Hello faithful readers. I've had about a five-month hiatus from writing in the paper (although my work appeared online and on my blog) due to some personal issues.
But things are coming back on track and so I'm back to offer my insights and opinions on video games on a weekly basis.
There were several big issues during the past couple of months in the industry, including backlash attacks at gaming giants Electronic Arts and Activision. But the one issue that particularly drew my ire was the fan attacks on Canadian developers BioWare Ltd., over Mass Effect 3.
Many 'fans' took issue with the game's ending, specifically the fact it basically broke down into three general endings, with a couple subsets within those. Fans felt cheated because they said the choices they had made throughout the three entries - decisions totaling about 1,000 options that were supposed to have ramifications as to how the game played out - were essentially tossed out the airlock. But in Mass Effect 3 space, you could definitely hear the disaffected and the forum trolls screaming bloody murder.
Personally, I think it’s a crock.
As a story teller, you have to have the game’s hero, Cmdr. Shepard wind up in one place. So, this idea that there could be dozens of endings is a joke. And the choices people made were not meaningless. They affected how you experienced the game and how you got Shepard to his ultimate finish. Go on YouTube and search through the different Mass Effect 3 videos and you’ll just how varied the story can be depending on the choices you made.
But the end is the end. That’s where the writers determined Shepard’s journey would ultimately come full circle and culminates in what I personally thought was one of the best, most rewarding, truly emotional and fantastic video game trilogies in the history of gaming. Period.
To their personal credit, the good doctors, Ray Mazuka and Greg Zeschuk, the heads of BioWare, have promised to revamp the ending of the game via a downloadable piece of content in the near future. I think the guys caved - in a way - to pressure when they didn’t need to. I know they care deeply about their fans, but I think a special group like BioWare that is dedicated to story-driven gaming, could have made a statement here about standing strong by their editorial and creative decision because the three endings were effective and emotional.
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Here’s a quick look at a couple games out now:
* Syndicate (360, PS3; Electronic Arts): A strong, interesting sci-fi shooter with a story that could have been fleshed out better. In a dystopian future, big business can sell you a lifestyle if you agreed to have a chip installed in you that can, in essence, control aspects of your behaviour. You play as a syndicate enforcer, an Agent, who discovers there may be corruption in this seemingly perfect world. The game has excellent shooter mechanics and looks great, but is hampered by some glitches that take you out of the gameplay at points. With more polish and a little deeper story, this could have been really special. Instead, it’s just a heck of a shooter. 3 ½ stars out of 5. Rated M.
*Yakuza: Dead Souls (PS3; Sega): OK, Japanese gangsters tackle a zombie infestation. Greatest game ever, right? Well, not quite. Enjoyable in sections and spurts, the lack of polish and the somewhat absurd storytelling detract from the experience. 2 ½ stars. Rated M
* NeverDead (360, PS3; Konami): A mix of hacking and shooting, akin to Too Human and Devil May Cry, this often times silly action title focuses on an immortal who can’t die, who is tasked with killing a bunch of demons. Ya, you can’t die. You’re immortal. So you can get stopped and have to reassemble yourself and then tackle sections again, so don’t sweat trying to stay safe or play strategically. Like this game, there’s really no point. 2 stars. Rated M.
Coming up: A look at the new PlayStation Vita and several sports titles, including MLB 12 The Show and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13.