It came as a bit of a shock that Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer mode is actually very, very good. So much of a shock, in fact, that we can more or less forgive EA for forcing us to play it if we want to see the single-player game’s better endings.
That said, apparently some of you are shite at it, or simply don’t enjoy it all that much. We need to sort this out. Read the following tips, and prepare to enjoy life in ways you hadn’t previously thought possible.
1. Pick your colours wisely
For goodness' sake, don't just make your character black and white. YES it does look cool, but there are a few benefits to being a bit more daring with your armour’s hues.
The main problem with just having black and white armour - and it is a common enough occurrence to be worthy of discussion - is that you look just like a Cerberus soldier and will blend in perfectly during a firefight. Yeah, there’s no friendly fire, so you’re not about to murder your friends. But when things get as hectic as they do on silver and gold runs, even a couple of wasted shots can put you on the back-foot. Pick a colour that stands out a little.
Better yet, try and co-ordinate with your teammates so that you’re each a different but offensively bright colour. Reading the battlefield is a lot easier when you’re decked out like the Power Rangers. Which is probably why they did it, actually.
Think this stuff doesn’t matter? Valve do. The characters in Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2 were specfically designed so they each had different and instantly recognisable silhouettes, and a quick glance is all that’s needed to identify each player. Are you arguing with Valve? YEAH EXACTLY MATE. EXACTLY.
2. Boring skills matter
So you’ve just levelled up, and you’ve got a few points to spend on your character’s skills. "OH BOY," you squeal, "I CAN’T WAIT TO INCREASE THE RADIUS ON MY BIOTIC CHARGE BLAST/MAKE MY ROBOT DRONE SHOOT ROCKETS/REDUCE THE RECHARGE ON MY STEALTH CLOAK."
But hey, whoah there. That stuff sounds exciting, but do pay attention to each class’ bottom two skills - the ones that just make slight improvements across the board. They don’t sound as interesting, but they’re often a huge help. Yes, you might be able to reduce the recharge time on your mighty biotic charge, but a dull-sounding skill that reduces the weight of all weapons effectively does the same thing, across all skills.
Actually, while we’re talking about weapon weight:
3. Travel light
It’s entirely possible this is down to personal taste, but seriously - if you like using your powers frequently, consider just taking a pistol into battle. Just a pistol, nothing else. You’ll usually get your full 200% power recharge speed bonus, and the difference it can make is staggering. For example, if you’re a Vanguard and you’ve unlocked the Nova ‘half blast’ skill, you can Biotic Charge into a group of enemies, unleash a couple of Novas, and your Biotic Charge is already available again, ready to charge into the next enemy and restore your shields. Assuming there are any enemies left. Once you’ve had some practice doing this, you can clear entire waves without firing a shot.
Ammo can be an issue with other classes, mind you, but this can be tempered simply by learning the ammo points on each map and making sure you hit them regularly, whether you think you need it or not. Classes that use grenades will need to get into this habit anyway, as once you hit Silver difficulty, each ammo point will only give you one grenade at a time, making it essential to hit each point regularly.
Also bear in mind that you’ll automatically bring two ammo packs into battle with you (assuming you’ve got any stockpiled - if you haven’t to begin with, you soon will), so you can always hit left on the d-pad if you’re really stuck. Most people forget the ammo packs exist, and end up with about 60 of them stored up. Use them!
4. Recruit packs. Buy them.
So you’ve had your first couple of decent games, and it’s time to start spaffing your credits on some new gear. The three main options are the Recruit, Veteran and Spectre packs, costing 5,000, 20,000 and 60,000 points respectively, with the more expensive packs offering potentially better stuff.
Thing is, as well as unlocking your new weapons and characters, these packs also keep you supplied with medi-gel, ammo packs, and the alarmingly useful single-use rocket launchers. So while you’ll immediately be tempted to sod the Recruit packs and start saving up for BIG GUNS, it really is worth amassing a decent amount of the basic items first. You will almost certainly need your medi-gel once you start tackling the Silver difficulty level, and not every attempt will yield enough points for a Veteran pack. In short, you’ll be using up the items without always replenishing them, so a decent stockpile is vital. Sort it OUT.
Oh, and try not to spend real money on Veteran or Spectre packs. It’s no replacement for actually getting better at the game, and you’ll soon be unlocking stuff all over the place anyway.
5. Class warfare
Each of the classes is good. But they are each good at different things. Learn what those things are, and exploit them. Then think about how they might interact with your friends’ powers.
Biotic combos, for example, are effing hilarious. If you're an Adept, cast Reave on a bunch of dudes, and then watch your Vanguard friend Biotic Charge in and make EVERYTHING EXPLODE.
If you’re an Engineer and you're fighting against the Geth, hit them with Sabotage every chance you get, and keep your team informed that the enemies with the orange fizzy effect on them are actually friendly for a while. If you’re an infiltrator, use your Stealth Cloak for relatively hassle-free teammate revival and for claiming objectives. If you’re not an infiltrator but there is one on your team, keep out of the way and let them do their job, eh?
Playing as a Sentinel? That tech shield ability will seem like total crap at first - discharging it to damage enemies seems to do almost nothing. Put a few skill points into it, though, and you can happily use it to neutralise an enemy group's shields in one fell swoop, if you learn to position yourself right. Bloody useful.
And if you really absolutely must play as a Soldier (and according to BioWare, most of you do), just... shoot stuff, I guess. But don't worry so much about getting all the kills. Points earned are calculated entirely on damage dealt, not who happened to deal the last bit of damage that finished an enemy off. Focus on the less-obvious enemies and soften them up for all the infinitely more interesting classes to come along with their fancy powers and steal the show. They might not understand why, but they'll have a much easier time of it with you around.
AND THAT'S BASICALLY IT I THINK. Oh, and don't get close to a Brute or Banshee unless you really have to. For all the lessons BioWare have learned about action games over the last five years, apparently nobody told them that instant-kill enemies are the worst ever thing.