sector’s status and how they’re holding up in the Reaper War. Successfully survive a few missions, and the “readiness” rating across the board goes up, giving a bonus to whatever war assets you’ve collected so far in the single player mission, meaning when you reach the later parts of the single player game, your effort to retake back Earth and defeat the Reapers will have that much higher level of success. However, while it’s certainly an interesting idea, the implication that in order to try and get the best results in ME3’s main story, you have to dedicate time to playing an aspect of the game that may not normally appeal to you, doesn’t entirely sit well, and feels like it should’ve been an optional mode to include rather than a requirement.

The style of the cooperative missions is similar to Gears of War’s “Horde Mode”, with ME3 pitting you against 11 waves of enemies that become progressively harder as the mission goes on. For the most part, the multiplayer gameplay plays out pretty much the same as the single player, except there are other people (hopefully) watching your back instead of squad mates controlled by the AI.

To start, you’ll have access to all six of ME3’s classes, deck out your character with weapons and choose your abilities, and then jump right into the fray. Combat’s an intense experience, as you’ll start off fighting against cannon-fodder enemies only to be battling against much more aggressive and harder-to-kill foes a few minutes later, like armored Reaper Brutes and turret-dropping Cerberus Engineers.

There’s a few times where a match’s pacing may feel off, as all it can take is one lucky grenade to wipe out your whole team before you actually manage to do anything, but for the most part the intensity ramps up evenly. As you complete missions and gain experience, you’ll be able to focus and improve your characters’ abilities, letting you have a fair amount of choice in the areas of combat expertise in which you’d like to focus.

Currently there are only six maps, which feels like a small selection given the number of locations you’ll visit in the single player game, but at least they provide a nice variety of locales in which to lob grenades or biotics around. You’ll be killing Geth in claustrophobic close quarters within a facility’s reactor room, or dodging Cerberus snipers in a secret research lab. Each map is varied enough that you and your team will have to change up your style of play in order to succeed, as some maps have less cover or places to resupply than others.

Every few waves, you’ll be given specialized objectives to switch up the action, such as disabling “indoctrination boosters” or hacking a computer terminal within a set time limit. Completing these waves gives you credits, which you can then spend on varying player packs that randomly include one-time use items, weapons or character upgrades in the game’s multiplayer store. The store system has a nice feel to it, as it frees you up to play the game and then purchase packs to upgrade your gear instead of just grinding experience to reach the next rank for a weapon or class. Though, given the random nature of what each pack can give you, it can be frustrating to receive weapons and gear that don’t work for the class you prefer to use the most. I don’t particularly use SMGs very much, so it’s always a little annoying when I consistently get more upgrades for that type of weapon rather than something more useful. Plus, you can’t trade items or credits with your friends, so if you’re stuck getting weapons you can’t use, you pretty much just have to hold out until something useful eventually comes along

Bottom Line: Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer is an excellent co-operative gaming experience, but its connection to the single player campaign may not sit right for some.

Recommendation: Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer is a solid gaming experience on its own and is definitely worth trying out.

Game: Mass Effect 3
Genre: Shooter
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)

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