With the promise of more fluid combat, vicious melee attacks, tougher enemies and a nimbler Commander Shepard, Mass Effect 3 is shaping up to be the game Bioware says will be definitive Mass Effect experience.
"Mass Effect was always designed as a trilogy," Bioware game director Casey Hudson told a gathering of press, "and Mass Effect 3 is the main event."
That means an overhaul of the combat, cover and mobility in the game, reworked enemies and weapons and new customizable powers.
It also means a different sort of narrative backdrop.
Where Mass Effect 2 was loosely structured around a Dirty Dozen storyline, its sequel will take a step back and have you gathering not individual members for a team, but commodities for the war effort.
"The large scale story and even the little missions, the little friendships you accumulate during the game contribute to the overall war effort," Hudson said. The greater you do the better your chance of success."
Mass Effect 3 will be about the galactic war that the game has been moving toward for two titles now.
"This is the story of that all out galactic war," he said. "You start out with the Reapers having captured the earth. It is your job to rally the forces of the galaxy and unify everyone behind the cause and wipe out the Reapers forever."
The game also has a number of tweaks to the way you'll handle Commander Shepard. He will have a whole new level of mobility, Hudson said.
"You can climb things, leap across gaps," he said. "In combat you can roll in and out of cover or between cover. That really helps with the overall fluidity of combat.
Enemies will be tougher too with a "lot of new behaviors" from flying in on rocket boots to crawling out of holes. Some will come at you with physical shields.
Your squad members will have new abilities too. For instance you can send one in to go into a fight a rip a shield out of an enemies hands.
Shepard will, of course, also have new abilities including a new collapsible blade attached to his arm that can be used for vicious, skewering attacks.
To give us a sense of what he was talking about, Hudson let us see a bit of gameplay from Mass Effect 3. It was from early on in the game when you are on a Salarian home world.
The brief demo was a chaotic scene of thumping guns, smoke and fire. Arrows directed when Shepard could roll to new cover or could press a button to see a pivotal moment in the gunfight. A serious injury caused Shepard's vision to blur and the noise from the battle to echo briefly.
At one point in the battle a group of enemies formed up with shields, blocking the return fire of Shepard's team until he was able to flank and cut them down with shotgun blasts and that blade of his. Shepard activates an adrenaline rush power that essentially slows everyone but him down, making his assault easier.
Later in the battle a mech lands. Hudson says that if you can take out the driver you can control the suit.
"We're trying to make Mass Effect 3 the best of the series," he says. "It's about improving the moment to moment action, providing an epic conclusion to this storyline."