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Mass Effect 3 multiplayer: six reasons to drop it

Is EA's new direction good for the series?

While we enjoyed our hands-on with Mass Effect 3's multiplayer, we're not completely convinced.

It's an obvious tactic for a major franchise - and one that could well and truly shift the goalposts if BioWare's serious about integrating its campaign narrative with multiplayer - but "obvious" doesn't necessarily mean "right". Here are six reasons Galaxy at War belongs on the cutting room floor.

1. It'll damage the context
One of the wonderful things about Mass Effect is the entirely contained nature of the universe. Everything that occurs happens for a reason, and it's up to you alone to solve the problems you face. Adding a sectioned-off multiplayer mode that directly affects the single player game damages the universe's sense of canon. It all makes sense on paper, certainly - the fights taking place in Mass Effect's co-op are a distant part of the greater war effort against the Reapers. When you boil down to the execution though, you're effectively looking at Shepherd's world being frozen in stasis while you pop off to create an extra fighter for the war effort. One of the coolest aspects of Mass Effect 2 was the sense of urgency in the main storyline. Letting you effect the outcome of ME3 by temporarily popping into an alternate reality isn't exactly a great leap for narrative.


2. Multiplayer doesn't equal success
The claim that multiplayer is necessary to tackle the second hand sales market doesn't always hold water. Speedy trade-ins are certainly a problem, but longevity through multiplayer isn't the only good answer. Rare as they are, games like Skyrim are proof that single player still sells. If you're worried about getting players keeping the disc in the tray, there are more inventive tactics: solid DLC offerings can go a long way, especially if the price and frequency are right. Give us a weekly dose of starship drama, and we'll be happy for the rest of our days.

3. We don't want relentless combat
In case you didn't get a chance to read the name badge on the way in, we're a flipping Space Captain. Space Captains don't spend all their time in the trenches; they also handle affairs of state, key quest decisions and strategy. We can get "cinematic action" in almost anything these days - why over-emphasise that element here? Why not dump the Horde Mode meets Star Trek gig, and focus on adding new role-playing elements instead?

4. It won't end here
Combat-fixated co-op is one thing, but we're worried that worse is in store. When we spoke to EA earlier this year, Mass Effect 3's multiplayer aspects were described as being just one of several Galaxy at War "apps". The wording is disturbing, suggesting that Mass Effect 3 is cruising towards some form of superficial Facebook and iPhone integration. With Facebook and Twitter still plugging on despite our efforts to suffocate them in terrible witticisms, it's only so long before social-networking initiatives bite into the fundamentals of game design. Not in Mass Effect 3, please.


5. Decisions lose impact
BioWare have been clear that the Galaxy at War system will only do so much for the main game, but until we see the specifics we're holding our breath. Giving players the chance to redeem themselves slightly by grinding the game's multiplayer for an extra few hours is great for flexibility, but won't do much for the series' iconic sense of choice and consequence. When/if we see the game's best ending, we want to have earned that privilege by picking the right dialogue options, rather than grinding out meaningless "war assets".

6. It's second-hand goods
The days of simply clipping on a team deathmatch mode seem to have passed by gracefully, but the industry remains a little too eager to borrow ideas for quick multiplayer fixes. Gears of War's excellent Horde Mode is certainly worth spreading around, but few games come close to doing it justice, and we're not convinced BioWare has the flair. If you're so determined to steal Modern Warfare's customers, guys, at least do it your own way.

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Are you hyped about multiplayer in Mass Effect 3, or would you rather Bioware stuck to single player?