Led by Executive Producer Casey Hudson, we packed into a small room tighter than servicemen on a submarine to get a glimpse at one of the hottest draws at E3, Mass Effect 3. As the demo opens, the Reapers have invaded the Earth, and there's something skin-crawlingly sinister about the ships descending on the planet -- they look like giant robotic versions of the thing that crawled in Chekov's ear in Wrath of Khan. I couldn't help but flinch as I watched the towering skyscrapers fall like dominos. This wasn't the Collectors of Mass Effect 2. This was an outright assault on human civilization.
Things only got better as we got into gameplay. The unpolished graphics still looked fantastic, and Shepard's appearance, right down to the scarring, has gotten even more high def.
The demo featured returning beloved characters Garrus, Liara, and Mordin, and even Legion, the most underused character in Mass 2, got a nod. There were hints of story all over the combat, which now features cover-to-cover movement options, takedowns with an omni-blade melee weapon, and grenades. Also, there are now mechs to commandeer in the game including the Cerebus Atlas and expanded, more precise, weapons crafting options.
We also saw some new enemies, including what seemed to be cousins of the Husks called Cannibals. And Hudson promised new versions of the dialogue and interrupt systems, which, at the Microsoft press conference, were shown to be compatible with Kinect. Don't panic though: they still feel familiar.
The demo also revealed that, for a portion of the game, Admiral Anderson joins your squad and fights alongside you. At the end of this sequence, it also shows him reinstating Commander Shepard in the Alliance military, so that Shepard can go rally help from other races across the galaxy.
They also showed a veiled and ornately jeweled female Krogan, who seemed pretty world weary (and awesome). This sequence showed a small element of how a player's choices in previous games will impact what happens in Mass 3, because Krogan lady mentions Wrex, who may or may not have died in a previous title.
As the demo ends, ships of men, women and children fleeing earth are blasted out of the sky by the Reaper ships, which caused Andrew to ask me if my makeup was running. Silly Andrew, he should know that Krogan philosophy teaches that periods of destruction only mean that our species is not perfect yet, and we must become stronger.
Yeah, I'm a bit of a Mass Effect diehard. Especially where Krogans are concerned.
But there were little hints at other things in the demo as well, which overall showed that Mass Effect's dev team is not content to sit back, finish the story and rake in gobs of money. They're still interested in developing what's possible in a science fiction RPG, and embracing general industry tech innovations. Bioware is poised for another hit, and deservedly so. This sneak peek has me chomping at the bit to get back into Shepard's saga.