As the menu loads up, you immediately have the chance to jump into single-player and multiplayer (which I'll discuss later). Both are equally impressive and addictive, though the multiplayer will serve the lifespan on the demo. The single-player portion is between 30-50 minutes, heavy with cut scenes, and split between two different points in the timeline.
Some controversy arose when the multiplayer details first came to light, because along with the news Bioware unveiled a rather distinct approach to single-player. Difficulties return, but the way we manipulate the game can be altered. RPG mode is the standard Mass Effect experience, story mode promotes the plot with limited combat difficulty, and Action turns all conversations into cut scenes (choices are picked for us) and ups the combat ante.
I tried all three, and needlessly to say RPG mode feels most comfortable. Mass Effect has a beautiful sense of individuality, but messing around with the traditional formula seems foolhardy. Franchise fans know what the gameplay is, so if this is some poor attempt to appeal to everyone, it's not working. But thankfully these are completely optional.
First, presumably near the beginning of the game, we see the Reapers annihilate Earth's defenses and invade Earth, while Shepard and Anderson make their way to the Normandy. No backstory was given, but apparently our hero is now back with the Alliance after his/her brief excursion with Cerberus. Various characters reemerge in this half, including Ashley (with her hair down and high-up in Alliance Command) and James Vega, a new character with no established background. We're also introduced to brand new ground forces called Cannibals, mindless, Reaper-mutated troops who can cannibalize fallen soldiers to regain health.
Second, we follow Shepard, Garrus, Liara and Wrex (yeah!) to the Salarian homeworld Sur'Kesh, where they are holding a female Krogan, a potential cure to the Genophage. It's unclear what Shepard's crew have offered in return, but Cerberus operatives spoil the party by quickly assaulting the planet. Mordin, already with the female Krogan, is waiting patiently as Cerberus interrupts his reunion with Shepard. After barreling through several leagues of soldiers (like a boss), we're then introduced to the deadliest of Cerberus' armada: the Atlas. A giant mech with rockets that appears raining from the sky (literally). After that confrontation is when the demo abruptly ends.
Combat feels looser and extremely fluid compared to previous titles, especially the ability to roll into cover. It's a nice touch and further laces that cinematic quality into the battle system. Furthermore, enhancing the individuality further is branching skill trees, essentially handing us full control on how to improve Shepard and crew. Additionally, new powers have been inexplicably introduced, incorporating grenades and a fresh set of abilities that meld into combat splendidly.
Mass Effect 3 drops March 6 in North America and March 9 in Europe. Who else is pumped?