Following the initial reveal of Mass Effect 3's multiplayer segment, BioWare has been struggling to keep the panic levels to a minimum, promising more would be revealed today.
We all have questions. To what extent does the multiplayer affect the single-player campaign? Which races will be playable, and how much customization is there? New details have arisen via the December issue of Official Xbox Magazine, and we can honestly say the multiplayer is looking better and better.
For folks who are concerned that the multiplayer is just an afterthought, lay your worries to rest. BioWare has been planning for multiplayer since the first Mass Effect, but Casey Hudson wasn't comfortable with implementing it until Mass Effect 3.
What we end up with is something very similar to Gears of War's Horde mode, just with a ton of customization options piled on. While the cooperative multiplayer is separate from the single-player campaign, the two are bound together through the Mass Effect story and share many of the same locations. You'll be teaming up with three other players for form a four-man squad under Admiral Hackett's command, tasked with securing and defending a number of key locations from enemy control.
As you may have guessed, this involves fighting waves of increasingly difficult Cerberus units, with mission objectives to keep the gameplay interesting. You may be tasked with retrieving a data packet during a round, or defending an ally as s/he hacks a terminal on the map. Should an ally fall in battle, you have a limited amount of time to revive them, while the downed player can spam a button ("A" for the Xbox 360) to delay bleed-out.
Every "stage" is comprised of eleven waves, and you'll earn experience points regardless of whether or not you survive. Additional points can be earned by landing more kills, racking up assists, and other such multiplayer-esque feats. That experience goes toward your classes rather than individual characters (you may create more than one), and you can assign points to various class-specific abilities. As of now, leveling maxes out at 20.
Prior to entering a fight, you can choose from different armor and weapons, both of which can be upgraded over time. If you're playing a biotic, you're also allowed to choose your powers beforehand.
Enemy types range a wide spectrum, from the most basic soldiers to more specialized units like assassin-esque Phantoms and the heavy Atlas mechs. As mentioned above, players will have classes of their own to choose from as well, including Soldier, Infiltrator, Engineer, Sentinel, and Vanguard. Some will be immediately available, and others must be unlocked.
In terms of playable races, BioWare has confirmed turian, krogan, salarian, human, asari, and drell, and players can choose from either gender -- except when playing asari, obviously.
"Galaxy at War" Explained
The formerly announced Galaxy at War system also comes into play, and we're getting a better idea of how it ties the two aspects of Mass Effect 3 into a single experience. Galaxy at War basically translates your achievements in either mode into a reward that can be redeemed in some way. If you're doing well in the campaign (i.e. finishing side missions, completing plot points) your success yields "War Assets," which lets you buy more allies, friendly fleets, and useful facilities like a radar station. For completionists, doing more in the single-player campaign and earning enough War Assets can actually steer you away from participating in the "galactic war."
Of course, as noted before, how well you do in the multiplayer can go toward your progression in the single-player, which offers an alternative for gamers looking to save the galaxy without having to perform every little task as Shepard. As mentioned before, however, this is a completely optional feature in Mass Effect 3, and you may keep the two separate if you prefer. The best possible ending is entirely attainable through single-player.
As for the video you came here to see, we've included that below. Although it doesn't offer much in new details, you can catch a glimpse of the multiplayer in action here and there. That, and Casey Hudson has some interesting things to say.