26 February 2012

Sasha Shepard

Since I'm not getting ME3 at launch, just to show my proverbial finger to EA for their stupid DLC policy, I have plenty of time playing the demo and tinkering my Shepard-to-be. This one is called Sasha Shepard, modeled after, er, a model called Sasha. Figures, eh? I think she looks quite right. Shame the demo doesn't give so much photo opportunities in form of different angles or lightning. What you see here are digi snaps from dialogue pauses and few caps of a video shot with a mobile.

18 February 2012

Re-taking Demo Watch: Mass Effect 3

Okay okay, maybe I was a bit too harsh with my initial judgement of the game, or what impressions the demo gave about the game. Hear me out for a second while I try to explain it.

I had a perfect fem-Shep on my Xbox 360, a half-Asian tomboy with a shaved head (as you have seen in several entries about ME2). Of course, I had her character code written down. Well, my Xbox busted so I bought ME2 for PS3 because an investment in a new Xbox would have been a bit too much at the moment (and unfortunately still is). I created my Stam Shepard with the code for the PS3 version but she didn't look right. It's because PS3 has some limitations when it comes to Unreal engine. As a result, some lighting, shadows and polygons were cut out from the game. I had to create a new Shepard for PS3 from the scratch. It took several attempts. Failed attempts. I got sick of re-starting the game, enduring the horrible Genesis comic and playing to the point when I saw the character for good in-game environment instead of a sterile character creation lightning.

Finally I got her right. Rinko Shepard was born. I modeled her after one Japanese actress and named her after another. In some angles and lighting she looks uncannily like her model. When ME3 demo became available, I used a code for Rinko Shepard and adjusted only the hair and the eyebrow color (which was strangely turned from black to grey).  But oh dear oh dear. In-game she didn't look anything like Rinko Shepard in PS3 ME2. Still with me? Bear with for a second still. Everything about her was so wrong, so I guess - and now comes the important part - the game felt more wrong than it in reality perhaps is. Also, the new much-touted official default fem-Shep looks ugly with droopy nose, implant lips and washed-out eyes.

Profile in the character creation. Not too bad...
Today I made a new fem-Shep for a PS3 demo. This time I didn't fashion her after anyone, just after some idea in my head. She looked quite nice in the character creation screen and oh yes, in-game too! Woohoo! ME3 rocks after all! With the right face! You see, it's all about the character and that's where the beauty of ME series is. I know there are a bunch of people who make their characters look like jokes in games or just goes with the default choices but me, I always spend a good amount of time tinkering my characters' appearances. Depending on the complexity of character creator, it tooks about 1+ hour.

...and in-game. Not too bad at all!

Also, I now can see there are some crude cuts where I guess should me more conversations and dialogue options, making the story telling part of the demo abrupt. Still I don't like how Anderson's VA keeps shouting all his lines and pushes Shepard around like she were some wet behind the ears rookie!

Waiting for ME3... still with some reservations but not with anything so severe I wrote earlier. And yes, I still have that Sixth Sense, er, sense about it... I hope it's a false alert!

[edit] Still not supporting EA's cash-in DLC policy so I will be voting with my wallet and opt not to buy ME3 on the launch day. I can wait a bit longer...

A couple of caps from a video I shot with my mobile. Looks so young and innocent, even though she's a veteran of... very severe happenings.

16 February 2012

Demo watch: Mass Disappointment 1

Those who have read this blog may think I'm biased to Bioware. No I'm not. Because if I were, I would have loved Mass Effect 3 demo without reservations and failed to see its enormous flaws. Or maybe because I'm Bioware fan those flaws were even worse to me. As a result, I had a nightmare where out of shape Schwarzenegger played Shepard in a clumsy action flick and it ended when wounded Shepard in his fevered dreams became a new Illusive Man...

Hello, I'm quite snappy looking new official female Shepard in promo art but wait when you see me in the game...

It doesn't look like Mass Effect

If ME3 were a movie, it gives a feel they changed the director of photography and shot to digi instead of film. There's no depth to the graphics, everything's flat, plastic and too crisp, lit in an unimaginative bulk lightning. The game looks like any Hollywood summer blockbuster and that isn't a compliment. Character models were a whole lot better in ME2. Shepard moves without weight to her actions and the only expression they granted her (or him if you go for male Shep) is awkwardly wrinkly angriness. Framerate at least in PS3 version is horrible.

It doesn't feel like Mass Effect

You can choose the overall experience of the game between action, RPG and story. Action concentrates on shooting enemies and the conversations play as cut scenes with no input. RPG is what should be your typical ME experience while choosing the story cuts down action. Of course I chose RPG. Oh dear... The fact there even is a choice for action only tells a lot. This "RPG experience" advances as a shooting gallery. Shepard's combat roll from cover to cover is straight out of Army of Two. Heck, the whole game plays like Army of Two or some other run-of-the-mill EA shooter. Oh, there are gaps to jump over and ladders to climb! And because there are them, there are lots of them. What a great addition to interaction! All the enemies are copies of those seen in any mediocre sci-fi shooter to the point of being childish.

It doesn't read like Mass Effect

And this is the most important factor where ME3 fails. There's no intelligent depth to dialogue or conversation choices anymore, like dubious moralities you have to live with. Everything's simplified and clichéd, as if the script was pummeled with a dummy bat. Again, just like from any Hollywood summer blockbuster. All characters just annoy. They brought back at least three characters from ME1 I could have done without. I didn't like Wrex much in the first place and he's even worse here while Kaiden is wooden as ever (or, depending on your choices, Ashley, who's just as obnoxious as ever and this time looks like a man in drag). Anderson's VA shouts all his lines without emotion or character's seen it all weariness. Oh dear. And Shepard... She isn't Shepard we knew and loved. She's just angry suckah who everyone keeps pushing and commanding around. Do this, go there, shoot that, come here, follow me, take cover... No no no!

... Yes, I'm butt-ugly in-game! Better to go with your own design.

Ah, and why do I get this Sixth Sense feeling? In very early to the demo Shepard flies through a room after an explosion and the world slows down as the camera pans over her knocked out figure. And then Anderson orders her up. And soon she sees an annoying frightened kid who disappers when she had her attention elsewhere for a second. And later she sees the child again. "I see dead pople". Because I'm afraid the whole game happens when Shepard is dead. It's some afterlife dream or whatever. Oh great. Plot twist of the century... Or, the boy is autistic and the whole Mass Effect trilogy happens in his head. Oh great99! I hope I'm so wrong on both counts.

ME3 gives an impression that some mediocre EA inhouse team tried to copy Mass Effect. There's no Bioware's trademark polish, sense of style, wit or suspense. The game suffers from the old trilogy syndrome. The first is good, the second part removes all the bad parts, betters the good points and adds more of them while the third part is Return of the Jedi... So, yeah, we got Han Solo back but even he's a bambling idiot there. Same goes for ME3 and its Shepard.

Instead of what could have been the game of the year we have the disappointment of the year at hand here. Unless demo showed only the bad parts and the good parts are in the final version... But why whould have they chosen the bad parts to the demo as demos' point is to sell the game?

But hey, I probably will get the game anyway, just waiting for a discount. And if I'm wrong, and yes, I would really like to be wrong, I'll let you know.