I’ve played through the Mass Effect 3 demo, as have many of you, I assume. Now I’m going to bring forth my First Opinion for the demo and what I see as it’s biggest problem.

Mass Effect 3

The demo was an overall letdown for me. I was lukewarm on pretty much anything it offered, but one thing struck me as particularly annoying: it’s ham-fisted attempt a pathos. Halfway through the first part of the demo you cross a scared kid that you can’t help. This was bad enough for me, because using a scared child as a way to drive home how bad things are is sad and lazy. Later as you leave the planet you see a kid climbing anxiously in to a vehicle to escape, and that vehicle gets blown out of the sky as Shepard winces. I winced too, because again, that’s a cheap attempt at involving the player via pathos. They would have lost nothing if they’d removed those sequences, and I was already emotionally involved because the whole freaking world was in danger, which was played out really well. The only way they could make this worse is to bring that kid back later in the game and say he was alive after getting blown up and everything’s going to be ok, because that just makes their use of his (apparent) death completely thoughtless. I had hoped story telling had moved past that point. Apparently not.

As for the actual gameplay, it was typical Mass Effect, which is pretty much a good thing. My only real issue is the way they modified the context-sensitive nature of the spacebar as the do-all ‘any key’ for interactions. Depending on the situation, pressing it either makes you run, roll, take cover or interact with something in the environment. In ME2 (which I glowingly covered here) it worked pretty much the same but it just responded better to situations. Just picking something to interact with is more of a pain now thanks to the new need to focus your aiming reticule over the item while you select it. However, it’s the run/roll/take cover part that needs the most attention.  So often I’d be running forward and Shepard would take cover behind things I wanted to just run past. Worse, when I wanted to take cover he’d start somersaulting around and refuse to get behind the barrier he was right next to. I’d find myself yelling, “Shepard! This is no time to show off your Kindergarten open floor gymnastics routine! There are people shooting at you, GET BEHIND COVER!” I also had trouble getting out of cover because Shepard would just roll to the next barricade instead.

For all my complaining I did enjoy the demo for the most part. I’m just not sure if that’s because it was good or because it was a Mass Effect demo. I may provide a later opinion after I play the demo again a few more times, but if I don’t then you can just look forward to our coverage of the full game in March.