Saturday, December 31, 2011

Retro Review: Mass Effect 2. Why Can't I Play Like Captain Kirk?

I finished Mass Effect 2 around June 2011. I played the game from the start with several pieces of DLC installed on the Xbox 360. I didn't have "Lair of the Shadow Broker" installed, nor did I ever get it. Overall, this was a very good game. I look forward to playing Mass Effect 3 in early 2012. 

The good parts of Mass Effect 2 were great. Voice acting is fantastic. Combat was streamlined from Mass Effect 1 making it excellent. The RPG part was also streamlined, eliminating a lot of the busywork from ME1 without losing the customizability.

What I expect from the Mass Effect series is an adult science fiction game. Why then is Commander Shepard limited to such puritanical sexual relationships? I want to play my Commander Shepard like Captain Kirk, sleeping with every available crew member or mission encountered alien that I can! Instead, what I get in Mass Effect is a very linear and monogamous relationship system only on ship were all the potential romantic participants are apparently talking to each other. It's just like High School. Downloadable character Kasumi's only ship function appears to be relationship gossip. The main characters all never appear to leave their assigned ship rooms, yet everyone knows everybody's business! Other than Kelly, all other characters are prudes. If I had to hear Jacob Taylor say "Let's not push it, we got a good thing going here Shepard" one more time, I would've thrown my controller at the Xbox. The system is to on rails.

What I would do if I were designing the game is to leave all sexual relationship options available at all times, just make those decisions tie to paragon/renegade points. If Shepard has already started sleeping with a character, and then tried to pick up another lover, that choice could feed into the complexity of your character more completely. Play with the highest honor on the battlefield, but be a total dog with your crew, or vice versa. I even have a problem assigning renegade points to a Shepard that sleeps around, but within the design of the game doing that would be the cleanest "fix". Also each character could have different relationship needs to achieve their highest morale. In ME2, all potential romantic characters appear to have the same end need, a monogamous relationship with Shepard. Again, Kelly excepted, but even she won't continue or start a relationship with Shepard if Shepard has already started something with another character, and she's the "slut" of the ship.

I look forward to the day when I can play as a character in a game that was as open as Captain Kirk over 40 years ago.

Friday, December 23, 2011

How I Came to Loathe the Nintendo Wii, and it's Microsoft's Fault!

I loved the Nintendo Wii when I got it back in 2007. When I looked up my review, I couldn't believe it had been over 4 years already. LIke pretty much everyone, I played Super Mario Galaxy & thought that was great too. My family had a lot of fun with Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort over the years. Slowly but surely, my initial love for Nintendo's console grew to dislike, then outright loathing. There wasn't a moment of clarity when I realized I never wanted to use the Wii again. It was a gradual process and it was Microsoft's fault!

After a few years with thr Wii, I was completely over the four part Wii controllers: remote, nun-chuck, rubber bumper, and motion plus. The batteries for the remotes were never charged. The nun-chuck wire always got tangled. The rubber bumpers to make sure you didn't kill someone flailing around we're never in the configuration you needed to play what you wanted to. Worse, no one but me, not the kids and not the wife, could untangle the whole mess. The fact that Nintendo didn't ship the controllers as rechargeable became a deal breaker, even though I was using rechargeable batteries. 

I couldn't pin down what i didnt like about thr Wii until I first heard about the Kinect. A bit flipped in my head right then that I was done with the Wii if Microsoft didn't mess it up. I didnt want to use a controller for motion controls ever again. Amazingly, Microsoft got it right, not perfect, but good enough from all the stuff I read. I didn't rush out to buy Kinect. I waited for a while to get some more life out of the replacement Xbox 360 I got from the Red Ring of Death fiasco. That I even considered giving Microsoft more money was amazing, they were all but dead to me before Kinect was announced. Going back to Microsoft was also given a boost by Sony announcing their Wii competitor, Move, packing its own fleet or wand/remote controllers. 

The announcement of the Nintendo Wii U and Sony's PlayStation Network security breach happened within a few weeks of each other in May/June 2011. Those events were the tipping point to Kinect for me. Wii U looks ridiculous. I normally hold out on judging a product until release, but I couldn't suppress an immediate reaction of disappointment. Wii U looks like an iPad and Apple TV using AirPlay, but without a good digital download store. Sony's ridiculous lack of network penetration testing and basic security controls were inexcusable. 

By August I had sold my Wii and replacement Xbox 360 at a yard sale to finance the purchase of a new Xbox with Kinect. I was going to sell the PlayStation 3 as well, but Uncharted 3 and a few unripped Blu-rays have caused a delay.

As for the Kinect itself, pretty awesome. Demonstrably better than the Wii for exercise games, which I've used but my wife really enjoys. And in extended Kinect Adventures sessions, no Wii remote like cramping or fatigue, just normal exercise pains. Having the ability to video chat is nice too, though it is odd that it isn't in HD. With Christmas days away, a bunch more Kinect titles are coming home, I'm sure the whole family is going to be having a lot of fun.