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.

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