One of the biggest question marks hanging over Mass Effect 3 is the multiplayer. After all, this is an intensely story-driven, single person point-of-view type of game. When it was announced that there would be a multiplayer component in the final game, some feared a shoddy mode tacked-on to cash-in on the current online shooter craze was all we would get. However, a little time with multiplayer in the current Xbox Live demo has me pretty excited for this part of Mass Effect 3. Why? Because it feels like Horde Mode from Gears of War 3, except that it will have an impact on the outcome of the game.
Multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 is a co-op experience for up to four players. You’ll face wave after wave of bad guys, and you earn experience and credits for how well you do during each wave. Your experience is used to boost your abilities. For instance, I played as an Engineer, so as I leveled up I was able to improve my combat drone and powers such as Overload. Credits gave me access to bonus gear that I could use during a match, like being able to heal myself, gain extra ammo on the fly without going to a resupply point, and so forth. Gaining access to new weapons, better gear, and new powers makes multiplayer a compelling experience. It’s fun and fairly challenging. On the Gold challenge level, things are really tough, and you have to work as a team and make good use of the strengths of the various classes to survive. Fun stuff.
Now, this being a demo, it’s hard to get a feel for just how much impact the multiplayer will have on your single player campaign, but Bioware has said it will make a difference. For me, that’s one of the most exciting possibilities. Playing things like Horde Mode for Gears 3 was fun, but to have it influence the campaign, for there to be some consequences in the game proper depending on how well you do instead of being a completely separate part of the game could be a really nifty idea, and will certainly compel some players to spend as much time with multiplayer as they do in the campaign. If the synergy between the two modes works, we might see this model copied by future games because the idea is just so compelling.
One of the great parts of multiplayer is it gives you the chance to try out the different classes. Be an Adept and try out using all kinds of biotic powers. Be a Soldier and enjoy using some serious firepower, be a Sentinel and try a little of everything and so on and so forth. You can pick your class, your race, customize your armor and more. All in all, there’s lot to explore with multiplayer, and obviously much more will be available when the full game arrives.
The biggest surprise of Mass Effect 3 could be the fact that the multiplayer might turn out to be really fun. The demo is challenging and intense, with the same addictive sensibilities of any horde mode in other games. The fact that it can influence the galactic war you’re a part of in the single player campaign is an added bonus. After playing the demo, I’m surprised but pleased to admit that I’m looking forward to having some multiplayer in my epic, choose-your-own adventure known as Mass Effect.