Mass Effect 3: The first 2 hours

Spoilers from the start as we catch up with Commander Shepard...

Some people, eh? What reward do you get for gathering a crew, heading off on a suicide mission, and returning triumphant, having struck a major blow against the villainous pro-human Cerberus Network while you were at it? Prison. That's your reward.

That's certainly where we catch up with Commander Shepard, anyway, at the start of Mass Effect 3, after he sacrificed millions of Batarian lives at the end of the last game's DLC episode.

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Let's wind it back a little first, as how to get out of chokey isn't the first thing you'll be tasked with thinking about when you sit down with the new single-player campaign.

Before all that, unless you're importing an existing Shepard, you'll have to make a brand new one, fiddling around with your eyes and nose until they look really strange, picking your class and backstory, and telling the game a little bit about some of your actions in the previous adventures - who lived, and who died, for example. Then you have to decide which of three different versions of ME3 you'd actually like to play.

Your choices are pretty simple, thankfully. Story mode dials down the combat but allows you to make all the big decisions throughout the game, choosing what happens at crucial - and not so crucial - moments, and who you end up making sweet, slightly creepy, dead-eyed zero-gravity love to.

Action mode offers you exactly the opposite experience, turning conversations into standard non-interactive cut-scenes, while providing you with a straight-up cover-based shooter, with no morality nonsense to get in the way of the headshots.

Role-playing mode, finally, is the traditional Mass Effect mode. If you're reading this, it's the mode you'll almost certainly end up playing. (If you're not reading this, what's on telly at the moment? Is it time for Diagnosis Murder yet?)


Where were we? Oh yes, Prison. Military detention, which is probably much the same thing, but with tidier bed linen and more people doing one-armed push-ups in the yard. Shepard's in the slammer due to her - or his - crazy, law-breaking, risk-taking, genocide-committing actions in the last game's DLC, stripped of his - or her - command, and ordered to report to a futuristic tribunal to explain what she - or he - has been doing recently.

Mass Effect 3 throws you right into things, then, marching you straight to the courtroom where you'll have one last chance to convince the stupid counsellors that the Reaper threat is real, and planet Earth is about to get a royal shoeing from ageless and uncaring space robots who take the form of vast, city-sized hermit crabs.

The courtroom sequence isn't particularly long, but playing through it at a recent EA showcase did give us a chance to catch up with Ashley - or presumably Kaidan, if you decided that he should live instead.

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