Mass Effect 3's Reinforcement Packs
Levelling up classes will earn you new skills, but Mass Effect 3's equipment unlocks are handled differently. Credits are awarded for co-op mode completion, which you can then use to buy reinforcement packs. Much like packs of football stickers, each pack contains a random selection of items, the majority one-use items that buff you up. It's here that you'll find shield boosts, special ammo types, extra Medi-Gel and even single-shot Cobra rocket launchers.
There are three tiers of reinforcement packs on offer, each of which offers a better grade of potential unlocks. If you're feeling lazy, you've also got the option to shell out Microsoft Points for the top two packs.
Recruit Pack - 5000 Credits
Includes 5 random items or characters, with a small chance for an Uncommon item.
Veteran Pack - 20000 Credits/ 80MP
Includes 5 random items or characters, with at least one Uncommon item or better.
Spectre Pack - 60000 Credits/ 160MP
Includes 5 random items or characters, with at least one Rare item or better.
Recruit Packs will help you flesh out your arsenal, but it's probably worth saving for the better Reinforcement Packs. Rare weapons make a big difference in battle, and you'll also have a better chance of unlocking new characters like the surprisingly cute Volus Adept. Unlike in the world of football stickers, duplicate items aren't a problem - get the same gun twice, and it will merely upgrade the original weapon. If you've already unlocked the character on a card, you'll get training instead, giving that class a whopping XP bonus and unlocking new appearance options.
Mass Effect 3's guns, powers and items
The single player campaign's wheel-based menus don't transfer to Mass Effect 3's multiplayer, which means some of the basics get handled differently. For starters, each character only has three active powers, mapped to LB, RB, and Y respectively. With no AI squadmates to order around, the D-pad is freed up to handle single-use items. Survival packs provide an instant shield top-up, while Thermal Clip Packs do the same thing for ammo. If you're pinned down somewhere with an empty sniper rifle, an instant refill might mean the difference between life and death.
Cobra Missiles are a handy one-shot RPG - best saved for when facing armour, but not so valuable that you should refuse to employ them when softer opposition shows its face (a hearty MediGel reserve counts for more than stored-up overkill). The final slot here is the most important, allowing you to bring yourself back to life a limited number of times during the round. Use them too early, and you'll struggle at the end.
In addition to the items you'll use in the field, single-use equipment boosts can also be selected prior to the mission. Ammo Bonuses change the properties of your bullets, while Weapon Bonuses add an extra chunk of damage. Armour Bonuses seem much more varied, with items that allow you to increase shield strength, movement speed, or even the recharge speed of your powers. Despite unlocking plenty of packs, we still haven't found a single Gear Bonus - but suspect these may be linked to either pre-order bonuses or future DLC.
With such a huge scope of stuff to play around with, the dos and don'ts of Mass Effect 3 team tactics are still being thrashed out. We're looking forward to seeing how you get on. Remember to look out for your friends in the field, and bookmark the OXM Nights thread if you fancy palling up on our watch. Roll on Friday!