As you probably already know, Microsoft accidentally leaked a "private beta" of the Mass Effect 3 demo to XBox Live dashboard users who were signed up for Fall Preview program. We've watched hours of videos and commentaries of the demo playthrough at various levels of video and audio quality to put together an analysis and summary, along with what we consider the best of the videos and some screen grabs after the break.
The private beta of the demo contains two major features:
- Singleplayer - You can only play the default male Soldier class "Sheploo" in this demo. It is actually a two part experience, involving the very beginning of the game, which introduces you to the game controls and tell you a story with the opening cinematics, and an extended version of the Sur'Kesh mission we've seen from various convention demos.
- Multiplayer - Galaxy At War, the multiplayer component of Mass Effect 3, adds a cooperative element to resource gathering for the optimal Mass Effect 3 ending. Multiplayer is, of course, completely optional, but can be a compelling feature addition to the franchise. Unlike singleplayer in the demo beta, you have access to all classes in multiplayer, however, you are limited to using a maximum of three powers. The number of powers you have available either correspond to your character's level or purchasable upgrades called "Reinforcements" (see Customization and Reinforcements section).
The singleplayer portion of the private beta seems to include an option for three game types, which simply bundle combat difficulty selection and conversation mode choices:
- Action Mode (Normal Difficulty, Automatic Dialogue Selection)
For those who want to emphasize action and combat and minimize story management. Action mode will set automatic replies in conversation and a normal difficulty.
- Story Mode (Narrative Difficulty, Manual Dialogue Selection)
For those who want to emphasize story immersion and minimize combat pressure. Story mode will set manually-selectable replies in conversation and a minimal combat difficulty.
- RPG Mode (Normal Difficulty, Manual Dialogue Selection)
For those who want to explore both realms of story and combat. RPG mode will set manually-selectable replies in conversation and a normal combat difficulty.
Not to worry though, because regardless of your selection, you are presented with an options menu - after naming your character and prior to starting the game - allowing you to change the game type settings:
All of the in-game combat difficulty descriptions:
For players who are more interested in story than combat. Shepard and squad members are stronger while enemies are weaker and much less aggressive. Weapons are easier to handle. This is non-representative Mass Effect combat experience.
For players inexperienced with shooters. Shepard is tougher and does more damage, and enemies are slightly weaker and less aggressive. Weapons are easier to handle.
For players with some experience with shooters and RPGs. This is the baseline Mass Effect 3 combat experience.
For players who are looking for a challenge. Enemies are more powerful and aggressive. Advanced gameplay skills will be required.
For players seeking the ultimate challenge. Enemies are tenacious, react quickly, have heavily upgraded weapons, and use their powers mercilessly. Every advantage in combat will need to be exploited.
BioWare producer Jesse Houston has been quick to reassure fans that these three offered game types are simply a prototype and do not constitute the only options that will be available in the final game.
One feature that was present in this early build is a set of game play modes that are in development. In the beta code they are referred to as "action mode", "story mode" and "RPG mode". We want to stress that these features are still in the early stages of development and will receive considerable iteration and refinement. These modes are designed to give players an even finer degree of control over their game experience than ever before. Whether it be someone who finds the combat difficult but wants to experience the amazing story, someone who wants to focus on the action and combat game play, or fans who want the rich, story-driven RPG Mass Effect experience they've come to love – Mass Effect 3 will support all of these options
This should look rather familiar to players of the previous games in the series. One of the main differences appears to be in the display of the health and shield bars prominently at the bottom center of the screen.
We noticed that health regen seems to work a little differently in Mass Effect 3 from Mass Effect 2. In ME3, you will notice the health bar is separated from the shield bar, and divided into fifths. Whereas health would regenerate with your shields in Mass Effect 2, in ME3 only the current fifth will activate. So, for example, if your health is cut in half, covering will only restore to it 60%. Your health recovers fully outside of combat.
Class and Race Combos
As Danny mentioned in a previous article, Quarians have been revealed as a playable race in multiplayer, but not every race is selectable for every class. It seems like only the Human race will provide gender options; all alien races seem to have a preset gender. For example, you will not be able to play Quarian males.
* All classes include Human Male(M) and Female(F) options as the initially available character race/gender options, but the initially unlocked gender may vary.
It is currently unclear as to how the additional races for each class are unlocked and in what order.
Customization and Reinforcements
The "Reinforcements" option in the multiplayer menu seems to refer to purchasable upgrades for an individual character in multiplayer (you can have multiple characters). The ones listed for one player in his "first look" video were:
- Spec Ops Reinforcements - 5000 credits - Great value for supplying yourself with the equipment that you need in the field. Includes 5 low level items - 1 weapon, mod or character upgrade guaranteed.
- N7 Reinforcements Package - 25000 credits - The best value for building your roster of characters and equipping yourself with the equipment that you need to complete the mission. Includes 5 midlevel items - 1 weapon, mod or character upgrade guaranteed.
In this screen grab, the player just received a pop up notice about the completion of a mission objective by a teammate. The large button like popup is not constantly displayed on the screen.
One of the first differences from singleplayer that you might notice is your squad powers summary at the bottom center being replaced by your three power buttons. Another change is in the segmentation of enemy health bars into blocks.
Gone is the radial menu from singleplayer. The abilities you have access to are streamlined to fit on your screen. Weapons can be cycled through with controller bindings/hotkeys. Since you can't pause in multiplayer, abilities that dilate time (i.e. Adrenaline Rush) have been modified to confer different, but comparable, bonuses.
It seems as though each player collects xp individually through some form of participation in a session. It is not quite clear how these xp numbers are derived, but you do gain a team score during the match based on kills, assists, and completing objectives.
Although the main menu seems to recycle a(n excellent) music piece from Mass Effect 2's Arrival DLC, it still sounds quite good.
A couple of distinctly Clint Mansell music clips were spotted by some players and/or viewers, most notably the "piano" piece at the end of the singleplayer intro portion of the beta demo:
We dug up a few videos that pretty much allow you to watch both parts of the singleplayer portion of the demo in up to 720p HD, unedited. (You'll find them on the second page of this article, separated for super-spoilery indulgence.) As a reminder, this is a private beta of the demo to be released in January. It was not intended to be shown to the public. It is unfinished, and still a bit buggy; you'll probably notice a few moments of missing textures, sounds, and voiced dialogue.
Also, there happens to be Vanguard and Sentinel multiplayer gameplay videos floating on Youtube at the moment, which I've included on the next page. You can finally see the ME3 Vanguard's biotic charge and melee move (a biotic punch) in decent quality video! As of the posting of this article, I haven't seen any Infiltrator or Adept PoV multiplayer videos, and unfortunately, the private demo beta has been deactivated for all XBox users by now.