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Mass Effect 2 Vs. My Pile of Shame

A lot of great games came out in 2010, apparently. I wouldn’t know because I was replaying, replaying, then once more replaying Mass Effect 2. Every time a new game came out, I always end up putting it to the side in favor of Bioware’s sci-fi sequel. Earlier this week – while removing a barely-touched Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood from my 360 – I realized that ME2 came out a year ago and I’m still playing it. Taking this as a cue, I thought I’d dive into some of my backlog to at least experience all those other games I’ve been hearing so much about.

Starcraft II

Why I Should Have Played It: Because nobody told Blizzard that waiting 13 years between sequels is not a sound financial strategy. Not that they care, they rewrite the book on how to print money with each new release, and they rewrite the book on $100 bills.

The first game saw constant rotation in my middle school days, even if I just used cheat codes to get through the campaign. Coincidently, I was pretty handily beaten just about every time I logged onto Battle.net. Loading up SCII and playing the first few missions made me realize that I’m still pretty awful at RTS games, but Blizzard seemed to be ready to accept me back regardless as the first several missions were remarkably easy. I was able to breeze through an early convoy protection mission, even with most of my army trailing behind, camping out in the woods while zerglings made kibble out of the human colonists.

After about three hours of play, I’m at the point where the current difficulty feels tedious but I’m too frightened of my own tactical ineptitude to bump up the game to hard. I can’t say how much further I’ll go with it at this point.

Would I Rather Be Playing Mass Effect 2?: My favorite part about the game was poking around Raynor’s flagship, the Hyperion. Even with the banal dialogue coming out of a lot of the characters mouths, I liked talking to them and getting an up-close look at how these people live in the far-flung future. However, this world-building is also something Mass Effect does a lot better than Starcaft.

I may come back to the campaign later, but it will mostly be for old time’s and not a serious relationship. Starcraft, listen – it’s not you, it’s me. Yeah, we had some great times together, but we’re both very different people now. It’s been too long and I just don’t know if we were ever meant to be together in the first place.

Heavy Rain

Why I Should Have Played It: Apparently it makes the best case yet for games as a mature, story-telling medium that goes beyond puerile escapism. Unless it doesn’t, and is actually just a vanity project with a bad script and worse controls. The jury still seems to be out on that one.

Regardless, Heavy Rain is daring and something I’ve wanted to try for a while. It’s just that ME2 got in the way…then Uncharted 2…then ME2 again. Finally sitting down to play it for real I noticed that, yeah, the controls are kind of wonky and all the “American” characters have barely concealed French accents; all that, however, was an aside to the fact that a lot of scenes really touched me. The most emotional a game has made me in a long time was in Heavy Rain when I helped a father make his little boy smile by throwing a boomerang around a park.

Would I Rather Be Playing Mass Effect 2?: I’m a sucker for the game’s cinematic style, but there’s also the fact that Heavy Rain is, well, heavy. Its story doesn’t offer the same detachment as fantasy or science-fiction, which is what makes it okay to mow down waves of faceless orcs/space mercenaries. Though I really appreciate what Heavy Rain is trying to do, the at-times oppressive drama makes it really hard to sit down and play it for hours on end. In Mass Effect 2, I’ve thrown men out windows just for the hell of it and never regretted it. In Heavy Rain, I immediately reset when I accidentally gave my character’s emotionally-distant son a candy he didn’t like.


Splinter Cell: Conviction

Why I Should Have Played It: A revamp of one of gaming’s most influential stealth series, Conviction brings back Sam Fisher with a slick new interface and some great cinematic touches. Look at the text! It’s on the walls!

I’d always been a casual observer of the series, dabbling in some Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory for a time. I have to admit I was intimidated by the open-ended level design of that game, being much more comfortable with Metal Gear Solid’s more linear approach. Conviction’s sense of style won me over, and I felt like a genuine bad-ass smashing guys’ heads into sinks and lunging down on them from the ceiling…

Would I Rather Be Playing Mass Effect 2?: …until the guards spotted me and filled Sam with enough lead to start a pencil factory. Four levels in, I think Conviction is a well-made game, but, like Starcaft II, it’s not a genre I’m very skilled at. Still, the whole point of this exercise was to try playing different types of games. I just need to learn to be a bit more cautious when playing Conviction…maybe going back to my ME2 game on Insanity difficulty will help…No! Bad gamer! Don’t just accept the same thing over and over again!

Final Fantasy XIII

Why I Should Have P
layed It: The first next-gen entry of the longest-running and most influential JRPG series, five years in development, millions of dollars spent to…okay, look, I didn’t like it. That’s after playing the game for five hours and watching some friends play a lot more. Everybody and their internet-trolling little brother has an opinion on FFXIII by this point and I don’t have anything new to add, so if you’ll pardon me I’m just going to drop down to the punch line.

Would I Rather Be Playing Mass Effect 2?: Final Fantasy XIII is a game where you can die if you don’t hit the “play the game for me” button enough times. Mass Effect 2 is a game where you can die from having crazy alien sex. I think that settles it.

What I take away from all of this is that I’m incorrigible when it comes to games. I know what I like, I stick to it, and I get resentful when I force myself to try genres out of my comfort zone. In other words, I’d fit right in with the average flame-baiting forum poster. Probably not the best lesson, but whaddya gonna do? At any rate, my level 30 sentinel is still itching to get me the last few achievements I need in Mass Effect 2. And who knows, if I ignore enough other games from this year I might have time for another four playthroughs before Mass Effect 3 hits later this year.


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