26 February 2010

Mission accomplished!

Phew! Finally completed Mass Effect 2, the game clock counting at 54 hours 17 minutes. What can I say? I don't think I would go that far by saying it's the Best. Game. Ever. But it sure is the best game of the current generation of consoles. Heck, it's the best game of 21st century, topping my previous favourite Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, also by Bioware. The premise, the execution, the playability and most importantly, understanding what is a computer role-playing game. It's not about rolling dices behind the curtain, putting points into endless statistics or fiddling with gazillion things in an inventory but the choices you are allowed to make, making you really be the character.

The ending, the last mission and the conclusion of it, were quite a blast, both metaphorically and literally. I lost only one crew member in the process, which is pretty good considering the hellhole waiting for Shepard and her crew. I have read more losses are possible so I think I chose... wisely during the course of the event.

The game left questions unanswered, giving fodder for debate and discussion, which is only a good thing. The game that chews everything for you isn't rewarding.

Oh, and Jennifer Hale's performance as commander Shepard. Delivered sometimes wry, sometimes laconic, but always up to the situation, no matter how screwed up or desperate it is. I would hand her an academy award, no mistaking it. (I can't say a thing in favor or against male Shepard's voice because my girl Shepard is the only Shepard for me.)

 A friend or foe? Or both?
About time, indeed. Upstuck military persons...
I wonder what happened to my skin and eye condition from the previous entry? They were just gone after a visit to the Reaper vessel. Hmm...

25 February 2010

Embrace the Dark Side

Our Shepard's journey to the dark side has taken a toll on her looks... Still she refuses to install a medical bay module to repair her face.
 You heard the lady.
Feeling is mutual!
Serene Thane doesn't seem to mind Shepard's eyes...
Indeed, the lightning and shadows it lays is exceptional.
 I love you too, honey.

Getting closer to the end of the journey in Mass Effect 2. What a ride it has been so far! I hope it ends with a bang and not with a whimper.

21 February 2010

Mass Effect 2 again

I'm absolutely not biased to Mass Effect 2. I give it only the recognition it deserves since The Game of the Year is already here. It would need one hell of a game to steal that honor from ME2 and quite frankly I don't see it happening. Improved over its predecessor in all aspects and then some, the game just keeps getting better and better the further Shepard dwells into the dire situation needing to be resolved. None of the facets the game excels in are underlined or emphasized, like 'see how great graphics we have' or 'see how good playability we have' or 'see how the role-playing is woven into the context'. Bioware hasn't had to point finger at anything in particular as everything just works seamlessly together for a greater goal. Stylish, smooth and sexy, Mass Effect 2 is pure gaming excellence.
 Lightning is great. Not that Lightning. Who cares about FFXIII anymore anyway.
You know, I'm Xbox exclusive (PC doesn't count).
Friend, would you believe it by my eyes?
They offered plastic surgery to get rid of these scars but I declined. They give that extra edge!
Oh, Jacob...

Mass Effect 2 crew cuts

Somewhere it was said Mass Effect 2 is Dirty Dozen in space. And quite a motley crew Shepard gathers around her/him during the adventure. Here are a couple of faces of the merry crew. Still depending on a cheap digital camera, missed so many good close-ups...
 Jack out of the box
Miranda being surprisingly emotional but are they just crocodile tears...?

14 February 2010

Heavy Rain, a game it's not

Jolly folks at Sony had released a demo for much-hyped and anticipated Heavy Rain, the 'PS3 killer app'. A chance for us players to see what it's all about!

What the fuck it's supposed to be! It's not a game! From now on, I refer to Heavy Rain as 'a thing' because I refuse to call it a game. You don't control the character(s) as you'd normally do, left stick to walk, face buttons doing their things, you get the drift. Not here, no sire. You walk by pressing R2 and nudging the left stick to turn the nose but more importantly, press buttons and wiggle the right stick when the screen tells you to. In a nutshell Heavy Rain is a picture book which advances when you have pressed and wiggled the right commands as prompted. Do notice I didn't say an interactive picture book because leafing through a traditional picture book is more interactive than this thing. Heavy Rain is a result when game developers try to re-invent the wheel.

It's really hard to put all this into civilized words because I would like to use a heavy dose of obscenity when describing this thing which is as far removed from a game as... I don't even know what can be far enough from each other. The main factor is playability, or rather, the complete lack of it. Had it been a normal game with normal controls, it would have been perhaps an average detective story. As it stands, Heavy Rain would score 1 out of ten in my books, just because you need to give at least some score. This month's Pelaaja, a Finnish games magazine, gave this thing 9 points and chose it as their 'game of the month' over Mass Effect 2 which also scored 9 (in a completely indifferent and lackrustre review). I won't go about Heavy Rain's supposed 'adult content' as the demo doesn't give too much of a story away. But by the looks of things, I reckon it's self-intentionally over-the-top serious and broody. Oh wait, there's a hooker! That's 'adult' for you, folks.

How about graphics and sounds? The long development time can clearly be seen in mediocre character models and flat backgrounds. So many games have surpassed Heavy Rain's looks which was supposed to be its main selling point... about three years ago. However realistic the character faces try to be, they are lifeless and stiff, especially when portraying emotions. It won't help the voice acting is something out of a dawn of CD-ROM games in mid-90's. Absolutely no soul and and interest, just flat reading from a flat script.

All in all, the demo told me everything I needed to know about the ga... oops, sorry, thing. I won't be pouring my hard-earned cash on such a sorry excuse for an interactive entertainment. Heck, I wouldn't even pick it up for a fiver from a bargain bin. It's just not worth a penny. And all this time I know it will score big on magazines and other media for its 'revolutionary ideas' and 'adult themes' and probably sells gazillion copies. I'm happy knowing it won't rest on my games shelf. I want a game which is a game! You know, when I purchased PS3, I thought my Xbox 360 would be left cold. I was happy with PS3 games like fantastic Heavenly Sword and somber Metal Gear Solid 4. But this new batch of exclusive PS3 games have left me cold and now it's PS3 gathering dust when Mass Effect 2 is keeping Xbox warm.

 Woo, a serious scene with FBI agent whatshisname wearing his wacky gadgets. You probably need to nudge the right stick funnily and press multiple face buttons to escape the situation.
Our hero tries to climb up a slippery slope in the screen and this is how your hands on the controller look like when pressing so many buttons after each other which all need to be keep pressed...

9 February 2010

Shepard again

More of my Shepard just for fun. As I don't have systems wired up to record game footage, I have had to use only a simple digital camera. It's not very good for capturing just the right frame. There are so many gorgeous cutscenes in Mass Effect 2 I would have liked to store... Maybe I rig up my Xbox through an old VCR! Ha!

[edit] I actually rigged my Xbox through VCR/DVD hybrid recoder, putting Xbox as an external video source so in theory I could record game footage! Wohoo! Well, in practice... the recorded footage was all wobbly and jumpy. Must figure a way to correct it as it would be awesome to record Mass Effect 2 playing diary to DVD!

I may look cute but actually I'm shaping up to be a renegade...
Please, don't take pictures from my bad side!
Yes, these are the biggest, most stuck out ears available.
Ah... Omega, what a beautiful shithole!

7 February 2010

Mass Effect 2 and the Cosmic Gender-Bender

One thing struck me while reading previews and first reviews of eagerly-awaited Mass Effect 2. Every time it was talk about the illustrious lead character Shepard, the hero was referred automatically to 'he'. The preview in Finnish Pelit magazine was titled 'The right man for the job'. The review in the following issue went on rambling about Shepard, an important male figure - how he can't be lost, how he must do this and how he must do that, along with the press screenshots showing dreary bulk male Shepard you have already seen in countless occasions, including the horrible game cover art. Pelaaja, another Finnish magazine, didn't fare better. To them Shepard is also a man. And the message from all the foreign magazines I bothered to look up to in advance; Shepard is a man.

So there I was, thinking what the hell? Doesn't the game give you a choice of the gender anymore? And how about if you played a female Shepard in the first game? Is it a no-no, shit happens, re-roll a male or is there some twisted twister where your character is surgically changed to a man? Is Mass Effect 2 completely male-centered, chauvinistic fantasy? The super-crap cover shot with Channing Tatum look-alike Shepard sure wasn't reassuring. Had they made Mass Effect 2 otherwise so huge there simply weren't room for female Shepard's voice-overs or alternative dialogue for the characters?

Come on, when I put hours and hours into an RPG, I'd rather look at female behind (and please, I don't mean in a sexist sense)! This has always been the choice for me - if the game only gives you the choice. To answer my question, I did the unthinkable and read a FAQ up to the point of character creation. Yes, the FAQ stated you can choose between male and female, but still, why everyone keeps on talking about Shepard as a man? My Shepard in the first game was a girl, dammit! At this point, you, my dear reader, might think 'you stupid, ofc there's a choice for gender' but then I ask the question; are all Mass Effect 2 reviewers faggots?

Okay then, I pass the game, I thought. But of course, I bought it because the circumstance arose in a form of second-hand bookstore where someone had brought the game only a week after its release. With such a nice price, I'd be mad not to pick it up. And it was untouched, with Cerberus code intact and everything. It even smelled new, fresh from the oven! Aah, I love the smell of a freshly-opened game case!

And here is my Shepard. And my Shepard is a girl. A tomboy, sure, and I tried to make her Asian but with too limited customization options this is the best I could get. In the right lighting and from certain angles, she looks a bit Japanese-Korean and suitably bad-ass.

What, you say I should shave my eyebrows?
I don't trust the bitch one bit!
I wish you had got rid of acne scars in the process too... Oh, they are the result of it?

So, Xbox 360 owners get Mass Effect 2 as an exclusive year-opener title. Alas, what do PS3 owners get? Stinking Heavy Rain, cough, cough... and MAG. Yeah, ex-citing!

So far Mass Effect 2 seems rather nice. It's polished, gorgeous to look at, and playability has been streamlined. And Jennifer Hale still provides the voice for female Shepard. That's an important factor.