Mass Effect 3 Demo: Impressions and Benchmarks

Gaming News

February 14th, 2012

By Andrew Burnes

Love is in the air today, though for many gamers it may not be for their significant other, but for the just-released Mass Effect 3 Demo. Having spent a considerable amount of time with it, we can safely say that the 2.5GB download is going to be well worth your while – read on for an overview of the demo’s contents, a look at its impressive visuals, and a performance preview, revealing just how well Mass Effect 3 runs on our range of graphics cards.

The Opening

Opening on Earth the demo sees series protagonist, Shepard, grounded and stripped of his rank, kicking his heels at central command. Despite his best efforts, and overwhelming evidence, the powers that be refuse to believe that sentient spaceships are rapidly speeding towards the birthplace of man with the intention of annihilating every living being.

Earth’s military command refuses to believe that the end is nigh, much to the annoyance of Shepard.

In classic cinema style the protagonist is quickly proven right, and as central command loses contact one-by-one with its fleets and cities a Reaper descends ominously in the background before unleashing its full might upon the headquarters of Earth’s military. With the world in disarray and its leaders dead, Shepard once again takes up arms and sets forth on his final mission, the objective clear: save Earth at any cost.

With the military in disarray it’s up to Shepard to save the day.

Ways To Play

Allowing players to choose and personalize the course of their story has been a mainstay of BioWare’s since its inception in 1995, helping the Canadian studio attain massive sales and critical acclaim, and though only a demo, BioWare has gone above and beyond to pack Mass Effect 3’s sampler with more customization options than you can shake a Hanar’s tentacle at.

How would you like to play the Mass Effect 3 demo?

From the first moment of the demo, players are presented with new, completely unique, never-before-seen ways to play a role-playing game. The first option, Action, dispenses with dialog wheels and conversation options, instead rendering the game’s many dialog scenes as non-interactive sequences, increasing the pace and flow of the game. The second, Role Playing, is the classic Mass Effect formula, giving players moderately challenging combat and a full range of dialog options, and the third, Story, turns combat difficulty down as low as it will go, allowing gamers to blitz through shooting sections to allow them to experience the engrossing final chapter of Shepard’s story as fast as possible. Apart from being innovative additions, these ‘Choose Your Experience’ options broaden the game’s appeal, helping to bring new gamers into the Mass Effect fold.

‘Action’ mode dispenses with dialog and instead shepherds shooter fans through the game’s many decisions without player input.

Character creation is one of the most popular aspects of role-playing games, allowing players to customize the appearance of their character and choose the skills they will make use of throughout the game. In Mass Effect 3, BioWare has refined the customization system once again, allowing for the creation of more lifelike characters than ever before, which can then be shared with other players using the generated code shown at the bottom of the customization screen.

Copy the code and this combat-grizzled Shepard can appear in your game also.

The next customization screen allows players to pick one of six character classes, each with radically different skills and attributes that will influence how the game is played. Infiltrators, for example, rely on stealth and range, and are not suited to close-combat shotgun assaults, whereas the Vanguard specializes in banzai attacks, causing as much damage as possible whilst immune to damage. Throughout the game, each class’ skills can be upgraded with experience points and further diversified, be that extra damage to one particular enemy type or an increase in their range at the expense of a reduction in lethality. There aren’t enough points to max out every skill, however, so players must choose carefully.

Unlike the ‘all guns blazing’ attitude of the Soldier, Infiltrators must act slowly and sneakily.

Following class selection players are prompted to decide how and where Shepard grew up, and what military experience he has, both of which will modify numerous lines of dialogue throughout the course of the game, though not to a noticeable extent. The final customization option deals with death, asking players to describe their, “experience with significant combat loss.” In the finished game this will determine which characters appear, if you don’t have a Mass Effect 2 save to import, and in the demo it relates to a shocking plot twist from the first Mass Effect.

Who did you save? Depending on the answer this familiar face may not appear in your demo.

With decisions made players are sent into the demo for their first look at Mass Effect 3. From the start, the latest improvements to BioWare’s lauded facial technology are plain to see: the characters ‘act’ more realistically than in previous Mass Effect titles, their faces are comprised of more detail, and their hair is more dynamic and lifelike. Particle effects, animations and world detail are also better than ever, but what performance impact do these improvements incur on graphics cards old and new?


BioWare’s Mass Effect 3 system requirements recommend a GeForce 8800/9800 GT for optimal performance, which tallies exactly with our test results. The GeForce 8800 GT hit 45.6 frames per second at 1680x1050, and 38.8 at the more demanding 1920x1080. The venerable GeForce GTX 260 produced a solid 60 FPS at 1920 x 1080, the popular GTX 560 recorded 80 FPS, and the flagship single GPU GeForce GTX 580 scored a breathtaking 120 FPS.

If you experience performance difficulties, consider lowering settings in the Windows-based Mass Effect 3 configuration utility, accessible through the demo’s Start Menu folder.

Anti-aliasing and motion blur are the most demanding, configurable effects, and should be sacrificed before others in the search for performance.


Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 were single-player affairs, and despite the frequent calls for a multiplayer component to be implemented, BioWare stuck to their guns, stating that multiplayer would only appear if and when they found a meaningful way to do it. With Mass Effect 3 that time has come, and so players are placed in the magnetized space boots of N7 backup teams who help secure important locations for Shepard and Co. By undertaking these missions players influence the outcome of their single-player campaign, helping speed them towards the ultimate victorious ending.

A team of four is forced to defend a specific location whilst fending off attackers from all angles. One falls, but is quickly revived by a nearby teammate.

In the demo, the multiplayer mode is restricted to two locations, each starring Cerberus as the cannon fodder. Players create characters using one of the six aforementioned classes and proceed to tackle eleven waves of increasingly challenging enemies and multi-stage objectives. Kills grant experience points with which to improve characters, and completed objectives grant credits, used to buy supply kits containing rocket launchers, self-revive med packs, health kits, ammo kits and the occasional Uncommon goodie, such as a new weapon or experience bonus. The super lucky receive character unlocks, opening up a new Infiltrator who uses different skills for example, or an ammo, weapon or armor bonus that bestows huge buffs on the player for one round only.

Awards and accolades are distributed amongst team members, boosting their total experience points. Cleverly, kills and kill assists grant experience equal to the amount of damage each character inflicted.

Leveling up and unlocking the many goodies is unbelievably engaging, and addictive, and as characters improve the more challenging Silver and Gold missions beckon, promising more experience points and more Credits, which is tough to resist when a booster pack containing one Uncommon item costs 20,000 of the hard-earned virtual coins.

A well-balanced team comprised of four different character classes completes a Bronze mission on Noveria, having survived an endless wave of enemies determined to prevent their extraction.


Between a lengthy single player sampler and an addictive multiplayer mode, the Mass Effect 3 demo is beyond a shadow of a doubt one of the best demos released in recent years and definitely worth 2.5GB of your bandwidth. If BioWare’s third Mass Effect wasn’t on your radar already, it certainly should be after sampling the delights of this feature packed demo.

Download now from Origin, and check out our demo screenshot gallery below.