The Orpheum Theatre was packed- isles clogged with press and industry folk eager to see what EA had in store. After a brief preamble, it began. Mass Effect 3 exploded before us.

Casey Hudson took to the stage and gave us exactly what we wanted: gameplay. The mission we witnessed combined cut scenes with action sequences, seamlessly shifting from scripted events back to player-controlled combat. While we only witnessed Shepard deliver the ass-whoopings on the ravaged planet, the HUD did confirm Liara T’soni and Garrus Vakarian as squad mates. Liara did, at one point, spring in to show off some biotic skills, but we didn’t get to see any real squad tactics in action. We did, however, see Legion in tact and working with Shepard to take down a massive Reaper walker, which was vaguely reminiscent of the Halo 3 scarab.

GARRUS FREAKING VAKARIAN!

We were also introduced to Shepard’s handy new omni-tool ability. He can rear back and form a corporeal spike from the wrist device (Called the Omni Blade) and stab enemies in quick, jarring death scenes. Mass Effect 3 is definitely going down a more visceral path with sharper angles, quick turns, and helping itself to massive amounts of Hollywood action scenes.

Pursued by the massive creature, Shepard mounts the turret of a massive vehicle and we’re introduced to a rail shooter sequence. It was a bit uneventful, but helped to develop the sense of just how massive the enemy had become, making armatures look like nuisances rather than the threats they used to be in the previous games. The trailer and gameplay conveyed a different tone this time around. Gone is the gotta catch’m all premise of collecting the galaxy’s best baddasses. Rather, it’s a man, his gun, and his digital shiv. They’re definitely playing up the “lone wolf” motif and it’s making the fight against the Reapers seem all the more bleak. At one point during the trailer, Commander Shepard is seen sliding down a collapsing scaffolding, armor-less and considerably out-numbered. This is definitely humanity’s last stand.

Hudson assured us that Mass Effect 3 would be every bit the RPG we want, and then some. The choices we make will impact the very survival of the galactic civilizations and there are many sacrifices to be made.

Though it was confirmed earlier today that Mass Effect 3 would, in fact, be Kinect compatible, EA didn’t show off any of the motion and voice control elements in the keynote. While the box art for the Xbox 360 version of the game did confirm the Kinect features, the PS3 art did not show any Move compatibility.

Hudson then announced that Mass Effect 3 had been integrated into Origin, EA’s new streaming client. You can pre-order your digital copy of Mass Effect 3 on the site now.

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