Brenna Hillier is notoriously reluctant to dive into multiplayer, but Mass Effect 3 has sucked her in, chewed her up, and refused to spit her out.
I was not aware that there was a class which teleports across the battlefield, exploding people, and shooting anyone still standing in the face with a souped-up shotgun. This was a revelation.
I really didn't expect to like Mass Effect 3's multiplayer. Despite my enjoyment of the game, I didn't like the combat so much that I wanted to do any more of it; I only jumped in to increase the Effective Military Strength of my single-player campaign. You really only need to invest an hour or two in multiplayer to spike that number, so I resignedly fired it up.
I started out as an Adept. Since I'm pretty sure I am the Worst At Everything, I'd initially decided to go for the more straight-forward Soldier - but something stopped me. I'd used it through all of the Mass Effect series - surely it was time to branch out?
A few hours in, I wasn't having a fantastic time, but I wasn't ready to throw my PC through the window; a novel situation indeed. And that's when I met him.
I've forgotten his name, but I'll never forget what his Asari Vanguard did: took out every single enemy in the first three waves, completely alone, and almost all the rest to come.
"Are you uploading something because I am lagging like crazy here," I roared at the rest of the household.
"Look at this, it's unplayable. It looks like this guy is teleporting around the level, and all the enemies keep exploding, and oh my god maybe that's not lag. Can you do that? Is that a thing? How do you do that? Can I do that?"
I spent the next 15 minutes rifling through the class and powers descriptions, taking a crash course in Mass Effect 3's combat - which I'd thought I'd understood, and totally hadn't. Although I completed the original once in each class, I hadn't checked in with anything but Soldier since BioWare gave the whole combat system a major overhaul for Mass Effect 2. I was not aware that there was a class which teleports across the battlefield, exploding people, and shooting anyone still standing, in the face, with a souped-up shotgun.
This was a revelation.
What makes Mass Effect 3's multiplayer a must-try is that it gives you a chance, free of all the concerns of party composition and compatibility, to explore the possibilities of its combat in full - something that feels like a chore in the single player campaign, because really, who wants to re-watch the same cinematic six times just to try out each class, let alone spend 15 hours levelling them all to the point where they feel sufficiently different?
Beyond the classes, the change from class-specific weapons to a weight-based load out means there's plenty of customisation to be had; I've seen amazingly good Infiltrators armed only with SMGs for rapid power use, and close quarters soldiers who rely on sniper rifles. These are combinations I'd never have thought of trying if I hadn't seen them in action, but in the right hands they really, really work.
That's the neat bit - finding out what works for you. After watching the over-powered Vanguard at work, I knew I'd found the one style of combat out of Mass Effect 3's many, many possibilities that spoke to something inside me - something with a deep-seated desire to smash through other people's toppling corpses in a biotic haze while laying down a trail of assault rifle fire.
Although BioWare and EA have been quite tight with the metrics they've harvested from Mass Effect players over the years, one fact they have revealed is that the vast majority of players use the Soldier class. Anecdotes suggest that quite a lot of players don't bother to use the command overlay, either, meaning they don't explore their squadmates power trees.
Although long-term fans and hardcore players are already aware of the variation available in Mass Effect's combat, for those who've only done one playthrough or stuck to one class, there's a whole world of fun to explore. The multiplayer makes that kind of exploration accessible and satisfying, allowing BioWare's design to shine. Do yourself a favour and give it a proper look.
Mass Effect 3 is available on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360; Brenna's been playing on PC. There's a multiplayer event happening this very weekend.