Previews

Mass Effect 3: Hands-on uncovers smarter, brutal and fluid combat

Shepard finally puts his legs to use...

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Forcing ourselves into action we slide over to edge of cover and are surprised to find how fluid the movement feels. Shepard glides along cover and effortlessly shuffles from cover point to another, we stick our head out long enough to throw a singularity into group of unsuspecting soldiers and Liara delivers a crushing up-close concussive shot, knocking them all on their asses, completely open to Garrus' assault.

The ability to move so effortlessly around the battlefield makes the combat far more accommodating to different styles. Instead of maintaining distance and chipping away at an enemy's health players can now be far more aggressive and have the tools to get out of any hairy situations should plans go awry.

No Guts, No Glory

With our new found gusto we switch to a more direct approach to combat, charging down the AI troops, vaulting over cover and catching them off guard. Up close Shepard is more deadly than ever, gone is his half-hearted gun butt melee, now Shepard produces an Omniblade and plunges it into his enemies with no regard for their armour. It's an incredibly satisfying finisher reminiscent of Gears of War's kerb stomp that adds a welcome brutality to the combat.

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It's important to emphasise that the enemies in the game are far from pushovers. It seems they've been given an intelligence boost to compensate for Shepard's advanced mobility. They're not content with sitting back and waiting to be disposed of, now their strategy is to overwhelm and capitalise on faults.

During the tussle we take a few bullets from a well-hidden, opportunistic enemy, in our damaged state the change in enemy tactics are noticeable, they quickly rush us down in reckless effort to deliver the final blow. Lucky for us Garrus is about and saves our skin.

The AI also seems to strategise around the types of enemies on the battlefield, the presence of a beefy Cerberus soldier carrying a shield gives them added incentive to press since he's able to take punishment and so usually demands the player's attention. This means it becomes vital to use team mates and their biotic abilities to maintain a level playing field and also enable your flanking manoeuvres to get around the shield.

After fighting our way onto the next level of the complex we finally make it to the rooftop and transfer the female Krogan onto the ship, where she's welcomed by Wrex. Don't worry, we've instigated a strict 'no hanky panky' rule on the Normandy, there will be no procreating on our ship.

All that remains for us to do is take care of the Cerberus Atlas, a goliath mech which has just dropped down in front of us. What the stomping behemoth lacks in speed and grace it more than makes up for with firepower. The moment we stick our head out the mech fires a barrage of rockets at our last known position and it becomes clear that we'll need to stay on our toes to topple this giant.

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Shepard's new dive roll and slide-to-cover abilities lets us run rings around the mech. Using our team mates to distract him we use the brief windows of opportunity to unload everything we've got into him. Eventually he crumbles and we make a swift exit.

There was always an element of 'going through the motions' with Mass Effect's combat. Until now it was the part of the game you had to trudge through to get to the good stuff. A number of small tweaks have had a big overall impact on the combat, and BioWare's game now feels far less clunky and moves at blistering pace, which makes for a far more exciting experience.

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