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Mass Effect 3: Time to reap what you've sown

Acts and consequences in BioWare's third epic...

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Predictably, for an on-rails section, the Reaper gets close before a huge blast burns up its squid-like body and it collapses. Presumably having never seen any action movie ever, Shepard instructs Legion to stop so they can check the Reaper is dead. It isn't. Moments later it hauls its body up and the chase resumes. It gets closer, closer, closer... and this demo ends.

Thrilling, but derivative, it's the now mandatory 'big action set-piece' that every game seems to need in order to make the chubby Internet bloggers 'woot'. It shows off Mass Effect 3's scale, but not its heart. Fast forward to the next slice of gameplay, which takes place on Earth. Or rather, an Earth under siege by the Reapers.

STORMING NORMANDY
Here we see the emotional side of Mass Effect 3. Shepard is on Earth, near the start of the game, to answer for his actions during the (lame) 'Arrival' DLC, which bridges the gap between the end of Mass Effect 2 and the start of ME3. That's right, the galaxy is on the brink of war and Shepard is being court marshalled. Bloody bureaucracy.

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On the way Shepard finds a youngster hiding inside an air-vent, refusing to evacuate the planet with everyone else. Here you have the option to tease the child out of hiding, or leave well alone. We do the right thing and encourage him to make a run for the escape shuttles. That was the best thing for him, right?

Later, after some shooting where we finally get eyes on with the Reaper abominations (Cannibals - part Krogan, part Batarian, and... oh, is that a human body part in there too?) assail Shepard and his squad, but they're quickly dispatched.

Earth is a mess, and when Shepard finally cuts through the Reaper creatures he's ordered off the planet by Admiral Anderson with orders to regroup, gather allies, and return to take the planet back. It's a rabblerousing moment, a scene that pumps you up and makes you feel ready to take on the whole galaxy.

And then comes the pin-prick that bursts your bubble. As you're taking off in the Normandy, Shepard looks out of the window at the humans evacuating Earth. Hey, isn't that the little mite we saved making his way to that escape shuttle? Good job he isn't still hiding out in that vent, huh? Wouldn't survive long in there. Hey, we're a bloody hero...

BOOM. The Reapers obliterate his escape craft, disintegrating every human soul inside. Yeah, maybe he was better off hiding. At least he died quickly, right? Right?

It's an emotional moment; a small pocket of humanity tucked away inside an epic set-piece. So, yes, Mass Effect 3 takes place on a bigger scale than previous games: the bangs are louder, the explosions bigger, the enemies uglier.

However, contrasted against the massive galactic battles are warm, raw personal moments, which see Shepard resolving his relationships and living with the consequences of his actions - the decisions you've made over the last 80 or so hours. And it's these small personal moments that will, undoubtedly, leave the biggest impression on you while you're saving the galaxy next March...

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