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GDC08: Mass Effect PC demo


It was once called an 'Xbox exclusive,' but after one agonizing trip into the bowels of the tedious inventory UI, we knew Mass Effect was destined for a PC makeover. (Oh, what wonders a little mouse can do!) With keyboard in tow, BioWare took us through a short demo of Mass Effect for PC, the studio's first 'EA game,' though grunt work has been passed on to a third party, Demiurge Studios.

While of course rig-dependent, Mass Effect PC should display higher resolutions than its console counterpart (a maximum has yet to be determined), with fewer pop-ins, smoother framerates and more seamless loading. Does that mean lifts will operate at expected Space Age speeds? No, not necessarily -- many lift sequences are 'slowed' by intentional dialogue. Oh, and the Mako's still a bizarro Halo reject. At least, controls are now independent of the camera (the 'up' key is always forward).

Gallery: Mass Effect (PC) | 15 Photos

One gameplay tweak we can really get down with (clarify: please, please patch the Xbox version!) is the addition of individual teammate assignments -- like, she goes right, you go left, and I storm the middle. Both teammates can be instructed using a circular, pop-up UI similar to the pre-existing weapon and biotic selection menus. And, using a keyboard teeming with hotkeys, you don't even have to access these menus to command Shepard's actions -- a playstyle BioWare likens to run-n-gun action (especially if you've set your squad to autopilot).

Still, many will most covet Mass Effect PC's new inventory UI, rearranged and greatly aided by the use of a mouse. But for those looking for more than a few polished bells and whistles, BioWare had little to confirm. There's a new manual decryption minigame, replacing the old one, where you navigate an arrow through a series of circles while dodging moving and stationary obstacles. (Yeah, not exactly bringing down the sky, is it?)

As for DLC, PC players will likely be offered something ... eventually. Achievements, however, will be available at launch, though not linked to Games for Windows Live (sorry again, Microsoft). Instead, BioWare will hand them out internally through its own servers. A renegade move? Nah, BioWare is simply enjoying its newfound status as one of the most independent, not-independent studios in the business.

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