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Mass Effect 3 (everything but single player)

Spoiler free!

Something that worried me before I played the game was the news that, to increase your chances at getting a better ending in single player, you have to play the new multiplayer game. I was hoping for a complement to the main game, and I was expecting a hastily slapped-together bug fest, but what I got was kinda neither. I’ve only had a few matches up to now, and the only bug I’ve personally found is that when you drop out before you can connect to a match, you get a nondescript error message that people who haven’t been playing PC games online for years might misinterpret as meaning their game is hideously broken, when really it means “try again, the internet went a bit shit for a second there”.

As for multiplayer being a complement to the main game, it kinda is. The settings for each map are taken from events that are mentioned in the main game, and when you make your character (who is different to your single player Shep), you can choose from the same classes as before. You can choose between the five gun types like in single player, but in multiplayer you can only equip two. The enemies you face are all taken from the single player side of things.

That’s where the similarities with single player end, really. Multiplayer Mass Effect 3 most resembles Horde mode in the Gears of War games (which was awesome). You and up to three other players are dropped into a map and you have to survive ten waves of enemies. Each wave is bigger and stronger than the last, and you’ll soon find that you’ll need to always be near to at least one team mate at all times to stand a chance of winning. Some of the waves come with bonus missions; for example, one of them is for all of you to “hack” a terminal by standing within a certain radius of the terminal. This makes life more difficult as you soon end up all jammed near one window with no cover shooting everything.

When you complete a round, you are given XP that corresponds to how many kills you got, how many assists, etc. You are also given credits, and you spend these credits on lucky dip boxes that give you one-use-only upgrades and a new weapon. These lucky dip boxes are utterly random, so you may get a weapon you already had, you may not. The more expensive boxes are listed as giving out at least one Uncommon item, but I’ve not bought one yet, so fuck knows what’s in ’em. I hope it’s a rocket launcher for them fucking brutes.

So far, so Horde mode blended with Call of Duty. Where it differs slightly, and where ElectronicBiowareArts has been crafty as fuck, is that the lucky dip boxes can also be bought with real life proper money. You know, pounds, dollars, stuff like that. The boxes themselves don’t increase your “war readiness” level in the single player, so you can’t buy your way to happiness; you still have to grind the multiplayer stuff for that. However, buying them boxes means you get more temporary upgrades and more weapons sooner, which will make it easier to level up, which will make it easier to kill things, which will make it easier to level up, etc etc. BioEAWare must be making a metric fuckton of cash every second out of muppets wasting their money on these things.

So what’s the multiplayer like to play? Here’s the good / bad thing, depending on your point of view. It’s pretty much the same as the single player shooting gameplay. You take cover, you shoot, you move, you occasionally run to a team mate to revive them, and that’s pretty much it. It’s a bit more tense due to the other players being there, and the waves getting a lot harder than the average single player mission very quickly in each match. But the controls and shooting is exactly the same as in single player. There’s a good reason for this, too; EBioWareA have wisely decided to keep the controls identical between game modes. If you change your mouse sensitivity in single player, it’ll be increased in multiplayer, and vice versa. This isn’t something I’ve noticed other single / multiplayer games do, but I wish they would. It’s an awesome idea, and means that players who wouldn’t be playing multiplayer if they didn’t have to will be eased into it that little bit easier. That totally works as a sentence. I’m keeping it. So anyway, the controls and “feel” of the run ‘n’ gun shooty are identical between single player and multiplayer. And ultimately, the multiplayer is really good fun. Matches tend to last 15 minutes (if you complete them). If you die, then you start bleeding out; if a team member can’t get to you in time, you’ll die until the next wave begins, or your team dies. Short match times and regular revivals mean that you are rarely out of a match for more than a minute or two, and you get a fair chunk of shooting done even if you’re hopelessly shit like me. And did I mention that multiplayer is fun? It really is!

Grinding in a multiplayer mode to affect single player stuff sounds like a pain in the ass to some people. Fair enough. If you’re an idiot like me and you have an iPhone or iPad or iPod or iPud, then you have two more options available to you. One is the Datapad; a free app that lets you “play” a little “game” that lets you increase your galactic readiness levels. I say increase, but the pace is glacial. You are given the same galactic map as in single / multiplayer, and each section of the map has “missions” on it. You tap on a “mission”, and one of your two ships goes to do the “mission”. Each “mission” takes a set number of real life hours to complete, and you’ll get something like a half a percent boost to your readiness score for that map sector. Better than nothing, but only fucking just. The free app also lets you look at the ME3 twitter feed, and has a spoof email inbox where characters in single player will send you messages after you do the missions. If you’re a big sap like me, this can be entertaining.

The other app is a game called Infiltrator. This costs £7, and is pretty much a port of the single player shootiness onto a phone. Left thumb makes you walk / run, right thumb aims, you’ll snap into cover when you get near it, you tap on an enemy to begin firing, and you adjust your aim with your right thumb to headshot everything. Honestly, it’s nowhere near as fiddly as that write-up makes out, and you do get into a flow within minutes. Where this game helps your ME3 readiness stuff is that certain enemies drop little intel packages, and these add to your score. Can’t remember how much by, but it wasn’t that much. The game itself is a pretty good stab at getting a cover shooter working on a phone or pad, and it is fully voiced and looks gorgeous.

So there you go! All bases covered, and you now know what you have to do to get the single player ending you want. All of the above.

One thing to mention – the galactic readiness level reduces over time, so if you have to put the game on the back-burner for a while, you might have to go grinding multiplayer again to get your readiness back up. You can also go round the galaxy scanning planets and finding shit in single player to add to your score, but that sucks balls, so don’t bother.

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