If you asked me what the Mass Effect series needs most, multiplayer would probably rank somewhere near the bottom of my list. We're talking about a game by a company celebrated by its most devoted for putting lengthy talking-head sequences betwixt staccato bursts of action—action, mind you, that right through Mass Effect 2, doesn't hold a candle to far better shooters like Halo, BioShock, Half-Life, and Battlefield.
But multiplayer we're about to get anyway, when Mass Effect 3 ships on March 6, 2012, says EA/Bioware, courtesy something it's calling the "Mass Effect 3: Galaxy at War" system.
"Earth has been captured, the galaxy is on the verge of total extinction, and it's up to you as Commander Shepard to assemble the counter offensive and take Earth back," reads the promo material, referring—not really a spoiler anymore, I guess—to the third game's plot thrust, in which the murderous alien Reapers assault good ol' terra firma.
"With the Mass Effect 3: Galaxy at War system, players will fight for the survival of the galaxy against an ancient alien race known only as, Reapers, in both the single player campaign and through a suite of Mass Effect games and applications," continues the press release, but here's the kicker:
"Progress made in each of the components of the system, including the new multiplayer mode, will directly link back to the player's main campaign, helping Commander Shepard rally the forces of the galaxy to eliminate the Reaper threat once and for all."
Interesting, especially the part where it'll "directly link back to the player's main campaign." How so? In terms of achievement points? Item unlocks? Altering the single-player story somehow? Not exactly.
Think a four-player cooperative mode, in which players can play as one of six races (Human, Krogan, Asari, Drell, Salarian and Turian) and suit up as one of six classes (presumably the classic Mass Effect professions) "in the role of a team of elite Special Forces soldiers sent to protect resources and assets that can help the war effort against the Reapers."
How that ties back to the campaign isn't clear, but the series' executive producer Casey Hudson says the new mode "not only features amazing combat and deep customization options, but it will give players another way to help the war effort against the Reapers in the main event -- the single player campaign."
Still pretty nonspecific, so let's hand the mic to Hudson over at Shacknews, where he says, more plainly, that the new cooperative mode will see you "fighting for control of locations throughout the galaxy." The better your performance, "the more you control, the better your single player ending will be."