E3 - Mass Effect impresses in closed-door demo

Everyone keeps asking me what's the biggest surprise at this year's E3. The answer rolls right off my tongue -- Mass Effect. We've all seen Mass Effect in action; the weapon and Biotics combat, squad commands, and the insanely deep dialogue system. But seeing a living, breathing mission from start to finish is a completely different experience.

For this mission, we set down on the distant planet of Virmire. Lush tropical jungles and towering cliffsides dotted the alien beach, but Virmire has a dark secret. Virmire holds the only antidote to the infectious alien race, Krogan. If the antidote were to get off Virmire, there would be nothing stopping the Krogan race from universal domination. To make matters worse, Saren, the evil villain of Mass Effect, is breeding an army of Krogan warriors and the mission at hand is taking Captain Shepard and crew right into the belly of the beast to destroy the antidote.

Before each mission, players choose their elite squad of mercenaries; unfortunately for this particular mission Shepard chose to bring along Wrex, a Krogan warrior. Of course, Shepard doesn't find out about the antidote until after the mission begins, and the tension begins to unfold. This is a prime example of the moral dilemmas players will encounter in Mass Effect. Wrex is likeable and loyal, but his goals may conflict with yours.

So what do you do? Stick to the mission and destroy the antidote, basically eliminating any chance to save the Krogan race? Or do you side with Wrex, who insists on keeping the antidote in safe hands? We won't spoil the outcome of the demo for you, but the climatic decision is totally up to you. There are shades of grey, and players have total freedom to choose where they paint the line. And some of those decisions are dark. Very dark.

The best part about this situation is none of this actually had to happen. One player may choose to include a Krogan on their squad for this mission, while another may not. The moral dilemma is avoided, and the mission runs smoothly as the Krogan conundrum never rears its ugly head.

The voice acting in Mass Effect is top-tier, like watching a James Cameron movie where you guide the conversations. Mass Effect blurs the line between video game and movie like no other. BioWare, already famous for games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, looks to be on the cusp of another major RPG innovation. And judging by the gushing reaction of the journalists who attended our in-game demonstration, we weren't the only ones who were stunned by the game's dazzling visuals and masterful storytelling.

November can't come soon enough.

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