Most of the gamer rage directed at Mass Effect 3 has zeroed in on its controversial endings and first-day DLC. But for me, BioWare’s real crime is forgetting a strong chin and pair of too-close eyes. I’m talking, of course, about the import bug that killed my Commander Shepard.
He’s not really dead, I guess. An authoritative man with the same name and voice is still striding around the Normandy, issuing similarly compassionate orders and flirting with anything in a skintight bodysuit (which is everyone).
This John Shepard also grew up as an Alliance military brat and later teamed up with Cerberus to save the galaxy for a second time. But no matter how perfectly their histories overlap, I still see a stranger, not the soldier with whom I’ve spent a hundred hours staring down charging krogans and wriggling rachni tentacles.
It’s not so bad when I’m out on a mission mowing down geth drones. Then I can only see the back of the commander’s head, which has the same buzz cut as the real Commander Shepard. But then a cut scene flashes onto the screen and I’m reminded that oh right, it’s THIS guy again.
The worst is when the commander runs into an old buddy and they swap stories about the good old days of two CDs past. These are amazing moments that remind me just how crazy some of the things my commander has done, like defeating a rogue Spectre and blowing up a hulking Collector ship. Except it all rings false when the face is wrong, like an actor who has been replaced mid-season. The wires are visible and I can’t unsee them.
I might not care if this were another game. In most shooters it doesn’t matter what my gun-toting hero looks like. But this is Mass Effect 3: The Greatest Epic Ever™ and don’t you think BioWare should’ve gotten the star of the show right?
Ironically, the import bug targets those Shepards who have bled the most for the galaxy. BioWare says only Shepards imported through all three games (or ME2 saved games imported with a New Game+) have had their faces ripped off, with no helpful plastic surgeon in sight except for a fan-made PC tool that almost works.
Some patient souls are holding out for a fix before they send their Commander Shepard into the fray. Good for them. No less than Vox Games Editor-in-Chief Chris Grant is sticking to his (holstered) guns until BioWare patches the bug. “I’m not going to play it until they fix it,” he tweeted. “Totally bummed out about it, surprisingly so.” When I tweeted at Grant that I thought this error was unforgivable in a game striving for unprecedented storytelling continuity, he agreed with me wholeheartedly: “Yup, really shitty.”
I’m not sure what’s worse, ditching your loyal commander for some new guy or waiting who knows how much longer until a fix is available. The BioWare message board is filled with thousands of comments debating this very issue. And a lot of them sound like user SirCrypt: ”I waited almost a week and half now, what’s a couple more days? Or will it be weeks? If it was going to be more than another week, I would play, but I feel like it ‘could’ come out any day… it really does suck.”
Yeah, it really does suck.