BioWare Doesn't Expect You To Survive Mass Effect 2

If you don't want to know anything about Mass Effect 2, don't read more. But if you're curious about just how dangerous this new game is....

Mass Effect 2 lead designer Casey Hudson walked E3 show attendees through a behind-closed-doors demo of his game today. He started spilling news about BioWare's 2010 sci-fi sequel.

First, he revealed — as if we hadn't guessed — that players will again play the role of Commander Shepard, despite what the trailers suggesting his death implied.

The game has more of an edge than its predecessor. "This is a darker game," Hudson said. "Your actions can have brutal consequences... important characters can die."

The plot involves humans going missing and Shepard tacking a supposed suicide mission to find them. Hudson said that tracking them down and ensuring their loyalty to Shepard's crew will lead to a climactic"final mission" that will unfold based on choices the player has made through the game. During the 20-minute demo, Hudson repeatedly referred to the loyalty of Shepard's team, suggesting that team treachery may be a danger in this adventure.

The action in the game is a rougher tumble than it was in the original. That is partially a result of a new targeting system. Hudson said this game will allow for location-based body damage: headshots and blown-off limbs. The combat is supposed to control more smoothly and more in-the-moment, as powers can be mapped to face buttons and executed in real-tie without, as in the first Mass Effect, pausing the game.

Some of the new dialogue mechanics shown included the ability to have conversations during dynamic cut-scenes (we saw the developers control a chat that had Shepard talking during a high-speed flying-car sequence). Shepard can also interrupt people, which was demonstrated by him shutting a guy up by shoving him out of a window in a high rise.

More striking than the new dialogue options, though, was the new flavor of dialogue. This Shepard had a gruff demeanor. Before shoving the guy out of the window, for example, he growled: "You've got two ways down, express or coach."

Where does this darker sequel go? (SPOILER COMING...) Hudson ended the demo by showing a semi-interactive scene that he described as a "core point" of the game's narrative. It was (REALLY, SPOILER RIGHT HERE) the destruction of the the Normandy, a terrifically rendered surprise assault on Shepard's ship from the first game. The spaceship-to-spaceship assault ripped the rood off the Normandy and resulted in Shepard getting knocked out into space. Shepard drifted to the planet's atmosphere, protected by nothing more than a leaking space-suit. Because a character earlier in the demo remarked that she thought Shepard was dead, we guessed that this scene was the opening of the game. But when Kotaku pulled Hudson aside to comment, he declined to confirm the theory. (OK, THAT SPOILER IS ENDING)

BioWare promises that players will be able to explore the universe of Mass Effect 2 after the game's credits roll, so long as they keep Shepard survive. Players will be able to keep on exploring worlds. And Hudson said Shepard would then transition to Mass Effect 3... if Shepard lives.

He made it sound unlikely.