PAX: Mass Effect 3 Hands-on

Bringing a knife to a gunfight. 

Erik Norrisby Erik Norris


It’s kind of crazy that PAX Prime 2011 has been my first opportunity to sit down and play Mass Effect 3. Being such a huge fan of the first two games, I’ve been dying to get my hands on BioWare’s trilogy concluder. That moment finally came at PAX Prime, giving me a brief glimpse of the game’s enhanced cover system, melee attacks and boss battles. The demo wasn’t too long, but at least it reassured me that BioWare isn’t screwing the pooch with such a marquee title for the company. Surprise! Mass Effect 3 feels like Mass Effect.

After being shown a brief video setting up the mission at hand, I was off as Commander Shepard with the help of Garrus and Liara to protect Mordin and a fertile Krogan female. As fans of the Mass Effect franchise probably know, a female Krogan that has the ability to give birth is a rare thing in this day and age, that’s why it’s so important for Shepard and his crew to protect her. However, Cerberus shows up with the intentions of killing her (shocker!) and a massive firefight breaks out. This gives you the perfect opportunity to test out Mass Effect 3’s new, brutal melee attacks.

The new melee attacks of Mass Effect 3 are pretty visceral. The camera pulls in as Shepard somehow magically manifests a massive orange blade from his forearm to shove into the stomach of his adversaries. It’s a cool move that does the trick, even if it’s sometimes hard to aim precisely. The new melee moves are something we’ve seen in quite a few trailers released thus far to promote the game, but actually getting behind the controller and pulling them off is quite satisfying. Hell, it’s definitely a step up from the weak elbow nudge of previous Mass Effect titles.

I also noticed that Mass Effect 3 features a much more refined cover system. It appears as though BioWare has taken a page out of the Splinter Cell: Conviction playbook. When you move to the corner of cover you are presented with arrow indicators that let you know what moves are at your disposal. You can bounce off cover laterally, or you can swing around it, for example. Commander Shepard feels much more nimble this time out as well. He runs faster and dodges quicker. It seems all the years of being caught in the middle of an interstellar war have really paid off and done wonders for his conditioning.

The final part of the demo I got to play featured Shepard and his crew going up against a Cerberus mech. Honestly, the fight was nothing special. The size of the mech was impressive as it lumbered around the battle arena, but it was truthfully a little too easy to take out. Sadly, the cutscene introducing the boss was more menacing than the actual fight.

All in all, I enjoyed my brief exposure to Mass Effect 3. The demo gave me a good impression of some of the tweaks BioWare is making to the title for the better. I dig the new melee moves and Shepard’s nimbleness. It seems obvious, but I’m going to state it anyway: if you love Mass Effect then you’ll probably love Mass Effect 3.

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