Humanity stands on the precipice of oblivion in Mass Effect 3. A golden age of prosperity for planet Earth has withered in the shadow of the Reapers, the vast, seemingly unstoppable race of machines wiping out life across the galaxy at terrifying speed. First the outer colonies fell. Now the assault on Earth begins.
Systems Alliance HQ in Vancouver is at the epicentre of the onslaught, where hundreds of thousands of troops and civilians perished within hours of the first Reaper strike. As Commander Shepard, an Alliance Navy officer, you witness the destruction first-hand – but your orders are to flee the stricken planet to seek help from the Citadel Council; to ignore your instincts for the greater good.
Yet galactic solidarity proves hard to find. Racked with suspicion and infighting, the Council is reluctant to grant aid. And that's not all. Cerberus, the shadowy pro-human organisation which saved Shepard's life in Mass Effect 2, is pursuing its own extreme solution to the Reaper apocalypse, an answer which demands Shepard be removed from the equation.
Mankind's only hope of salvation comes from your efforts to unite uneasy civilisations. Rally the galaxy and launch one final mission to take back Earth.
Commander Shepard veers between war hero and troublemaker in the opinions of the Systems Alliance hierarchy. In Mass Effect 3, you'll confirm top brass suspicions one way or the other with the decisions you make and the alliances you forge.
Positive Paragon and negative Renegade options pop up in conversations and confrontations as you try to unite allies behind the human race's cause. Your actions colour the perception of you among various governments, helping or hindering Earth's war effort.
Travelling the galaxy aboard the cruiser SSV Normandy, you'll call up trusted comrades and promising newcomers to your team of field operatives, including the skilled information broker Liara T'Soni and the brash new recruit James Vega. With the Illusive Man, voiced by Hollywood legend Martin Sheen, still pulling the strings at Cerberus, you'll need all the help you can get.
Veteran of Mass Effect 2 on PS3? Then import your game save into this new war and delve even deeper into a complex web of choice and consequence. Your Shepard character will be a familiar face, while the galaxy is shaped by the decisions you made in your previous adventure. Look out for old friends on your journey through the solar systems – you never know when you might need to call in a favour.
Reap what you sow
Banshees, ravagers and phantoms: these are just some of the deadly enemy types surging across the galaxy, a bewildering force working together with frightening intelligence to wipe you and multiple civilisations out.
Ninja-like Cerberus phantoms flit in and out of your line of sight to leave you confused and bleeding. Banshees are the frighteningly aware spearhead of any Reaper strike force. And when the Reapers want to call in the big guns, they unleash ravagers – horrific, mutant artillery units that decimate your defences.
Luckily, Commander Shepard has undergone intensive conditioning since he last went to war on PS3, so you can now roll between cover to escape suppression fire. Spend a little time searching facilities for credits and weapon parts, and you'll be able to upgrade your already impressive firepower back on your ship.
From the Normandy's Combat Information Centre, you'll be able to plot a course between systems and planets in the hunt for mission objectives and resources. Gliding through the stars breaks up the relentless pace of life on the front line – be careful, however, as too much scanning will alert nearby Reaper dreadnoughts.
Earth is burning, and Commander Shepard is the only marine capable of extinguishing the Reaper threat on PS3.
Team up and conquer
As the Reapers continue their unremitting march across the galaxy, PlayStation Network becomes one of the fiercest battlegrounds in Mass Effect 3. Form an elite strike squad with up to three friends, then co-ordinate your abilities and tactics to neutralise enemy positions.
Head into battle as a human fighter, and as you and your team complete specialised objectives, new races and character classes become available to you. If you choose to become a Krogan vanguard, for instance, you'll combine tank-like stopping power with the lightning fast Biotic Charge ability.
Deadly in itself, Biotic Charge helps the rest of your squad by knocking foes out of cover. An infiltrator, hanging safely back with a sniper rifle, can then pick off these stunned units, while an adept can use the Singularity power to render them weightless and vulnerable to attack.
With every multiplayer victory, the Galactic Readiness level of the forces under your command in the single player campaign increases. It's a clever way of making it feel as though everything you do, either as Commander Shepard or in the multiplayer mode, contributes to a colossal, overarching war effort.